Defensive Miscues Costly, KU Falls at No. 3 TCU, 4-2
FORT WORTH, Texas – Fifth-inning woes are too much to overcome as the Kansas baseball team dropped game one of a weekend set at No. 3 TCU, 4-2, Friday afternoon at Lupton Stadium.
Clinging to a one-run lead in the bottom of the fifth, the Jayhawks (22-29, 7-12 Big 12) had a prime opportunity to get out of the inning unharmed but a costly error by freshman shortstop Matt McLaughlin kept the inning alive on a routine groundball hit by TCU (38-9, 14-5 Big 12).
“We made a bad defensive play there behind Krauth,” head coach Ritch Price said. “We could have rolled up a double-play ball there and had nobody on with two outs, but to his credit, with bases loaded he gets another double-play ball.”
KU starter Ben Krauth (7-4) surrendered a walk before inducing another double-play ball to appear to get out of the inning with just one run given up, but a two-out base knock by Horned Frog designated hitter Connor Wanhanen drove in two more runs and dug a two-run hole for the Jayhawks to climb out of.
“I will tip my cap to TCU’s freshman designated hitter,” Price said. “They have two on and two out and he lasers that ball into center field, and that was the difference in the game.”
McLaughlin led Kansas with three hits on the day, while two other Jayhawks tallied multiple-hit efforts. Freshman designated hitter Owen Taylor (2-for-4) blasted two singles, while sophomore centerfielder Joven Afenir (2-for-3) drilled two singles of his own to go along with KU’s only walk. McLaughlin and Taylor each drove in a run, while Afenir scored both runs on the day.
Senior left fielder Connor McKay mashed the only extra-base hit of the game for either team, smoking a one-out double in the first inning to increase his Big 12-leading total to 21.
On the hill, Krauth had a tall task ahead of him to try and match up against the reigning Big 12 Pitcher of the Year in righty Preston Morrison (11-1). Krauth battled through six and one-third innings, giving up three runs, none earned, off six hits and four walks. He added six strikeouts in the 108-pitch effort.
“His pitches were not as sharp as they have been in his previous starts,” Price said. “He got behind in the count a lot from the first inning on, but at the same time, he still got us into the seventh inning.”
The Jayhawks had prime opportunity to tack on runs early after they loaded the bases with one out in the second inning. Afenir drove a single through the left side to start the momentum. McLaughlin followed suit with a single through the right side before Taylor ripped the third-straight single of the frame to load the bases with one down. However, junior third baseman Tommy Mirabelli grounded into the three-two fielder’s choice and senior second baseman Justin Protacio looked at strike three to strand the runners and get TCU out of the frame unscathed.
The third frame found KU threatening again after McKay reached base on a fielding error by the second baseman with no outs. Sophomore catcher Michael Tinsley singled through the right side with one out to put runners at first and second for first baseman Blair Beck. The senior captain smoked one up the middle but right into the six-three double-play to cut the chances of any run support for Krauth short.
Kansas caught a break in the fourth after a three-base fielding error by TCU right fielder Nolan Brown left Afenir standing a third with no outs and McLaughlin heading to the plate. The rookie smoked one through the hole at second to bring in the game’s first run and give the Jayhawks the lead, 1-0.
The Horned Frogs answered back in the fifth with a three-run inning to take their first lead of the game, 3-1. Krauth hit the first batter before McLaughlin booted a ball at shortstop to put the first two runners on base. Krauth then proceeded to walk the next batter to load the bases with nobody out.
The lefty battled back and induced the ground ball for the routine six-four-three double play, surrendering a run on the same play. A walk and a stolen base found TCU’s Wanhanen strutting to the plate with runners at second and third and two outs. The freshman drove one up the middle to score both runners and give the Horned Frogs the two-run advantage.
The teams traded zeroes on the scoreboard until the bottom of the eighth inning when TCU tacked on an insurance run after a walk, stolen base and throwing error by Tinsley put a runner on third with two outs. Horned Frog shortstop Keaton Jones singled up the middle to increase their lead, 4-1.
TCU sent closer Riley Ferrell to the bump for the ninth to try and close out the game. Ferrell couldn’t find the zone early in the frame and walked Afenir before giving up a single to McLaughlin to get two runners on with nobody out. A passed ball advance the duo up a base and a groundout by Taylor cut the Horned Frogs’ lead to two, 4-2.
KU sent back-to-back pinch hitters to the plate in juniors Jacob Boylan and Steve Goldstein. Boylan struck out and Goldstein smoked on to left but right at TCU left fielder Dane Steinhagen to end the threat of a Kansas comeback, 4-2.
Game two of the series will be played Saturday, May 9, with a new start time of 1 p.m. Fans can listen to the game live on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio. With the threat of inclement weather, fans should be sure to follow @KUBaseball on Twitter for up-to-date start times for the remainder of the weekend.
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