NCAA Tournament: Early Errors Costly in Loss to Louisville, 6-3
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – It’s hard to put up a crooked number in the error column and win a ballgame, and that is what the Kansas baseball team faced Saturday night, as the Jayhawks recorded three errors en route to picking up their first loss in NCAA postseason play against regional host Louisville, 6-3, inside Jim Patterson Stadium.
Four defensive miscues, which included the three errors, dug KU (35-25) into a hole early and couple that with the Jayhawks’ poor offensive approach early in the game, made it nearly impossible to amount a comeback.
“I didn’t think it (our offensive approach) was very good,” Kansas head coach Ritch Price said. “That was the one thing I addressed with our guys afterwards. (Then) we made four bad plays defensively and got ourselves in a hole we couldn’t dig ourselves out of.”
The hole came in the first four innings when senior right-handed hurler Frank Duncan (6-4) gave up five runs off seven hits, with a little help of his team’s miscues on defense. To his credit, Duncan managed to regain his composure and toss the fifth complete game of the season to save the Kansas bullpen.
“I’ll be honest guys, I didn’t think he was going to get out of the sixth inning. To his credit, he went back out there and put zeroes up after that. The whole thing with him is you look at his line score he only walked one, he hit one and he struck out two. So you wonder how he gave up 11 hits and only threw 105 pitches, it’s because he doesn’t strike out many guys, he pitches to contact. Normally we catch the ball a lot better than we did today.”
“I didn’t keep them off the bases as good as I could have with the 11 hits,” Duncan added. “You’re able to make the big pitches when you need to and minimize the damage as best you can. That’s what I tried to do and I thought I did a pretty good job of that.”
Duncan bulldogged his way through 105 pitches to preserve the Kansas bullpen and give the Jayhawks a shot at completing the comeback, closing the game with three scoreless innings. However, the righty didn’t get much help from his offense.
The potent bats that showed up against the Wildcats in game one, seemed almost dormant against the Cardinals with three missed opportunities with bases loaded after getting the leadoff man on to start each frame. Price credits Louisville (47-15) starter Anthony Kidston (8-0) with being able to pitch when it matters the most.
“He (Kidston) made some good pitches,” Price said. “When he had to he made some good pitches. We thought we hit two balls hard that were caught. The ball yesterday was a home run that (Tucker) Tharp hit today. The ball didn’t play like that today.”
The Jayhawks tallied six hits on the day, but gained most of their baserunners by being patient at the plate and drawing the walk. Junior shortstop Justin Protacio, sophomore second baseman Colby Wright and sophomore first baseman Jacob Boylan each had two walks, while Protacio and Wright each had a hit on the day.
Despite getting runners on, Kansas couldn’t find a way to score and stranded 11 runners on base throughout the course of the game, including bases loaded to end the contest.
Louisville right fielder Corey Ray led all hitters with a 3-for-4 performance at the plate, legging out two routine singles into doubles and showing off that Cardinal speed.
“We saw him play in high school and he is a phenomenal talent,” Price said. “He swung at a breaking ball out of the zone a couple times early in the game and then he was on time with the fastball. He put two really good swings on the ball. He is a really good athlete.”
Kansas looks to bounce back in NCAA Regional action Sunday, as the Jayhawks take on Kentucky in an elimination bout at 11 a.m. Fans can watch the game live on ESPN3 or tune in to Jayhawk Digital Passport through KUAthletics.com/showcase for a free audio feed.
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Head coach Ritch Price, 12th season, Third regional appearance at KU
“First off I compliment Louisville on a really good win. I thought they did a really nice job taking the fastball away offensively and they were on time pretty much the whole game. For me personally, I think the difference in the game was how well they played defensively. They make three plus-plays in the infield and the right fielder makes a plus-catch over his head on a ball that was hit really good – I think they make four plus-plays defensively and we made four bad plays defensively and got ourselves in a hole we couldn’t dig ourselves out of. I compliment their team speed too. Their team speed is absolutely phenomenal. It reminds me of playing Texas A&M on their last College World Series team that was loaded with that kind of speed.”
On what it means to take the fastball away:
“I think anybody at every level of baseball that is a really good player is a great fastball hitter. I think that is the first thing you have to do in order to handle the off-speed pitch is to be able to take the fastball away or you have no chance. In our conference where the average velocity is 90 MPH from every team that you play, it prepares you to play professional baseball because they pitch with a fastball. One of our philosophies is we try to take the fastball away and box the fastball and work counts to get into fastball counts and I think that’s a key for success.”
On Louisville’s speed and how it impacts the game:
“I think you saw it guys. The left-handed hitter hit that little chopper to third earlier in the game. The ball is just chopped in the ground and (Tommy) Mirabelli comes and catches the ball on the hop and kind of shuffles his feet and throws the ball away. That is a routine play. I think the only reason he panicked is because the guy was flying down the line. He hasn’t played that many games at third base yet and I think it caught him by surprise how fast the guy was. Otherwise there is no excuse for throwing the ball away. The chopper up the middle that (Justin) Protacio throws a little bit off line and their guy is safe when they say he (KU first baseman Jacob Boylan) is off the bag. They do a really good job of running great 90s and then they ran two singles into doubles. They hit the two balls into the gap and they don’t even get past the outfielders but they leg them into a double. You don’t do that from first to second, you do that from home to first. I tip my cap to their team speed. It is one thing to be able to have really good team speed, but it’s another thing to use it and they know how to use their team speed.”
