Jayhawk Offense Bounces Back, Split Series, 7-1
LAWRENCE, Kan. – After a tough two-run loss Tuesday night stranding nine baserunners, the Kansas baseball team bounced back to split the midweek series by upending Grand Canyon, 7-1, Wednesday evening at Hoglund Ballpark.
The Jayhawks (23-16) rallied behind a dominant performance on the mound from freshman righty Jon Hander (1-1). The hurler tossed seven innings, allowing one Grand Canyon (19-16) run off five hits to record his first-career victory on the bump as a Jayahwk.
Sophomore second baseman Colby Wright (2-for-4), junior left fielder Michael Suiter (2-for-4), junior right fielder Dakota Smith (2-for-3) and senior catcher Ka’iana Eldredge (3-for-4) all boasted multiple-hit efforts, while junior third baseman Aaron Hernandez (2) and Smith (3) each tallied more than one RBI.
“It was nice to see our offense bounce back after last night’s loss,” head coach Ritch Price said. “We barreled up a lot of balls and found the gaps today. It is nice to get back on track.”
The KU lead off man reached base in six of the eight innings the Jayhawks batted, with five of them being base knocks (three doubles and two singles). Wright was responsible for two of those doubles, one in the second and one in the fourth, while Suiter scorched the other one in the sixth inning.
The Jayhawks wasted not time getting the offense going, putting up a five-spot in the first inning. Junior shortstop Justin Protacio, Wright and Suiter drew three-straight walks to start to bottom half of the first. After a fielder’s choice, Smith drove one to deep left field for the sac fly to break open the scoring in favor of Kansas, 1-0.
Junior first baseman Blair Beck drove in the second run off a single through the right side, before Hernandez roped one opposite field to score two runs and give the Jayhawks the five run advantage, 5-0.
Kansas tacked on another run in the fourth, after Wright led off with a double down the left field line. He scored on a Smith RBI-single up the middle, increasing KU’s lead, 6-0.
Hander showed tremendous poise on the mound through the first four frames, facing just one batter over the minimum, while recording four strikeouts. However, the hurler left one up in the zone in the top half of the fifth, allowing GCU catcher Josh Meyer to lead off the inning with a double to left center. He later scored on a sac fly by designated hitter Charles Wagner, for the Antelope’s only run of the game, as he cut KU’s lead to five, 6-1.
“Jon has shown great improvement since his first start at New Mexico,” Price said. “With a depleted bullpen, it was important for him to give us a quality start and he did just that. He has worked hard on and off the field to allow himself to be a midweek guy for us and his performance today was outstanding.”
Kansas added one last insurance run in the sixth after Suiter doubled to left field to start the inning. An error advanced Suiter to third base before Smith drove him in for his third RBI of the game and seal the win for the Jayhawks, 7-1.
KU is back in action this weekend as the squad hits the road for a conference series against Oklahoma State, Friday, April 18 – Sunday, April 20. First pitch Friday night is slated for 7 p.m., while Saturday’s and Sunday’s contests are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. and 1 p.m., respectively. In addition, Sunday’s game will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1, as part of the six regular-season Big 12 games aired by the FOX Networks.
posted by J.B. Bauersfeld