Kansas baseball coach Ritch Price believes sophomore Jackson Goddard is one of the best pitchers in the nation when Goddard is at his best.
Goddard certainly lived up to his coach’s lofty praise in Saturday’s 4-2 victory over Oklahoma State at Hoglund Ballpark. The right-hander looked as polished as he ever has in a Jayhawks uniform, as he struck out a career-high 13 batters and allowed just one earned run over six innings.
“He was special today,” Price said. “I knew he was a special guy and had a special arm. He just needed an opportunity to develop, and he has certainly done that. He’s become one of the best guys in the country.”
With the win, KU (17-18, 6-6) has now won two of its first four Big 12 series after winning just one all last year.
Goddard became the first Kansas pitcher to record 13 or more punchouts since Frank Duncan whiffed 14 batters on Feb. 23, 2014 against Mississippi Valley State. Prior to Saturday, Goddard’s seven-strikeout performance against TCU earlier this season was his personal best.
It was evident early that Goddard was locked in against the Cowboys (20-15, 4-8).
Goddard actually struck out four batters during a 24-pitch first inning. A wild pitch on the first strikeout allowed the leadoff batter to reach base. Second baseman Ryan Cash would move around the bases on a passed ball and bloop single, before scoring on an error by shortstop Matt Mclaughlin.
“I was fired up after that first inning,” Price said. “The reality of that was he had to get six outs. He held them to one run, which was unbelievable.”
But Goddard was able to recover after the unlucky first frame and allow just one run — a solo homer by Colin Simpson — over the next five innings. He allowed just four more hits and never had a frame in which he threw more than 20 pitches.
Goddard worked meticulously against each batter, throwing nearly 65 percent of his total pitches for strikes. Goddard mixed in his slider and changeup, but heavily leaned on his fastball to put batters away. In fact, all but two of his strikeouts ended with his fastball, which sat consistently around 94 mph and even touched as high as 96 mph.
“I was working fastball and changeup because they had mostly lefties,” Goddard said. “(My) Slider is usually one of my strikeout pitches, but I didn’t have it today. I was able to locate my fastball in some good spots to get them.”
Meanwhile, the offense did its part to manufacture enough runs to support Goddard’s gem on the mound. Sophomore Rudy Karre’s leadoff single turned into a run in the first on a fielder’s choice by sophomore Devin Foyle. Junior Tanner Gragg then claimed the first advantage for KU with a sacrifice fly in the second.
In the third, the Jayhawks added another run on a pair of two-out hits by freshman Brett Vosik and senior Marcus Wheeler. They didn’t plate another run until the seventh on a pair of walks and a hit-by-pitch. The team is now 7-3 in April after winning just two of the first eight games to start the season.
“Now we have put ourselves in position to not only make the Big 12 tournament, but the NCAA tournament,” Price said. “I can’t say enough about our freshmen. They have made remarkable progress since the start of the season. It’s fun to watch now.”
Kansas will travel to Wichita State at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
OSU 100 001 000 — 2 7 0
KU 111 000 10x — 4 9 2
2B — Dustin Williams, OSU; Brett Vosik, Marcus Wheeler, KU. HR — Colin Simpson, OSU.
W — Jackson Goddard (3-2). L — Cole Hearrean (0-3). S — Stephen Villines (10).
KU highlights — Goddard, 6 IP, 5H, 1ER, 13K, 0 BB; Wheeler, 2-for-2, 2B, RBI; Rudy Karre, 2-for-4, RBI, 1 run; Matt Mclaughlin, 2-for-4, 1 BB.