MANHATTAN, Kan. – Behind a complete game, 128-pitch effort from senior right-hander Frank Duncan, the Kansas baseball team defeated in-state rival and conference foe Kansas State, 2-1, Sunday afternoon at Tointon Family Stadium.
After an embarrassing 10-0 loss Friday night, the Jayhawks (21-11, 5-4 Big 12) bounced back to win the next two games against the Wildcats (18-13, 2-4) to accomplish a feat that hadn’t been done since 2008; win a series against Kansas State.
Duncan (3-1) tossed his third complete game of the season, allowing one run off seven hits and a walk, while striking out three batters. The Kansas offense provided enough help to secure the victory, pounding out 10 hits for two runs.
Junior shortstop Justin Protacio led KU with a 3-for-4 effort at the plate with a walk and run scored, while senior centerfielder Tucker Tharp added another multi-hit performance going 2-for-3 at the dish with a home run, RBI and a run scored. They were the only two Jayhawks to record two or more hits off K-State starter Nate Griep (3-1).
Kansas jumped on the board early in the second inning after a solo shot by Tharp on the first pitch of the frame. A belt high fastball, Tharp jumped all over the pitch and sent it half way up the trees in left center for his fourth home run of the season and give the Jayhawks the lead, 1-0.
KU had another prime opportunity in the third inning, after Protacio and junior left fielder Michael Suiter reached base by way of singles. Sophomore first baseman Ryan Pidhaichuk drew the one out walk to load the bases for sophomore second baseman Colby Wright. However, Griep forced Wright to ground into the inning ending five, two, three double play to get out of the jam and keep Kansas from adding to its lead.
Duncan turned the tables in the fourth inning getting the key ground ball double play to get out of the jam. K-State shortstop Austin Fisher led off with an infield single. On the next pitch, Duncan forced the ground ball by third baseman RJ Santigate to roll it up four, six, three. Designated hitter Tanner DeVinny followed with a single of his own, before Duncan got the fly out by right fielder Mitch Meyer to preserve the KU lead, 1-0.
The Jayhawks tacked on its final run in the fifth inning after back-to-back singles by Protacio and freshman right fielder Joven Afenir set up the sacrifice bunt for Suiter. With runners at second and third, Pidhaichuk drove the pitch to deep right field for the sacrifice fly, driving in the run to increase KU’s lead, 2-0. Afenir advanced to third on the play, but the slick turf forced him to over slide third base and he was tagged out on the play, but after the run scored.
The Wildcats answered right back in the bottom of the fifth thanks to two-straight hits to lead off the inning. Catcher Blair DeBord singled to centerfield before second baseman Carter Yagi followed with a double down the right field line. Duncan settled to get left fielder Clayton Dalrymple to pop out on the infield, but centerfielder Ross Kivett followed with the RBI-double to right field to cut KU’s lead in half, 2-1. Yagi tried to take third on the play, but a great defensive play by Afenir to cut off the ball and throw him out at third saved another potential K-State run.
Both pitchers managed to throw up zeroes the remaining innings, but not without some defense backing them up.
Kansas led off the ninth inning with three-straight base hits to load the bases and knock Griep out of the game. Hernandez hit the infield single in the hole at short, before senior catcher Ka’iana Eldredge and Protacio followed with back-to-back bunt singles. K-State then made a move to the bullpen and brought in righty Ethan Landon.
Almost a sure thing to tack on a couple insurance runs with bases loaded and no outs, KU sent Afenir to the plate. Landon got the quick ground ball out, before getting Suiter to fly out to first base. Then with two outs, Pidhaichuk rolled one over to short to end the inning without driving in a run for Duncan and the Jayhawks.
Head coach Ritch Price showed confidence in his senior starter, sending Duncan back out to the mound to finish what he started. The hurler forced DeVinny to ground out to Wright at second base, before Meyer grounded out to Protacio at shortstop on the next pitch. Behind in the count 3-1, Duncan found the strike zone to even the count up 3-2 to DeBord, looking to close out the game. Duncan reached back and fired his 128th pitch of the game right over the plate and forced DeBord to swing through it for game-ending strikeout and solidifying the Kansas victory.
The Jayhawks hit the road April 8-9, as they head to Iowa City, Iowa, to play a two-game midweek series against the Hawkeyes. First pitch Tuesday is set for 6 p.m.