The Jayhawk baseball program had a rough week, going only 2-3 in five games. The 'Hawks overall record now stands at 6-10. KU played a midweek series at Grand Canyon University in Arizona before coming home for the first homestand of the year and hosting Utah for a three game set at Hoglund Park on campus in Lawrence.
The pitching on this team really has me worried, and if you continue reading, you'll see why. I am excited for sophomore CF Joven Afenir. The dude is a black hole in CF and makes some great plays out there. Senior 1B Blair Beck is hitting the ball out of the park regularly, giving KU some power in the lineup. If we can just get this pitching going, we might be able to make something out of this season.
Tuesday, March 3 - Grand Canyon 12, Kansas 4
The Kansas offense started off well in this one, putting up four runs on six hits in the first two innings. However, the bats were pretty much silenced after that as KU only mustered two hits the rest of the way. GCU roughed up Kansas freshman reliever Blake Weiman, and the combination of the stagnating offense and uncharacteristic errors on defense cost KU the game. 2B Colby Wright led the Jayhawks with a 2-for-3 (2B, R, 2 RBI) effort.
Wednesday, March 4 - Kansas 9, Grand Canyon 5
Kansas responded with an offensive explosion the very next day, including two home runs, one each by 1B Blair Beck and C Michael Tinsley. With the pitching staff struggling, Coach Rich Price used six pitchers during the game to keep GCU at bay. CL Stephen Villines pitched the final three innings to pick up his third save of the year. GCU had runners on base everywhere thanks to 9 hits and 11(!) walks, but KU turned four double plays during the contest. SS Justin Protacio (3-for-5, R, RBI) and C Michael Tinsley (1-for-3, HR, 2 BB, 2 RBI, 2 R) led the Jayhawks offensively.
Friday, March 6 - Kansas 7, Utah 5
The Jayhawks returned to Lawrence for their home opener on Friday afternoon. In front of a crowd of 1,045 fans, KU picked up a much needed win against the Utes. KU jumped on Utah early, taking a 7-2 lead into the 6th inning, and held on for the win. 1B Blair Beck (3-for-4, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R) connected on his Big 12 leading 5th home run of the year to lead Kansas. SP Ben Krauth (6.2 IP, 3 BB, 5 K) gave up 4 runs on 6 hits. CL Stephen Villines came in and picked up his fourth save in two innings of work, striking out three in the process.
Saturday, March 7 - Utah 5, Kansas 1
Fans were treated to a pitcher's duel for most of the day on Saturday afternoon. While the basketball 'Hawks fought valiantly in Norman, SP Sean Rackoski (pictured above) had his best day as a Jayhawk to date, and probably the best start by any KU pitcher so far this year. Rackoski went 6.1 innings, giving up two runs on three hits with a walk and three strikeouts. KU mustered only six hits offensively, and no player had a multi-hit game for the Jayhawks. Utah SP Dalton Carroll was the story of the game, tossing a complete game while striking out three and walking none.
Sunday, March 8 - Utah 8, Kansas 4
For the second game in the row, the Jayhawk bats were mostly quiet as Utah abused the Kansas pitching staff. Utah posted 8 hits in addition to five walks and two hit batters as the Kansas pitching staff struggled to throw strikes. CF/LF Joven Afenir and PH Marcus Wheeler each picked up their first career home runs in the contest and 2B Colby Wright picked up two more hits with his 2-for-4 effort. SP Blake Weiman made it through four innings, giving up three runs on six hits with two walks and a strikeout.
Regarding the series against Utah, Coach Price commented that, "They have really good pitching. That is as good of pitching as we have seen since we played at LSU – they just flat-out out-pitched us. They commanded the ball and did a really good job, and I tip my cap to them. Injuries and a five-game week left us really short on the mound. Guys are making their first starts and are being used in different roles than what they are used to."
Kansas will host Central Michigan on Tuesday afternoon at 3 PM at Hoglund Ballpark in a one game "series." Following that, the Michigan Wolverines will come to Lawrence for a three game set Friday-Sunday, March 13-15. Michigan is 10-5 so far on the season.
All four upcoming games can be seen on ESPN3, accessible online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app, through ESPN on Xbox Live to Gold Members and on Apple TV. In addition, the game can be heard on the Jayhawk Radio Network through KUAthletics.com/Radio or on the official Kansas Jayhawks mobile app.