LOUISVILLE, KY. –
It’s hard to put up a crooked number in the error column and win a ballgame, and that is what the Kansas baseball team faced Saturday night, as the Jayhawks recorded three errors en route to picking up their first loss in NCAA postseason play against regional host Louisville, 6-3, inside Jim Patterson Stadium.
Four defensive miscues, which included the three errors, dug KU (35-25) into a hole early and couple that with the Jayhawks’ poor offensive approach early in the game, made it nearly impossible to amount a comeback.
“I didn’t think it (our offensive approach) was very good,” Kansas head coach Ritch Price said. “That was the one thing I addressed with our guys afterwards. (Then) we made four bad plays defensively and got ourselves in a hole we couldn’t dig ourselves out of.”
The hole came in the first four innings when senior right-handed hurler Frank Duncan (6-4) gave up five runs off seven hits, with a little help of his team’s miscues on defense. To his credit, Duncan managed to regain his composure and toss the fifth complete game of the season to save the Kansas bullpen.
“I’ll be honest guys, I didn’t think he was going to get out of the sixth inning. To his credit, he went back out there and put zeroes up after that. The whole thing with him is you look at his line score he only walked one, he hit one and he struck out two. So you wonder how he gave up 11 hits and only threw 105 pitches, it’s because he doesn’t strike out many guys, he pitches to contact. Normally we catch the ball a lot better than we did today.”
“I didn’t keep them off the bases as good as I could have with the 11 hits,” Duncan added. “You’re able to make the big pitches when you need to and minimize the damage as best you can. That’s what I tried to do and I thought I did a pretty good job of that.”
Duncan bulldogged his way through 105 pitches to preserve the Kansas bullpen and give the Jayhawks a shot at completing the comeback, closing the game with three scoreless innings. However, the righty didn’t get much help from his offense.
The potent bats that showed up against the Wildcats in game one, seemed almost dormant against the Cardinals with three missed opportunities with bases loaded after getting the leadoff man on to start each frame. Price credits Louisville (47-15) starter Anthony Kidston (8-0) with being able to pitch when it matters the most.
“He (Kidston) made some good pitches,” Price said. “When he had to he made some good pitches. We thought we hit two balls hard that were caught. The ball yesterday was a home run that (Tucker) Tharp hit today. The ball didn’t play like that today.”
The Jayhawks tallied six hits on the day, but gained most of their baserunners by being patient at the plate and drawing the walk. Junior shortstop Justin Protacio, sophomore second baseman Colby Wright and sophomore first baseman Jacob Boylan each had two walks, while Protacio and Wright each had a hit on the day.
Despite getting runners on, Kansas couldn’t find a way to score and stranded 11 runners on base throughout the course of the game, including bases loaded to end the contest.
Louisville right fielder Corey Ray led all hitters with a 3-for-4 performance at the plate, legging out two routine singles into doubles and showing off that Cardinal speed.
“We saw him play in high school and he is a phenomenal talent,” Price said. “He swung at a breaking ball out of the zone a couple times early in the game and then he was on time with the fastball. He put two really good swings on the ball. He is a really good athlete.”
Kansas looks to bounce back in NCAA Regional action Sunday, as the Jayhawks take on Kentucky in an elimination bout at 11 a.m. Fans can watch the game live on ESPN3 or tune in to Jayhawk Digital Passport through KUAthletics.com/showcase for a free audio feed.