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Jayhawks Split at Big 12 Pac 12 Challenge

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Jayhawks went 2-2 in Arizona, all against Pac-12 teams.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas baseball team returns to Lawrence after completing four games in four days against "Power 5" competition in Arizona.  Overall the Jayhawks hit well, but the pitching staff isn't quite firing on all cylinders yet.

In Game 1 on Thursday afternoon, the 'Hawks used a big six-run eighth inning to storm from behind and knock off the Washington Huskies by an 11-8 score.  The Jayhawk lineup came up with 18 hits, led by 1B Blair Beck's 2-for-3 effort at the plate with a triple, home run, three runs scored, two RBIs and a walk. Dakota Smith posted a 2-for-5 performance with two doubles, three RBIs and a run scored, including the go-ahead RBI double with two out in eighth.

The Jayhawk bullpen only allowed one run in five innings of relief of starter Hayden Edwards.  Stephen Villines struck out all four batters he faced in relief.

Game 2 saw Kansas take on Utah on Friday night.  The Jayhawks got an excellent performance from their starter Drew Morovick, and the bullpen followed up with three innings of shutout ball to lead Kansas past the Utes, 6-3.  Blair Beck went yard again, his third straight game with a home run.  LF Connor McKay added a 3-for-3 effort with a walk and 2 RBI.

SP Drew Morovick went six strong giving up only three runs off five hits.  Stephen Villines collected his first save of the year in a two inning effort, striking out three.

In Game 3 on Saturday evening, Kansas met with Washington State.  The Jayhawks took a 5-4 lead into the bottom of the 7th inning, but WSU rallied with four runs and would end up claiming victory over the Jayhawks, 8-5.  Kansas hitters rapped out 14 hits, but stranded 12 baserunners during the affair.  DH Colby Wright and CF Joe Moroney each collected three hits and a walk.

SP Ben Krauth tossed 6.2 innings, giving up eight hits while collecting seven strikeouts.  Krauth was also charged with seven runs, two of which crossed the plate after he was pulled in the sixth inning.

Game 4 brought Kansas face to face with the always tough Oregon State Beavers.  KU jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning but it was all downhill after that as KU starter Sean Rackoski didn't make it out of the first inning, giving up seven runs while only recording two outs.  A big fifth inning by the Beavers made sure Kansas wouldn't come back in this one, and the Jayhawks fell 15-5.  KU was led offensively by Joven Afenir (4-for-4) and Michael Tinsley (2-for-3) on the day, including a Tinsely HR.

So the Jayhawks split the four games against Pac-12 foes at 2-2, which makes KU's current record 2-5.  According to Coach Price, "We did a nice job all weekend swinging the bats. Those are power arms that were out there and our guys were on time and were physical. I am walking out of here feeling good about our club offensively.

"We need to make some progress on the mound. It's like I just told our club, we knew we lost our top four guys to the draft and there were going to be some growing pains that took place – if we continue to work hard and take care of our responsibilities, we will be ready to go by the time conference play starts."

The Jayhawks won't be in Lawrence long as they prepare to travel to Florida for the Snowbird Classic where the Jayhawks will take on Chicago State, North Dakota State, Northeastern and Boston College.   Once again, KU will be facing the four teams on back-to-back days starting on Thursday, February 26.  All four games will be available on the Jayhawk Radio Network via KUAthletics.com/Radio.

In case you were curious as to the overall results of the Big 12/Pac 12 challenge, here you go:

Results (Big 12 team's score is listed first, Pac 12 team's score is listed second):

Wash St Utah Wash Oreg St
Okla St 11-1 10-2 12-2 3-5
OU 3-4 4-3 10-1 9-6
Kansas 5-8 6-3 11-8 5-15
K-State 12-3 3-2 5-6 9-10

As a conference:

Big 12 10-6
Pac 12 6-10

Team records:

Okla St 3-1
OU 3-1
Kansas 2-2
K-State 2-2
Wash St 2-2
Utah 0-4
Wash 1-3
Oreg St 3-1