On getting a complete game from Frank Duncan:
“I’ll be honest guys, I didn’t think he was going to get out of the sixth inning. I thought when they put the three-spot up and then the ball in the dirt and (Tommy) Mirabelli makes the mental mistake and races in and the guys goes to third when we have the infield in – I honestly didn’t think he was going to get out of the sixth inning. To his credit, he went back out there and put four zeroes up after that. The whole thing with him is you look at his line score he only walked one, he hit one and he struck out two. So you wonder how he gave up 11 hits and only threw 105 pitches, it’s because he didn’t strike out many guys he pitches to contact. Normally we catch the ball a lot better than we did today.”
On Kansas’ offensive approach:
“I didn’t think it was very good. That was the one thing I addressed with our guys afterwards. In the first five innings, he (Louisville starting pitcher Anthony Kidston) only threw three off-speed pitches for strikes. The strikeouts all came on guys chasing balls outside the zone, especially our left handers. We had some really bad at bats by our left-handed hitters on balls in the dirt with runners in scoring position. I thought as the game went on we did a better job of trying to eliminate his off-speed pitch and sit on the fastball until he could prove he could throw it for a strike.”
On Kansas not executing after getting the leadoff guy on multiple times:
“He (Louisville starting pitcher Anthony Kidston) made some good pitches. When he had to he made some good pitches. We thought we hit two balls hard that were caught. The ball yesterday was a home run that (Tucker) Tharp hit today. The ball didn’t play like that today. I’ll tell you what guys, they railed some balls too. I disagree with what Frank (Duncan) said about some of those balls not being hit hard. Those balls are lasered into left field and lasered into the centerfield gaps. I completely disagree with that. Just so we are on the same page ok.”
On Kansas’ pitching strategy on Sunday:
“We are going to run (Robert) Kahana out there in game one. If we are fortunate to get past Kentucky in game one, we will run the freshman Jon Hander out there who has been our midweek starter. I think a lot like what happened in the first game today. Kentucky’s ace goes eight innings for them and they rally to win it in the ninth. Frank (Duncan) going nine innings for us today was huge. It gives us an opportunity tomorrow to extend things. We all know anything can happen when you start pitching your third guys and fourth guys in ballgames.”
On if Frank Duncan knew he was going to pitch all nine innings today:
“When we hand him the ball, we don’t’ pitch him any more than 110 pitches. Once he gets to 110 he is gone. He was able to go nine on 105. To his credit he had a really quick eighth inning. I think six pitches was all the eighth inning was.”
On Robert Kahana having the best arm on the Kansas pitching staff:
“He has the best arm. He is going to sit 91-94 MPH tomorrow. We all know Kentucky takes the fastball away pretty good. Those guys are going to go up there and attack the fastball. When you play in a BCS conference, you learn how to hit power pitching. He is going to have to locate because they are one of the better hitting fastball teams we have seen.”
On what makes Louisville so tough to beat:
“I think they have a really nice combination of right-handed hitters and left-handed hitters. So they force your pitcher to use all four pitches. I think one of the things that happens when you have an all right-handed lineup, you can get into a fastball and slider routine and have a lot of success. We all know you teach guys to hit left handed to take the slider away. The balance they have right and left and the speed that they put at you makes it a difficult lineup to pitch to. If you don’t have a really good changeup that lineup could really destroy you.”
On the play of Louisville right fielder Corey Ray:
“We saw him play in high school and he is a phenomenal talent. He swung at a breaking ball out of the zone a couple times early in the game and then he was on time with the fastball. He put two really good swings on the ball. He is a really good athlete.”
On the status of Dakota Smith:
“All he can do is pinch hit. He has a ligament injury on his PCL and it limits him to pinch hitting duties only.”
Frank Duncan, Sr., RHP, San Francisco, Calif.
On if he thought he did his team a service by throwing nine innings:
“Anytime you can throw a complete game in a tournament like you’re playing in right now in a regional, you have to make sure you can save pitching. I’ve prided myself for most of the season on getting deep in games, and I wasn’t in the best position possible, but I was able to go the distance. Even though we lost we still have a lot of pitching left, especially when you’re going to have two, hopefully three more games.”
On how he was able to keep his pitch count down with giving up 11 hits:
“You really have to know who you are as pitcher. I have struck out a lot of guys before, but my game is really mixing my pitching and being able to throw any pitch in any count for strikes, and keep hitters off balance. That’s what I did. Even if there are some hits falling. They hit a few balls hard, but most of the time I thought they were jam jobs or ground balls over the third basemen. But when you’re in a position like this, especially a regional, you have to be able to grind through it and find a way around giving up those hits. I was able to do that to the best of my ability.”
On how difficult it was pitching to a team like Louisville with their speed:
“I didn’t know a lot about them because we take one game at a time, but I was able to watch the game last night and I saw it (their speed) for the first time when they played Kent State. They really executed their short game and ran the bases well, so I knew they were going to be good on the base paths today. I didn’t keep them off the bases as good as I could have, with the 11 hits. You’re able to make the big pitches when you need to and minimize the damage as best you can. That’s what I tried to do, and I thought I did a pretty good job of that.”