Kansas convincingly demonstrated roster depth today at Hoglund Field by defeating Western Illinois 14-3 on a day when Price rested six of his eight regular position players. The Jayhawks pounded out a season high 16 hits. Casey Lytle and David Narodowski each had three hits, while Zac Elgie, Brett Lisher and Greg Herbst each collected two.
Kansas actually trailed in this game until the bottom of the second inning. The Leathernecks scored single runs in each of the first two frames. Kansas responded with three runs in the bottom of the second and never looked back. By the end of the fourth inning the game was out of hand with KU holding a 10-3 lead.
Cameron Selik pitched the first four innings and struggled with his command. He gave up all three of the WIU runs. Two came on solo homeruns by Tyler Metcalf, the third came home on a Selik wild pitch. Western Illinois scoring three runs off Selik in four innings is not a good result but its importance should be kept in perspective. While the Leathernecks brought a horrible pitching staff and an indifferent defense to town they are a team that can hit. Credit should be extended to Kevin Burk, Thomas Marcin and Kelson Boyer for pitching five innings of shutout baseball between them to wrap up the game.
Kansas improves to 14-7 while Western Illinois falls to 3-11. KU now has an 11 game winning streak at Hoglund Field. What is the all time record? The two teams meet again tomorrow at 3PM.
Additional game notes after the break.
Any day a team scores 14 runs it has had a good offensive outing. That said, one cannot maximize how bad Western Illinois played defense today. I do not think I have seen defense this bad ever before in a college game. The Leathernecks committed four errors in the game but the official scorer was generous. There were two additional plays ruled hits in which WIU defenders had their glove on a ball before it hit the ground.
On the opposite side of the defensive spectrum, three KU bench players looked great in the field.
Greg Herbst started at third base and converted three difficult plays into outs. In the top of the second he looked like an old pro corralling a high bouncing ball and delivering a strike to first base to peg the runner. Two innings later he moved well to his left to pick up a slow roller that had gotten past the pitcher and again delivered an on-target throw to first for the out. Herbst wrapped up his defensive clinic in the top of the 7th by calming starting a 5-4-3 double play. I haven’t seen much of Herbst this year but it looks to me like Kansas has at least two very good defenders at the hot corner.
James Stanfield entered the game in the bottom of the fifth as a pinch hitter for David Narodowsky and then took over at shortstop. In the top of the ninth he made a good stop on a ground ball and delivered a nice throw to first for the out. Zac Elgie played all nine innings at first and looked pretty good over there today. He made all the put-outs including a few from less than fully friendly assists.
Free State high school graduate John Sneegas got the start for the Leathernecks and was not treated well in his homecoming. Sneegas is a soft thrower who gets a lot of movement out of his pitches. In fact today he seemed to be getting too much, or at least inconsistent, movement. He allowed two runners to score on wild pitches. Sneegas gave the team 3.2 innings but ten runs were scored off him. He delivered a couple of nice curve balls. With a bit more work he could be an effective NCAA pitcher. Best of luck to him. He certainly will have every chance to succeed on his team this year as he looks to be one of only a small handful of pitchers on the WIU roster with D-I skills.
Another area player on Western Illinois' roster making a homecoming today was David Hill out of Levenworth. Hill, a junior relief pitcher, entered the game with an ERA of 75.00. The scoreboard operator did him the courtesy of not displaying his season statics when he was announced in the bottom of the 8th inning. Hill did better than anyone might have expected. Despite having to get five outs in one inning (two errors were committed behind him) he got through the frame without giving up a run.
Kansas went into station to station baseball starting in the 7th inning. All base runners advanced only one base on hits. This probably prevented KU from scoring two more runs in the game and turned Elgie and Jake Marasco doubles into singles. Still, given the score, it was the right way to play the game at that point. I believe this is the seventh time Western Illinois has made the trip to Hoglund and it is proper to maintain good relations between the teams.
Thomas Marcin pitched the 8th inning for KU. This is Marcin’s third year at Kansas. Each year he delivers some of the best and some of the worst pitches I see all season. The madding part is sometimes I see both varieties in the same inning from Marcin. Today he was mostly good. He struck out Kenny Price looking on a truly evil inside breaking pitch. The next seven pitches he delivered were balls. One went all the way to the brick backstop allowing WIU second baseman Dan Johnson who was on first after walking to advance to second. I guess that last wild pitch got whatever was bothering Marcin out of his system. He came back from a 3-0 count to strike out Tyler Metcalf with an outstanding curveball. Metcalf’s knees buckled. Two pitches later Tyler Tilbury was an easy out grounding to second on a chop swing. I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that Marcin might have the best stuff on the Kansas pitching staff. I know he has worked hard to develop more consistency. When he finds the magic answer he is going to be a lights-out performer.
It was a chilly but clear day at the park. I’ll estimate maybe 300 came out (announced attendance of 705). This was a smaller crowd than I expected given how much buzz this team suddenly has in the community. Hopefully the weather will stay nice tomorrow and a larger crowd will find their way down to Hoglund.