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Saturday, April 5, 2014

Kansas baseball gets even with K-State

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— If a person touches a hot stove enough times, he or she will eventually get burned.

Somehow, Kansas University’s baseball team avoided any such trouble.

Though Kansas State loaded the bases three times, the Jayhawks were able to limit most of the damage while their offense responded with 13 hits in a 6-3 Big 12 victory on Saturday afternoon at Tointon Stadium.

KU (20-11, 4-4 Big 12) led 6-1 in the eighth inning before K-State (18-12, 2-3) started a two-out rally with five straight batters reaching base. After two runs scored and the bases loaded, the new Jayhawks closer, freshman Stephen Villines, was able to get K-State’s Ross Kivett to hit a grounder. Third baseman Aaron Hernandez dove to his left for the stop and fired a missile to second base to get the out by a split-second to end the threat.

“I got a good read off of it,” Hernandez said. “Our pitchers were dealing today. Someone had to step up defensively, and I fortunately got the opportunity to. I tried to do everything I could to get the ball to get the ball, and then to get it out of my glove was the hard part.”

In the ninth, Villines pitched around a one-out single to earn his first save in Big 12 play.

“He had some stressful outs there both in the eighth and the ninth,” KU coach Ritch Price said. “He has no fear. He’s one of those great freshmen that walks out there with some southern California swagger, and he’s a pleasure to coach.”

The Wildcats scored a run and had the bases loaded with one out in the second inning before KU starter Robert Kahana was able to get Kivett to ground into a double play. In the third, Kahana walked three hitters before forcing Blair DeBord to ground out in an 11-pitch at-bat to end the frame.

Kahana, who wanted to pitch “more than exceptional” for his grandparents who flew in from Hawaii for the game and to mark his grandfather’s birthday, was dominant afterward. He gave up only three hits in six innings for one unearned run despite five walks.

“I was pleased with how he grinded,” Price said. “Obviously, he was behind in the count. He walked more guys than we would have liked. If you walk guys and set the table against that lineup, you’re usually going to get hurt really bad. But he found a way to get that third out, get out of innings and stop the bleeding.”

After being shut out Friday, the Jayhawks opened Saturday’s game with four straight hits against K-State starter Jared Moore. Michael Suiter drove in Justin Protacio with a bloop single to center, and Blair Beck drew a two-out walk with the bases loaded to give KU an early 2-0 lead.

In the third, KU had its first two batters reach on errors before Protacio drew a walk, and Colby Wright hit a sacrifice fly to right that was dropped for the third error of the inning, which scored Hernandez.

Ka’iana Eldredge began the sixth inning with a single to center before Suiter hit a two-out bloop single to move him to third. With runners on the corners, freshman Joven Afenir, who entered in the fourth inning as Connor McKay exited because of hamstring troubles, hit a line drive past the shortstop to score Eldredge.

The Jayhawks will complete their three-game series against the Wildcats at 1 p.m. today.

Kansas 200 102 100 — 6 13 2

K-State 010 000 020 — 3 7 3

W — Robert Kahana, 2-4. L — Jared Moore, 5-2. SV — Stephen Villines, 3.

2B — Mitch Meyer, Kansas State; Justin Protacio, Tucker Tharpe, Aaron Hernandez, Ka’iana Eldredge, KU.

KU highlights — Kahana, 6 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 1 K; Colby Wright, 2-for-4, RBI; Michael Suiter, 2-for-5, RBI; Eldredge, 2-for-3, RBI; Villines, 1.1 IP, 0 R.

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