Yesterday as I stepped into the parking lot on my way to the game I was immediately hit with such a strong gust of wind that I had trouble putting my coat on. I could feel the wind pushing my body around as I walked. I thought, "This is going to be one freaky baseball game."
In retrospect it is surprising that Nick Czyz kept the Sooners under control for as long as he did. Czyz took a 2-0 lead into the 4th inning. He lost the strike zone and surrendered his first home run of the season, a grand slam, before the inning was over. Once the flood gates were open no pitcher could reseal them last night. Oklahoma and KU traded offensive outburst throughout the last five innings. Even when Kansas fell behind 12-7 I had more than a little hope that 12 runs would not be enough for a win.
Tailing 15-11 in the bottom of the eighth inning Kansas rallied for six runs to take a 17-15 lead. Paul Smyth, who had allowed three runs to score in the top of the inning (two inherited and one of his own) had to protect a two run lead in the top of the ninth to seal the comeback. This was no simple task. With a runner on and two outs Oklahoma clean-up hitter Aaron Baker smacked a deep shot to center. "I thought it was gone," said Price in a post game interview. "He hit it right on the button. That ball was gone all night." Nick Faunce, with his back to the centerfield fence, caught the ball.
KU improves to 6-13 in the conference and is now tied with Kansas State for 8th place. K-State and Missouri hooked up in another wild offensive game in Columbia last night which the Tigers won 13-10. Oklahoma is still one half game ahead of the Hawks in the standings. A win today will take care of that. Also of note, last night's win was Price's 200th at KU.
I probably shouldn't get too much into individual statistics here. After all, this was no ordinary baseball game. Conclusions about player performance should not be drawn from what happened at Hoglund yesterday. Just the same, KU's two high-profile freshman position players simply demand some notice. Jimmy Waters (on the left) entered the game with three RBIs on the season. Last night he went 3-5 with a double and homerun, collecting five RBIs. Tony Thompson was not retired all night. He went 3-3 with a double, a homerun and three RBIs. Casey Larson and Erik Morrison also both collected three hits.
The miserable game conditions kept the crowd very low. I estimate there were no more than 500 people there in the early innings, and even this group of die hard Hawk fans thinned out as the night beat them down. The weather should be less abnormal for the remaining games. Roger Kahn once described watching a baseball game in the upper deck of Candlestick Park as similar to an Eskimo manhood initiation ceremony. I think I have a better idea of what he was describing after last’s night game.