Kansas Squeezes Past Baylor in Series Opener, 3-2
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Thomas Taylor started it, Justin Protacio provided a chunk of the offense, and Kansas relievers Frank Duncan and Jordan Piche’ finished it as the Jayhawks opened a three-game series against Baylor with a 3-2 win at soggy Hoglund Ballpark Friday night.
Taylor (5-1) notched his eighth quality start of the season by scattering four hits over nearly seven innings of work and got a boost from a two-RBI single off of Protacio’s bat in a three-run fifth inning for Kansas (28-18, 10-9 Big 12). The Jayhawks’ ace fanned six batters to move past Jimmy Walker (226) into fourth on KU’s career strikeouts list (228) before getting a little help from his friends in the bullpen.
Taylor and the Jayhawks escaped with minimal damage after Baylor (25-21, 11-7 Big 12) put runners on the corners with no outs in the seventh, plated a run, then put runners on the corners again before Duncan entered the game and induced a pop up to end the threat. Duncan pitched a perfect eighth frame against the top of Baylor’s order before watching as Piche’ logged his ninth save of the season while closing the victory – KU’s third straight. It was the fifth one-run decision in the last six games for Kansas.
Hits were in short supply for either squad as Taylor and Baylor starter Max Garner (3-5) each allowed four each, but Kansas made the most of its first opportunity trailing 1-0 in the fifth. Dakota Smith logged KU’s first base knock with a double to lead off the inning and Connor McKay tapped a bunt single to put runners at the corners. Jayhawk catcher Ka’iana Eldredge attempted to sacrifice the runners and scored Smith from third just under the tag at the plate. After a sacrifice from Tucker Tharp put two men in scoring position, Protacio delivered a single through the right side to give Kansas a 3-1 advantage.
Baylor, which had scored in the first inning when Landon Langford drew a leadoff walk to snap KU’s streak at 20.1 innings without a free pass and was driven in on a double by Jake Miller, added one run in the top of the seventh but couldn’t find a hit off of either KU reliever. Miller finished 2-for-4 in the contest, and along with Grayson Porter (1-for-3) recorded Baylor’s RBIs.
Garner struck out 10 batters and two of the four hits allowed were on the infield, but just like Taylor a week ago, found himself on the losing end despite a quality outing.
Piche’ dropped his nation-leading ERA to 0.58, while working around an error in the top of the ninth. Unscathed, he struck out Duncan Wendel for the second out and got Porter to ground out to Kuntz at shortstop to end the game.
Kansas and Baylor continue the series Saturday at Hoglund Ballpark with a first pitch scheduled for 2 p.m. Sophomore left-handed pitcher Wes Benjamin (4-5, 4.10) is expected to start for Kansas against Baylor sophomore right-hander Austin Stone (3-2, 2.81). The series concludes Sunday at 1 p.m.