IOWA CITY, Iowa – Seven runs off 14 hits were not enough, as the Kansas baseball team dropped its second-straight game to Iowa, 12-7, at Duane Banks Field Wednesday afternoon.
KU (21-13, 5-4 Big 12) sent the conference leader in wins, Drew Morovick (6-2) to the mound to face the Hawkeyes (18-12, 3-6 Big Ten) in an attempt to split the two-game series. Morovick struggled throughout as he was unable to get through the third inning, giving up eight runs off 10 hits in the loss.
The Jayhawks pounded out 14 hits against Iowa, including nine against Hawkeye starter Andrew Hedrick. Senior centerfielder Tucker Tharp led Kansas with a 4-for-5 effort at the dish with two runs scored, while senior catcher Ka’iana Eldredge boasted a 3-for-4 performance with an RBI and a run scored.
Three other Jayhawks tallied multiple-hit efforts, including sophomore third baseman Colby Wright (2-for-4), who hit his first career home run in the ninth inning and finished with a career-high three RBIs.
Kansas jumped out to the early lead after back-to-back clutch hits sparked the two-out rally. Tharp reached first with a one-out single up the middle before a quick strikeout brought up junior first baseman Blair Beck with two outs. On the eighth pitch of the at bat, Beck smoked a single up the middle to drive in Tharp from first and give KU the early lead. Eldredge followed suit with a two-out RBI-double of his own off the fence in left field, scoring Beck and giving the Jayhawks the two-run lead, 2-0.
The Hawkeyes answered right back with a five-spot in the bottom half of the second inning. Back-to-back Iowa singles and a walk with two outs set the table for centerfielder Eric Toole, who laced a single to right field to tie up the game, 2-2. Second baseman Jake Mangler followed with a two-run double before designated hitter Dan Potempa rocketed one over Tharp’s head in centerfield to drive in the fifth run of the frame, 5-2.
With one out in the KU half of the third inning, junior designated hitter Connor McKay sent the first pitch he saw over the fence in centerfield for his sixth home run of the season, chipping away at the Hawkeye lead, 5-3.
Iowa again answered, tacking on another three runs in the bottom of the third thanks to three base hits in the frame. A single and hit by pitch led off the inning before a two-out two-run single by Toole pushed the lead to four runs, 7-3. Mangler followed with his second double of the game to score Toole from first and give the Hawkeyes the five-run advantage, 8-3. Each of Iowa’s first eight runs came with two outs.
The Jayhawks chipped away for another run in the fifth inning after a two-out single by Wright. Junior left fielder Michael Suiter led off the inning with a bunt single before McKay followed with an infield single of his own. A fielder’s choice and quick pop out brought Wright to the plate with two down and runners at the corners. Down 0-2 in the count, Wright took a low fastball up the middle to drive in Suiter from third and cut more into the Iowa lead, 8-4.
Still chipping away, KU sent Eldredge to the plate to lead off the top of the sixth inning. Eldredge scorched a double to left field to put himself into scoring position with no outs. Junior shortstop Justin Protacio grounded one to the right side to advance Eldredge to third, before a ground out by sophomore second baseman Tommy Mirabelli drove in Eldredge, allowing KU to come within three runs of the Hawkeyes, 8-5.
The key moment of the ballgame occurred with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the seventh inning. KU loaded the bases for lead-off man Protacio, who forced Iowa into a pitching change. The Hawkeyes sent lefty Jared Mandel in to face Protacio, and after forcing a full-count, Protacio grounded out to short, ending KU’s best threat of the day.
Iowa wasted no time in keeping the momentum on their side, scoring its first run since the three-run third in the bottom half of the seventh. Shortstop Jake Yacinich led off with a single up the middle before being sacrificed to second. The Hawkeyes then called to catcher Jimmy Frankos to pinch hit, who lined the first pitch he saw to deep right center to drive in Yacinich from second. Toole followed with an RBI single up the middle to score Frankos and give Iowa the five-run advantage, 10-5. Toole and Yacinich both finished with four hits on the day, pacing the Hawkeyes’ 18-hit attack.
The Hawkeyes added two more runs in the eighth inning, before Kansas scored two of its own in the top half of the ninth. Tharp led off with a single before Wright smoked one deep over the wall in left field for his first career home run. However, the late rally fell short as KU dropped its second-straight to Iowa, 12-7.
The Jayhawks resume Big 12 play this weekend as they play host to TCU for a three-game set, April 11-13. First pitch Friday night is set for 6 p.m., while Saturday’s and Sunday’s contests will begin at 3 p.m. and 1 p.m., respectively.