⚾️ Kansas Drops First Pitch Invitational Opener

GREENVILLE, S.C. – A two-out, two-run single in the top of the ninth inning was the difference Friday night as Kansas fell 5-3 to Western Carolina in the First Pitch Invitational at Fluor Field.

“That’s a tough loss,” Head Coach Dan Fitzgerald said. “I thought we showed a lot of fight, getting back into it at 3-3, but we didn’t help ourselves enough offensively. It’s tough to win when you don’t give yourself enough run support. We have to figure out some things offensively, but if we keep pitching it like that then we’re going to be just fine.”

After stranding three runners on base during the first three innings, Western Carolina got on the scoreboard first with an RBI single in the top of the fourth. Kansas starter Collin Baumgartner limited the Catamounts to one run in the first five innings, but WCU extended the lead to 3-0 after getting two runs on three hits in the top of the sixth. Baumgartner’s replacement, Gavin Brasosky got a two-out strikeout with runners on second and third to end the sixth with WCU on top 3-0.

Kansas entered the seventh inning with four hits on the night, but added three in the inning as the Jayhawks tied the game. Janson Reeder drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second following a single by Cooper Kelly. Michael Brooks struck out swinging for the second out of the inning, but Mike Koszweski found the gap in right center for a two-run double that got the Jayhawks on the board for the first time. Chase Jans followed that with an RBI single, scoring Koszewski to even the score at 3-3.

WCU again threatened in the eighth inning, getting a walk and a single to have runners at the corners with two outs, but Stone Hewlett got the first batter he faced to line out to first base to end the inning. The Jayhawks went down in order in the bottom half of the inning, sending the game to the ninth still tied at three.

After two singles and a walk, Western Carolina loaded the bases with two outs in top of the ninth inning. It was then that WCU’s Landen Morrison got the deciding hit, a bouncing ball that got through the left side and scored two runs for the Catamounts. A wild pitch by Thaniel Trumper allowed WCU’s runners to move up to second and third, but Trumper got the batter to pop up to first base to end the inning.

Kansas’ final chance in the ninth started with a leadoff single by Collier Cranford, but the next two batters were unable to reach base and Cranford was tagged out trying to advance to third for the final out of the game.

Baumgartner started and threw 5.0 innings, allowing one run on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts. Four other pitchers logged time on the hill, but Hewlett (0-1) took the loss after being tagged for two runs in the ninth.

Eight different Jayhawks had a hit in the game, with Koszewski recording the lone extra-base hit with his two-run double in the seventh.

The loss dropped Kansas to 7-5 on the year. The First Pitch Invitational continues on Saturday, with the Jayhawks taking on Michigan State at 1 p.m. CT.