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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Embarrassed at home

Jayhawks lose four-run lead, commit six errors in loss to Huskers

Kansas catcher Buck Afenir heads back behind the plate while Nebraska’s Jake Mort (2) celebrates with teammates after his three-run home run in the fourth inning. The Huskers scored six runs in the inning and went on to win, 11-4, Friday at Hoglund Ballpark.

Kansas catcher Buck Afenir heads back behind the plate while Nebraska’s Jake Mort (2) celebrates with teammates after his three-run home run in the fourth inning. The Huskers scored six runs in the inning and went on to win, 11-4, Friday at Hoglund Ballpark.

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KU baseball downed by Nebraska

Nebraska trounced the KU baseball team, 11-4, in a series-opening Friday game.

The general perception heading into Friday night’s Kansas University baseball game at Hoglund Ballpark was that the Nebraska Cornhuskers were down.

The Jayhawks found out the hard way that the notion was incorrect.

Behind a six-run fourth inning and six Kansas errors, the Cornhuskers erased an early 4-0 deficit and rolled over the Jayhawks, 11-4, Friday night in front of a crowd of 1,381.

“I listened to all the criticism this week, newspaper guys, radio guys, everyone who’s called me. I guess they’re blowing (Nebraska) up on the Internet,” KU coach Ritch Price said. “We knew they were going to play hard. They did exactly what we thought they would do. They walked in here and got after it and competed. That’s been a staple of their program, and there’s some pride in that dugout.”

Early on, the pride, and the tide, were on the side of the Jayhawks. Kansas picked up RBIs from David Narodowski, Brian Heere and Preston Land, who roped a two-RBI double in the bottom of the third, and built a 4-0 lead through three innings. Many in the KU dugout, however, believed the Jayhawks should have scored more.

“We had chances to blow this one open and didn’t get it done,” second baseman Robby Price said.

A big reason for KU staying stuck on four runs was two early-inning pickoffs by Nebraska starter Jordan Roualdes.

“We’ve got 11 hits in the fourth inning, and, as a result of those pickoffs, we’ve only got four runs,” Ritch Price said.

KU’s base-running blunders kept Nebraska within striking distance, and in the fourth inning the Huskers got hot. Nebraska sent nine batters to the plate and scored six runs in the top of the fourth, the biggest blow coming via a three-run home run off the bat of third baseman Jake Mort.

From there, things only worsened for Kansas, which committed all six of its errors — four by shortstop Narodowski — in the fourth through seventh innings. The six errors were the most by a KU team since 2005, when Kansas also committed six in a victory against Missouri State.

Perhaps frustrated by his team’s troubles, Ritch Price was tossed out of the game in the bottom of the seventh inning for arguing a called strike on Robby Price, who had asked for time and stepped out of the batter’s box as the pitch crossed home plate.

KU officials in the press box believed that it marked the first time during the Ritch Price era that the coach had been thrown out of a game at home and the first at all since a 2004 game at Wichita State.

“Basically, I’m just sticking up for my players, and I can’t say anymore than that,” Ritch Price said.

Junior lefty Shaeffer Hall (3-4) picked up the loss for Kansas (27-15 overall, 8-8 Big 12). Only two of the seven runs Hall gave up were earned.

Casey Hauptman (3-4) got the win for Nebraska (19-21, 5-14).

Disappointed but not devastated, the Jayhawks will resume their three-game series with the Cornhuskers at 6 tonight, when KU’s T.J. Walz (4-1, 3.67 ERA) and NU’s Mike Nesseth (3-2, 4.03 ERA) take the mound.

“Everybody who was on that field tonight was embarrassed,” Ritch Price said. “But they’re competitive, and we’ll walk back in here tomorrow. One thing I told the guys is we have to find a way to flush that one. That’s the first bad game we’ve played at home all year, and, obviously, we played bad in every phase of the game.”

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