LAWRENCE, Kan. – With runners at first and third and no outs in the top of the eighth inning, junior first baseman Ryan Pidhaichuk snagged a line drive off the bat and tagged first for the double play, saving the game, as the Kansas baseball team defeated in-state rival Wichita State, 4-2, Tuesday evening at Hoglund Ballpark.
The Jayhawks’ (19-10, 3-3 Big 12) defense kept the Shockers (16-11, 2-1 MVC) at bay, with help from two double plays and two pick offs to strand five of the seven WSU runners left on base. Pidhaichuk’s snag in the eighth with two runners on and no outs proved to be the difference maker, as it kept Wichita State scoreless in the inning and chalked up to quick outs for KU.
Junior left fielder Michael Suiter and sophomore second baseman Colby Wright each boasted multi-hit performances, with Suiter a perfect 2-for-2 with two walks. Five other Jayhawks added to KU’s nine-hit total on the night, with freshman right fielder Joven Afenir leading the charge with a two-RBI infield single.
Junior righty Drew Morovick (6-1) started on the bump for Kansas and tossed six innings for the win. He allowed two runs off seven hits and one walk, striking out one batter in 85 pitches. Senior Jordan Piche’ came on in relief in the seventh and pitched one inning, striking out two batters. Freshman side-armer Stephen Villines closed out the game for his second save of the season, giving up just one hit while striking out one batter.
Kansas broke open the scoring in the second inning, tallying four runs off six hits. Junior first baseman Blair Beck and Wright led off the frame with back-to-back singles. Junior third baseman Aaron Hernandez followed with a one-out RBI-double to right center to put KU on top, 1-0.
With two outs and runners at second and third, Afenir legged out an infield single to drive in two more KU runs increasing the lead to three, 3-0. Then back-to-back singles by Suiter and freshman designated hitter Michael Tinsley plated the final run of the inning, and game for the Jayhawks, as the team took a 4-0 lead into the third.
The Shockers answered back with a two-run fourth, cutting KU’s lead in half, 4-2. First baseman Casey Gillaspie led off the inning with a walk, before scoring on an RBI-double to left field by second baseman Dayne Parker. Then WSU centerfielder Micah Green drove one deep to right field for the sacrifice fly, driving in the final Shocker run on the night.
Wichita State threatened again in the fifth inning after a leadoff double to left field by catcher Parker Zimmerman. He advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt, before left fielder Tanner Dearman reached first by way of a Kansas error. However, Morovick induced the ground ball to KU shortstop Justin Protacio for the six, four, three double play to get out of the inning.
WSU’s best scoring chance came in the eighth after back-to-back singles by Dearman and shortstop Tanner Kirk left runners at first and third for Gillaspie, who leads the team in average, hits, home runs and RBIs. Gillaspie smoked one on a line down the right foul line, but right into the glove of a diving Pidhaichuk for the line out. Pidhaichuk quickly tagged first base to complete the double play and end the hopes of a Shocker comeback.
Rivalry week continues for the Jayhawks as they travel to Manhattan to continue Big 12 play against Kansas State, April 4-6. First pitch Friday is set for 6:30 p.m., with Saturday’s and Sunday’s games slated for 2 p.m. and 1 p.m., respectively.