Jayhawks Finish Fall Ball on High Note
LAWRENCE, Kan. – The Kansas baseball team wrapped up its fall slate Monday (November 10) with one final intrasquad scrimmage to round out a successful autumn training session.
Encouraged by the progress and development made by the Jayhawks over the fall campaign, which peaked in the last week of practices during the team’s version of the World Series, head coach Ritch Price knows there is still work to be done.
“We had a good fall session and we have a lot of potential this season, but we still need to develop our young pitchers,” Price said. “With losing our top four arms to the MLB draft who were key pieces to our run to the NCAA tournament last season, we are going to rely on a lot of young guys to replace them. Overall, I am pleased with the progress they made, but we still have to make substantial gains in January and February in order to compete in our conference.”
The West Coast team headed into the final week of fall practices leading the World Series two games to one, outscoring the Midwest squad 18-14 in the first three games combined.
In game four of the Jayhawks’ “Fall Classic” the West Coast inched past the Midwest squad with a 4-3 victory to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
The westerners racked up 10 hits on the day, including multi-hit games from three of their players, redshirt-sophomore infielder Marcus Wheeler (2-for-3) and sophomore catchers Michael Tinsley (2-for-3) and John Remick (2-for-2). Wheeler and Tinsley contributed to the West Coast’s four runs with an RBI a piece, while junior infielder Colby Wright knocked in the other two runs in a 1-for-2 effort.
Junior outfielder Steve Goldstein powered the Midwest squad, knocking in all three of their runs on two homers. Senior utility man Blair Beck contributed to the offensive effort, batting 2-for-3 and scoring the additional run on Goldstein’s two-run blast.
Needing a win in game five to extend the series, the Midwest rallied to a 5-2 victory over the West Coast.
Junior right-hander Hayden Edwards led the Midwest on the mound, tossing six innings, striking out four batters, allowing one walk, and giving up three hits, but only one earned run crossed the plate. Fellow junior righty Sam Gilbert worked one inning of relief for the Midwest, striking out one batter.
Seven different batters aided the offensive attack for the Midwest squad, where they racked up eight total base knocks. Freshman infielder Owen Taylor recorded two hits, a single and double, scoring a run and driving in one RBI. Freshman catcher TJ Martin (1-for-3) led the team with two RBIs. Junior infielder Jacob Boylan (1-for-3) and Beck (1-for-3) also knocked in RBIs, Boylan’s on a single and Beck’s on a solo dinger.
“I really like our freshman class, they are really talented, but there is always going to be some growing pains,” Price said. “I am confident they can make the progress needed to compete in the Big 12.”
The West Coast hitters accumulated four hits, led by senior infielder Justin Protacio (1-for-2) and Wheeler (1-for-3), who each doubled to knock in a run.
With the series at 3-2, the Midwest had visions of extending the series to seven, but the West Coast didn’t see it the same way. Needing a victory to clinch, the westerners did just that, beating the Midwest, 4-3, and taking the series 4-2.
The Midwest squad made the West Coast team uncomfortable, but in the end couldn’t push enough runs across the plate to take the series to another game. Junior infielder Tommy Mirabelli (2-for-4) singled and tripled, driving in all three of the Midwest’s runs.
The West had no problem getting on base, with eight different batters getting a hit in the game. Wright led the team with a perfect day at the dish, going 2-for-2 with a double, an RBI, a walk, hit by a pitch, and a run scored. Tinsley (1-for-4) blasted a triple to score another runner, while sophomore outfielder MJ Farthing also knocked in a run with an RBI single. Senior outfielder Joe Luvisi followed suit with an RBI of his own to aid the effort.
“Offensively, I really like our club,” Price said. “We have a good balance of right-handed and left-handed hitters, with a nice complement of gap-to-gap power.”
Sophomore righty Sean Rackoski shoved for six innings on the bump, allowing one earned run to cross the plate, while striking out six batters.
In the Sunday scrimmage, freshman left-hander Blake Weiman pitched six innings only giving up one run, and Wright continued his solid fall campaign with a solo bomb.
Outfielders senior Connor McKay and junior Joe Moroney each finished the fall on a positive note Monday. McKay batted 1-for-1, with two walks, two runs, one RBI and a stolen base, while Moroney went 1-for-1, with one walk, one run and two RBIs.
“I thought we played at a high level all fall,” Price said. “I thought we were solid on both sides, offensively and defensively. Obviously we need to continue to improve behind the plate, with Michael Tinsley as a potential replacement to Ka’iana Eldredge. Development and progress behind the plate is the biggest key for us defensively.
“I don’t think anybody in the country has a tougher schedule out of the gate than us, and it will really test our young guys. We are going to throw them to the fire and see if we can make the progress we need to make to be competitive in our conference.”
With the completion of fall ball, the new turf pitching mound will be installed in Hoglund Ballpark, the finishing touch to the series of recent facilities upgrades. The Jayhawks will have to wait until their 14th game of the 2015 season (March 6) to use the new mound in a game, when they start a 10-game home stand against Utah, Central Michigan, Michigan and Iowa.
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