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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Ashwood has an answer

KU starter stymies Cowboys in bounce-back win

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One day after Oklahoma State's baseball team blasted Kansas University for 14 runs, the Jayhawks silenced one of the Big 12 Conference's best offensive teams Saturday with a 6-3 victory at Hoglund Ballpark.

KU starting pitcher Zach Ashwood, who allowed just one earned run, entered the game with a 6.42 earned-run average and in jeopardy of falling out of the rotation.

However, he tied his longest outing of the season by lasting six innings.

"There's no doubt that was Zach's best start of the year," KU reliever Paul Smyth said. "For Zach to go out there and produce the way that he did - then it hypes you up as a closer."

Smyth sealed the Jayhawks' win, giving up no runs and just one hit during his three innings of work for his fifth save of the year.

"Any time he comes in the game, I know he's going to throw well," Ashwood said. "He's got real good stuff. I knew he was going to come in and mop up."

The early innings looked like a repeat of Friday's 14-4 drubbing by the Cowboys (18-6 overall, 1-1 Big 12), who entered the series leading the conference in batting average, runs, home runs and RBIs.

Ashwood allowed two hits during the first inning and four hits and two runs during the second before settling down.

"It didn't look like he was going to last that long," KU coach Ritch Price said. "He managed to battle through it."

Instead, the Cowboys' pitching staff struggled as Oklahoma State went through five pitchers - Justin Friend, Martin Beno, Josh Fritsche, Brandon Adams, Tyler Lyons and Jeff Breedlove.

KU designated hitter Justin Ellrich helped force the pitching changes. The sophomore went 2-for-3, hitting a double to right field in the third inning as part of a two-run rally to tie the game. During the fourth, his off-the-wall double to left-center gave KU a 3-2 lead it would not surrender.

"I've really found my swing the last couple of games," Ellrich said. "It's starting to click."

Left fielder John Allman also had a strong game, driving in three runs and absorbing a 93 mph fastball to his forearm for his 11th career hit-by-pitch in the fifth inning.

Despite that offensive production, KU (15-13, 2-3) stranded 14 runners on base. Smyth, who has a 0.82 ERA, remained confident despite the missed scoring opportunities.

"It's gonna happen," he said. "It was no big deal. I wasn't too worried about it."

Blustery conditions were of greater concern. Wind gusts resulted in several fielding gaffes, including one where three Oklahoma State players converged to drop a pop fly and enable KU catcher Buck Afenir to take first base, igniting the third-inning scoring.

"That wind was blowing the ball from first base to shortstop," Price said. "Any pop fly that was caught was a big-time play."

After Saturday's game, Price told his team that his KU teams from 2003-05 would not have had the mental resolve to bounce back from a 14-4 loss the day before.

"Up until last year we could have never won that game," he said. "We would've gotten boat-raced all weekend in my first three years.

"Now, we're competitive enough and we have good enough players to get in there and battle and compete each day. I'm really proud of the maturity we showed."

Comments

Cornfed 12 years, 10 months ago

Just love Price! He is such a good coach! I wish we had more resources to really let him shine!

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