Martin Lifts Jayhawks Over Northwestern, 10-7
EVANSTON, Ill. – With two outs, the bases loaded and the game tied in the top of the ninth, freshman catcher TJ Martin mashed his first career grand slam to help the Kansas baseball team to the midweek sweep of Northwestern, 10-7, Wednesday afternoon at Rocky Miller Park.
After taking a hanging curveball for a ball, Martin turned on the 1-0 changeup and lifted it deep over the wall in left field for the bases-loaded four-bagger and the second home run of his career and oddly enough, his second in two games.
“I just wanted to get a good pitch to hit,” Martin said. “That was a big situation there. (Junior pinch hitter) Jacob Boylan had a good at bat in front of me and worked a walk to give me a chance to hit. I was expecting a fastball but he threw me a changeup and I was a little out in front but got enough of it to send it over the wall.”
The big strike by the rookie wouldn’t have been possible if senior right fielder Dakota Smith hadn’t mashed a two-run bomb earlier in the same inning to tie the game and give Kansas (22-28, 7-11 Big 12) some breathing room.
“Dakota came up huge earlier in the inning,” Martin said. “That was a huge hit he had to tie the game up and give us confidence to keep moving along in the inning.”
The Jayhawks tallied 14 hits on the day off of four Northwestern (15-33, 5-13 Big Ten) hurlers. Senior left fielder Connor McKay (3-for-6) led KU with three hits and two runs scored, while Smith and sophomore designated hitter Michael Tinsley had two hits apiece. Martin drove in four of Kansas’ 10 runs, while Smith and senior center fielder Blair Beck each posted two RBIs.
“To rally back and win the game, it is a really good feeling in the dugout,” head coach Ritch Price said. “To come from behind and win like that gives us great momentum heading into the weekend.”
The Jayhawks used a plethora of arms out of the bullpen with senior righty Colin Toalson getting the nod for his first collegiate start. The hurler threw four innings, giving up four runs off six hits and a walk. Sophomores Tyler Davis and Jeremy Kravetz were next, before turning it over to righty Stephen Villines (3-3) for one and two-thirds of shutout baseball. Freshman righty Brandon Johnson came on in the ninth with the four-run lead, giving up a run and shutting the door.
Northwestern leadoff man, catcher Scott Heelan wasted no time to get the Wildcats on the board hitting his first home run the season on the first pitch from Toalson for the early 1-0 lead.
Kansas erased that deficit with a three-run third inning. Freshman catcher Tanner Gragg led off the frame with a single. McKay roped a one-out single after a failed bunt attempt to get two runners on for Smith. However, a fielder’s choice looked to end the threat after getting the lead runner at third, but Tinsley and Beck had different plans.
Tinsley drove one through the right side to bring in KU’s first run of the game before Beck stroked one to deep left center for his second career triple to bring in two more runs and give the Jayhawks the 3-1 lead.
The Wildcats strung together a rally in the fourth to retake the lead, 4-3. Designated hitter Luke Dauch led it off with a home run to right field. Centerfielder RJ Watters followed with a single to left center before Toalson walked shortstop Cody Stevens on four-straight pitches.
With runners at first and second with no outs, NU opted to bunt and advanced the runners up a base. Then a RBI-groundout and a RBI-single drove in both runners on base and gave the Wildcats the advantage, 4-3.
Kansas battled back in the sixth and mustered a run, thanks to a sacrifice fly by pinch hitter Marcus Wheeler. Freshman first baseman Owen Taylor and junior third baseman Ryan Pidhaichuk drew back-to-back walks to start the frame. Junior second baseman Tommy Mirabelli dropped down a beauty of a bunt for a base hit to load the bases for Wheeler, in the pinch hit situation. Wheeler drove one to deep left center to bring in Taylor and knot the game up, 4-4.
Northwestern retook the lead in the seventh after Watters hit a one-out two-run single to right field to put NU on top, 6-4.
It was the top of the ninth inning where KU rallied to take the lead one final time. McKay led things off with a ground ball to third where Reid Hunter booted the throw to give Kansas a base runner with no outs. That error proved costly as Smith followed up with a two-run jack to left center, tying the game up, 6-6, and giving the Jayhawks some breathing room.
The go-ahead run seemed impossible after Tinsley flew out and Beck grounded out leaving Taylor at the dish with two down and nobody on. The rookie wore a pitch to bring Pidhaichuk up to the plate. Hitless on the day, Pidhaichuk drove one to left center to bring up Boylan in the pinch hit situation. Boylan drew the walk to bring up Martin and it was all history from there as he smoked the grand slam to left field to put KU on top, 10-6.
Johnson came on to pitch in the ninth and gave up one run off one hit and a walk, but was able to keep the Northwestern bats at bay and preserve the win, 10-7.
The Jayhawks continue its five-game road swing as they fly directly to Fort Worth, Texas, for a three-game Big 12 weekend series at TCU. Friday’s contest is slated for a 6:30 p.m. start and can be seen on FOX Sports Southwest Plus (FSSW+). Fans can also listen live on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio.
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