Late-inning rally lifts No. 22 Kansas over Michigan

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Junior outfielders Michael Suiter and Dakota Smith combined for five RBIs in an explosive six-run ninth inning, as the No. 22-ranked Kansas baseball team defeated Michigan, 8-2, Saturday afternoon at Ray Fisher Stadium.

Smith dropped the hammer on a fastball in the ninth inning for a three-run monster shot over the 23-foot wall in left field, after Suiter scraped out a two-run infield single to give the Jayhawks (34-21, 15-9 Big 12) their final lead over the Wolverines (27-27-1, 13-11 Big Ten) and put the game out of reach.

“We were struggling a little bit offensively,” Smith said. “The week off kind of hurt us I think. Toward the end of the game we started getting back in the rhythm that we’ve been in – Colby (Wright) has been hot all year and came through again.”

Sophomore second baseman Colby Wright clutched up in the eighth inning with a huge two-out RBI-single to left field which got KU on the board and tied the game up, 1-1.

“We just always keep our heads in the game all the way to the end,” Suiter said. “We never give up, so that’s a good quality of our team.”

Head coach Ritch Price scheduled this two-game set as a final tune-up before the 2014 Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship, and designed game one around right-handed starters Frank Duncan and Jordan Piche’, who combined to throw the first seven innings. Junior righty Drew Morovick (9-3) came on in relief for one inning of work, before handing the ball over to freshman closer Stephen Villines.

“The reason we came was exactly what you watched,” Price said. “Obviously this is a really tough week for our players. I still haven’t figured out quite how to get it right. But if we didn’t play today, we wouldn’t be ready to be at game speed when we get to Bricktown on Wednesday.”

It was quite the pitcher’s duel through the first five frames as both teams combined for just one hit, until Michigan tallied two hits in the sixth.

The Wolverines broke open the scoring in the seventh inning after back-to-back singles by first baseman Kyle Jusick and left fielder Kevin White led off the frame. A throwing error by senior catcher Ka’iana Eldredge on White’s steal attempt allowed the first run to cross the plate in favor of UM, 1-0.

KU rallied back in the eighth inning after sophomore first baseman Ryan Pidhaichuk led off with a walk and was sacrificed to second by sophomore third baseman Tommy Mirabelli. Freshman outfielder Joven Afenir pinch ran for Pidhaichuk and advanced to third on a ground out and scored when Wright smoked a two-out single to left field to tie the game up, 1-1.

Wright took second on a wild pitch, before scoring on an error by UM third baseman Jacob Cronenworth on a hard-hit ground ball by Suiter, giving KU its first lead at 2-1.

Michigan tied it back up in the bottom of the eighth, 2-2, before the Jayhawks blasted six runs in the ninth, thanks in large part to Suiter and Smith, as the Jayhawks put the game out of reach, 8-2.

“We just have to keep playing well,” Smith said. “Hopefully it just keeps carrying over like it has been doing the past couple of weeks.”

Kansas and the Wolverines close out the two-game series Sunday, May 18, at 12 p.m. Junior righty Robert Kahana will start on the bump for the Jayhawks as they look to close out the regular season on a five-game winning streak while winning 12 of their last 13 games.

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