LUBBOCK, Texas – Senior right-handed pitcher Thomas Taylor tossed seven strong innings for his fourth victory of the season, while junior Tucker Tharp drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning with a sacrifice fly as Kansas topped Texas Tech, 4-3, to win the series opener Friday night at Rip Griffin Park.
The Jayhawks win their third one-run game in the last eight days to improve to 23-14 and 8-5 in the Big 12, while Tech drops its eighth-straight to fall to 17-21 overall and 4-9 in conference play.
In a typical Friday night pitcher’s duel, Taylor outpitched Texas Tech starter Jonny Drozd. The Jayhawk senior went seven innings and allowed two runs on five hits with two walks and five strikeouts. Taylor’s five Ks moved him into a tie for fifth-place on KU’s all-time list, matching Steve Renko III’s 220 career strikeouts.
Trailing 2-1, the Jayhawk offense scored three runs in the seventh inning to take the lead for good. With one out, Dakota Smith and Connor McKay hit doubles on back-to-back pitches to tie the game at two. Then, after an infield single by Ka’iana Eldredge, Tucker Tharp gave KU the lead with a sacrifice fly to right field. The Jayhawks added an insurance run with two outs when Justin Protacio reached on a throwing error, which also allowed Eldredge to score.
After allowing an unearned run to score on a wild pitch in the bottom of the eighth, junior Jordan Piché picked up his eighth save of the season. The junior college transfer, who came into the night leading the nation in ERA, recorded three ground outs and a strikeout to finish the game. Piché’s eight saves are the most by a Jayhawk since Paul Smyth recorded nine saves during the 2009 season.
Tech got on the board in the third inning on a two-out RBI single by third baseman Jake Barrios. After Kansas tied the game with an RBI single by Kevin Kuntz in the sixth, Tech regained the lead on Eric Gutierrez’s second double of the night.
Kuntz and Eldredge led the offensive attack with two hits each, while the junior catcher regained the team lead by scoring two runs, giving him 25 for the season.
The opening-game win was the first by the Jayhawks in a series in Lubbock since 2003, which is also the last time KU won a series at Rip Griffin Park.
Kansas will look for the series win on Saturday in game two of the three-game set against the Red Raiders. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Fans can listen to the game live on KLWN (1320 AM) as well as on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access.