Kansas baseball splits DH against TCU

GAME ONE

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Junior right fielder Connor McKay launched his seventh home run of the season in the seventh inning to score the lone run for the Jayhawks, as the Kansas baseball team fell to TCU, 3-1, Saturday afternoon in game one of a doubleheader at Hoglund Ballpark.

For the second time in conference play, KU (21-15, 5-6 Big 12) failed to record a base knock the first time through the batting order as TCU (22-12, 7-4 Big 12) starter Preston Morrison (4-3) had a no-hitter heading into the fifth inning until junior third baseman Ryan Pidhaichuk smoked a double down the left field line to break it up.

Kansas managed just one run off four hits in support of junior right-handed starter Robert Kahana (2-5), who tossed nine innings for his second complete game of the season. The hurler allowed three runs off nine hits in the loss.

TCU jumped out to an early lead in the third after a four-hit inning. Shortstop Keaton Jones singled through the left side before taking second on the sacrifice bunt. Catcher Kyle Bacak followed with the RBI-single down the left field line, before third baseman Derek Odell followed with his own base knock, a double down the line. Left fielder Boomer White recorded his own RBI-single to stretch the Horned Frog lead to two, 2-0.

The Frogs tacked on another run in the fifth inning thanks to a one-out double. Designated hitter Kevin Cron sent one to the left center gap to put himself into scoring position with less than two outs. Cron advanced to third on a Kahana pitch in the dirt, before scoring on another wild pitch to increase TCU’s lead, 3-0.

Kansas had its first opportunity to put a run up on the board after Pidhaichuk broke up Morrison’s no-hitter in the top half of the fifth. Faced with a 0-1 count, Pidhaichuk smoked a fastball down the left field line for the standup double. He advanced to third on a groundout by senior centerfielder Tucker Tharp, but was left stranded at third after a ground out ended the threat.

However, with one swing of the bat, the Jayhawks notched their first run of the game in the seventh inning. McKay walked to the dish with two outs, yet to record a hit on the day. On the first pitch he saw, he smoked one halfway up the trees in left field for his seventh home run and 36th RBI of the season, cutting into TCU’s lead, 3-1.

Kansas had another prime opportunity to tack on some runs in the eighth inning. Freshman designated hitter Michael Tinsley led off the frame with a single through the right side before stealing second with two outs. However, junior shortstop Justin Protacio was unable to connect cleanly with the fastball, grounding out and ending the scoring opportunity for the Jayhawks.

Down to their final at bat, Kansas managed to load the bases in the ninth inning, forcing the Horned Frogs to make a move to their bullpen and bring in closer Riley Ferrell. Tharp had the chance to be the hero with two outs and the bases loaded. He battled to a full count, before swinging through on a 98 MPH fastball high in the zone, ending the chances at a KU comeback.

Game two of Saturday’s doubleheader is slated for a 6:15 p.m. start. Senior right hander Frank Duncan will get the nod for Kansas, while James Young will start for TCU.

GAME TWO

LAWRENCE, Kan. –Junior right fielder Connor McKay and junior designated hitter Dakota Smith combined for four hits, five RBIs and two runs scored, pacing the Kansas baseball team to a 5-1 win over TCU in the night cap of Saturday’s doubleheader at Hoglund Ballpark.

In opposite fashion of Friday night’s display where TCU’s (22-13, 7-5 Big 12) No. 3 and No. 4 hitters drove in all the runs for the Horned Frogs, McKay and Smith, KU’s (22-15, 6-6 Big 12) four and five hitters, paced the offense with five RBIs, capped off by two home runs by McKay, his eighth and ninth of the season and third on the day, as he also homered in game one.

With his three home runs for three RBIs today, McKay increased his Big-12 leading RBI total to 38. That was also the first time a KU player hit two home runs in a game since May 11, 2013, when Alex DeLeon accomplished the same feat against in-state rival Kansas State.

Outside of Smith and McKay, sophomore second baseman Colby Wright was the only other Jayhawk with a multi-hit performance at the dish, batting 2-for-4 with two runs scored. The trio combined for six of KU’s eight hits on the night, giving plenty of offensive support for senior right-handed hurler Frank Duncan (4-1) who made his ninth start on the bump for Kansas.

After a dominating complete-game, 128-pitch performance a week ago, Duncan took the mound with the same swagger and allowed just one run off five hits in eight and one-third innings pitched. He struck out seven TCU batters and gave up just one walk in the victory. Freshman side-arm slinger Stephen Villines came on in relief in the ninth inning with runners on first and second and one out, and struck out the only two batters he faced for his fourth career save.

Kansas wasted no time jumping out to an early lead in the second inning when McKay hit his eighth home run of the season and second of the day. On a 1-2 count, McKay drove one on a line over the left field wall to put KU on top, 1-0.

TCU battled back in the third to tie the game up, 1-1. Third baseman Derek Odell drew the one out walk, before stealing second base. With two outs, designated hitter Kevin Cron lined one up the middle for the RBI-single, evening the score up at one apiece.

Wright sparked another KU rally in the bottom of the fourth as he roped a double down the right field line to lead things off. However, the scoring chances looked grim when took quick outs brought Smith to the plate. On the first pitch of the at bat, Smith ripped a single to left field to score Wright from second and give the Jayhawks the one-run advantage, 2-1.

Wright came through again in the sixth inning with a one-out single to centerfield to spark the two-run rally. Junior left fielder Michael Suiter followed suit with a single of his own, this one to left field, to bring up McKay. Already with two home runs on the day, McKay was primed for another, but went down swinging on three straight pitches.

Smith then walked his way to the plate with two outs and runners at first and second, looking to tack on a couple more runs for the Jayhawks. Smith timed the fastball perfectly and drove it down into the right field corner for the two-run triple, extending the Kansas lead to three runs, 4-1.

McKay then took charge in the eighth inning when he stroked his ninth bomb of the season over the wall in left center, another solo shot, to increase the Kansas lead to four runs, 5-1, and seal the victory for KU in the night cap.

The Jayhawks are back in action Tuesday, April 15, as they play host to Grand Canyon for a two-game midweek series. Both games are available for viewing on ESPN3.

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