STILLWATER, Okla. – With a two-run lead heading into the seventh inning, 3-1, the Kansas bullpen allowed four runs in the next two frames as the Jayhawks dropped their second-straight game to No. 13 Oklahoma State, 5-3, Saturday afternoon at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium.
Junior right-handed starter Robert Kahana paced Kansas (23-18, 6-8 Big 12) through five and one-third innings, giving up just one run, including working out of two-consecutive bases loaded jams from OSU (28-11, 10-4) to put KU in a position to win.
"I was pleased that he grinded through the innings," head coach Ritch Price said. "He gave us a really solid performance and an opportunity to win when he left with the lead."
Kahana grinded through his innings before handing the ball over to junior righty and designated hitter Dakota Smith, before Price made another move to the pen to bring in freshman closer Stephen Villines in the seventh inning.
Almost untouchable all season, Villines entered the game with a 0.33 ERA in 27 and two-thirds innings pitched, giving up just one earned run in 16 appearances. However, following a throwing error on junior third baseman Aaron Hernandez, which put the tying run on base, OSU second baseman Tim Arakawa took Villines yard in the eighth inning, taking all the momentum away from the Jayhawks and putting them in a hole for their final at bats.
"Obviously, the home run was the biggest play of the game," Price said. "That was a great swing on that kid's [Arakawa] part. Villines has been really good for us, but what could have been a great 'W' ends up being a devastating loss. But we bounced back after yesterday and competed and played hard today. I can't ask for any more from my guys than that."
Hernandez (2-for-3) and Smith (2-for-4) boasted multiple-hit performances, while junior shortstop Justin Protacio, junior left fielder Michael Suiter and sophomore first baseman Ryan Pidhaichuk each drove in a run for KU.
Kansas jumped out to the early lead in the first inning, after a leadoff walk by Protacio and an OSU throwing error on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore second baseman Colby Wright brought Suiter to the dish with runners at second and third and no outs.
Suiter drove one through the left side for the RBI, before Pidhaichuk smoked a double down the left field line to drive in the second run of the frame to put the Jayhawks on top, 2-0.
Oklahoma State attempted a rally of its own in the fourth inning after centerfielder Saulyer Saxon led off with a single through the right side. First baseman Tanner Krietemeier and catcher Gage Green followed with back-to-back singles to load the bases with one out. However, Kahana got back-to-back foul outs to get out of the jam and preserve the KU lead, 2-0.
The Cowboys loaded the bases again in the fifth inning thanks to a Hernandez error at third, a single and a walk. OSU's best power hitter, Krietemeier, walked to the dish with two outs and bases loaded only to drill a Kahana fastball right into the ground for the easy four-three ground out, as the Jayhawks escaped another Oklahoma State threat.
OSU scored its first run in the sixth inning and scored its second in the seventh, while Kansas also tacked on a run in the seventh to put the score at 3-2 heading into the eighth inning.
Villines tossed a quick fly out to open the eighth inning, before OSU right fielder Zach Fish reached base on Hernandez's error. On the next at bat, Arakawa drove one down the line in right for the home run to give the Cowboys its first lead of the game, 4-3, a lead which they never surrendered.
Oklahoma State tacked on one more insurance run after Villines gave up a walk and an RBI-double.
KU didn't quit in the ninth, as Smith drove one to centerfield with one out to get on base, before senior catcher Ka'iana Eldredge followed suit with a single of his own with two outs, putting the tying run on base for Protacio. With a 2-2 count, Protacio hit a hard shot right at the shortstop for a ground out, ending the hopes at a Kansas comeback.
The Jayhawks look to avoid the sweep tomorrow with senior right-handed ace Frank Duncan on the mound. First pitch is slated for 1 p.m. and can be seen live on Fox Sports 1.
KUAthletics.com: The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.