As far as home openers go, the Kansas University baseball team’s matchup with Oral Roberts on Tuesday had all the makings of a perfect day, except for the final outcome.
And even that — an 8-7 loss — was in question until KU’s last at-bat.
Home for the first time since racing out to starts of 9-0 and 12-1 in 15 consecutive road games, the red-hot Jayhawks (12-4) jumped on top of Oral Roberts with a run in the first inning and three more in the second. KU appeared to be headed for a feel-good afternoon and a 1-0 start at Hoglund Ballpark on a day when temperatures topped 70 degrees and the sun made it feel more like mid-May than early March.
However, just as quickly as the wind knocked temperatures into the 40s, Oral Roberts’ hitters beat up KU starting pitcher Drew Morovick for four consecutive hits in a four-run third that gave the visitors the upper-hand for much of the rest of the day.
Morovick, who gave up eight hits and five runs in three innings, started the game after throwing four innings on Saturday against Stanford. KU coach Ritch Price said the quick turnaround might have had something to do with his starter’s rough outing.
“We’re asking a lot of Drew,” Price said. “He’s been really good, and today he couldn’t get ahead (in the count). They knocked his fastball around pretty good. If he would’ve pitched tomorrow and had another day’s rest, it might have been a different story.”
Instead, the junior right-hander from Hemet, Calif., was forced to the dugout early and watched the Kansas offense try to salvage a day that started with a 4-1 lead and settled into a 6-4 deficit most of the way.
KU juniors Michael Suiter and Connor McKay came through with exactly what the Jayhawks needed with back-to-back RBI at-bats in the bottom of the seventh to give Kansas a 7-6 lead.
Suiter’s triple to left-center field tied the game by driving in Tommy Mirabelli and Justin Protacio, who both reached via fielder’s choice earlier in the inning. McKay then brought Suiter home with a hard-hit ground-out to the left side after an aggressive at-bat.
“In order to win one-run games, your best players have to clutch up for you and our two best players came through,” Price said. “Those same guys had the same chance over the weekend and weren’t able to get it done. Unfortunately, we took the lead and gave it right back.”
Price said KU’s defense played as well as it could, and he credited his team in the field for keeping the Jayhawks in the game and not letting ORU (7-8) add to its 6-4 lead in the middle innings.
KU will open Big 12 play this weekend in Austin, Texas, with a three-game series against Texas that is slated to begin Friday night.
The Jayhawks’ next home game is set for March 21, when they open a three-game series against Dartmouth.
Oral Roberts 014 010 020 — 8 11 1
Kansas 130 000 300 — 7 7 0
W — J. Romano, 1-0. L — Dakota Smith, 1-1. SV — None.
2B — T. Boss, ORU; A. Sequeira, ORU; Michael Suiter, Kansas; Jacob Boylan, Kansas. 3B — Suiter, Kansas. HR — J. Trevino, ORU.
Kansas highlights — Stephen Villines 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K; Suiter 2-for-3, 2 RBI, 2 R; Boylan 2-for-3, 1 RBI, 1 R; Connor McKay 1-for-4, 2 RBI.