Through the first 20 games of the season, the Kansas baseball team has struggled on most days to get its bats going.
As the Jayhawks began a nine-game homestand on Wednesday against Creighton, they were able to jolt the Bluejays in the first inning, but the offense fizzled the rest of the way during a 7-3 setback at Hoglund Ballpark.
The Jayhawks (9-11) jumped all over Creighton starter Rollie Lacy by taking a 1-0 lead after just two pitches in the bottom of the first. Junior Matt McLaughlin and freshman Brett Vosik hit back-to-back first-pitch doubles to put the Jayhawks on the board, and they added another run after freshman Jaxx Groshans ripped an RBI single to left.
While the doubles from McLaughlin and Vosik were an encouraging sight for Kansas coach Ritch Price, he was frustrated that the Jayhawks didn't capitalized on their opportunity to put a bigger number on the board in the first.
After Vosik's RBI double to right, sophomore Rudy Karre was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with no one out. Sophomore Devin Foyle came up in the clean up spot and tried to lay down a bunt to move the runners over, but his last attempt rolled foul with two strikes to give the Jayhawks their first out.
Groshans followed with his RBI single, but freshman James Cosentino grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
"If we get the sac bunt down, we score another run in the inning," Price said. "Those are the little things as I got so many freshmen and so many sophomores playing that you're trying to get guys to understand. We've spent 20 minutes doing short-game execution before practice starts and games every day."
Topeka Seaman product Ryan Zeferjahn put up zeros for the first three innings to keep the Jayhawks' lead at 2-0, but the freshman right-hander ran into trouble in the fourth. Creighton (5-11) pushed three runs across in the fourth, as Isaac Collins jump-started the Bluejays with a leadoff triple to right.
"I thought he did a good job of commanding the ball down in the zone, and he was able to mix the first time through. When he got in trouble in the fourth inning, he was down in the count," said Price of Zeferjahn. "Even if your 90-91 (mph), if you're behind in the count and throwing fastballs in power counts, you're going to get hit."
Zeferjahn gave up one more run in following frame before exiting after the fifth. The Topeka native allowed four runs on eight hits, while striking out six and walking just one.
"I was really pleased with Zeferjahn's performance a week ago (against Oral Roberts). He took a huge step forward, and I thought today he took a step back," Price said. "He's still learning, he's still developing and it's part of being a freshman. As soon as he figures out that delivery on a consistent basis, he'll take another huge step forward."
The Jayhawks got one run back in the home half of the fifth on a sacrifice fly from McLaughlin, but there was nothing going the rest of the way. Kansas only collected three hits after the first inning.
"I think we just kind of lost our energy as the game went on, and that's something we're trying to preach to these young guys is that it doesn't matter if it's a Big 12 game or playing whoever in the mid week," McLaughlin said. "The energy has got to stay the same throughout the game."
Kansas will continue its homestand with a three-game series Friday through Sunday against Samford. The first pitch for Friday's series opener is set for 6 p.m.
CU 000 310 120 — 7 10 0
KU 200 010 000 — 3 6 1
W — Jeff Albrecht, 2-2. L — Ryan Zeferjahn, 3-2.
2B — McLaughlin, Vosik, Bakula, KU; Only, CU.
3B — Collins, CU.
KU highlights — Matt McLaughlin 1-for-3, RBI, run; Blake Vosik 1-for-3, RBI, BB, run; Ryan Zeferjahn 5.0 innings pitched, 4 earned runs, 8 hits, 6 strikeouts, 1 walk.