IOWA CITY, Iowa – After jumping out to an early 2-0 lead, the Kansas baseball team surrendered a four-run fifth and never recovered as the Jayhawks dropped the series opener to Iowa, 5-3, at Duane Banks Field Tuesday evening.
KU (21-12, 5-4 Big 12) stranded 11 baserunners on the night, including three in the first inning en route to dropping its fourth midweek game of the season, while also falling to Iowa (17-12, 3-6 Big Ten) for just the second time in head coach Ritch Price’s tenure.
Freshman righty Jon Hander (0-1) got the start on the bump for KU and lasted four and two-thirds innings giving up four runs off five hits while striking out four. Iowa’s weekend starter Sasha Kuebel (3-3) came on in relief for the Hawkeyes, pitching five and two-third innings, giving up just on run off eight hits while striking out six batters.
Freshman catcher Michael Tinsley led all Jayhawks with a 3-for-4 effort at the dish with two RBIs, while sophomore designated hitter Jacob Boylan was the only other player with a multi-hit effort (2-for-4) as he too drove in a run.
The Jayhawks broke open the scoring in the third inning thanks to back-to-back one-out singles by Tinsley and Boylan. Junior right fielder Connor McKay took an 0-2 fastball off the elbow for a free pass, before sophomore first baseman Ryan Pidhaichuk drew his second four-pitch walk of the game. Tinsley took the second pitch he saw and scorched it through the right side to drive in McKay from second and move Pidhaichuk to third. Boylan followed suit with an RBI-single of his own to increase KU’s lead, 2-0.
Iowa attempted a rally of its own in the bottom of the fourth after Hander gave up a single and hit by pitch to lead off the frame. However, on the next pitch Hawkeye first baseman Tyler Peyton lined a rocket right at sophomore second baseman Tommy Mirabelli at second base, who had the wherewithal to double up Iowa second baseman Jake Mangler at second for a quick two outs. Hander ended the inning with a backwards K to get out of the jam and preserve the two-run KU lead, 2-0.
However, the Hawkeyes rallied for four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to take the lead. Catcher Jake Yacinich sparked the rally with a single up the middle to lead off the inning. Left fielder Nick Day followed with a one-out single of his own before centerfielder Eric Toole drove in Iowa’s first run with an RBI-single up the middle.
With a 1-1 count, Hander hit Mangler in the back to load the bases and KU made a move to the bullpen and brought in junior right-hander Dakota Smith. Behind in the count, 3-1, Smith served up a fastball to designated hitter Dan Potempa who smoked it down the right field line for a bases-clearing double, giving Iowa a two-run advantage, 4-2.
Kansas battled in the seventh inning to get back another run back from the Hawkeyes. Junior left fielder Michael Suiter led off the inning with a single to third base and advanced to second on a throwing error. McKay followed with a single through the right side to put runners at the corners for Pidhaichuk, who flew out to right. Tinsley followed by driving an 0-2 fastball up the middle to score Suiter from third and cut further into Iowa’s lead, 4-3. However, the rally was halted at one after Boylan grounded into an inning-ending double-play.
Iowa added another run to its lead in the bottom of the seventh inning after the Hawkeyes tallied three-straight hits to start the frame. Toole led off with a double down the left field line before Mangler singled through the right side to put runners at the corners for Potempa.
With the KU infield playing in to cut the run at home, Potempa smoked a first-pitch fastball to a diving Wright at third. The ball hit off Wright’s glove and rolled into the outfield to score the runner from third. Smith settled down to strikeout Peyton for the first out of the inning before walking right fielder Taylor Zeutenhorst. Wright picked himself up with a five, two putout to save a run before Frankos flied out to end the inning with Iowa scoring just one run, 5-3, but the Jayhawks were unable to counter in the final two frames.
Kansas is back on the diamond Wednesday, April 9, to close out the two-game set against Iowa. First pitch is slated for 3 p.m.