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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Offensive woes continue for Jayhawks in loss against Samford

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Junior shortstop Matt McLaughlin is well aware Kansas’ offensive struggles this season. Entering Sunday’s game against Samford, the Kansas baseball team ranked last in the Big 12 in batting average, RBIs, and home runs.

Those issues plagued Kansas once again Sunday afternoon, as it fell in the series finale to Samford, 6-1, at Hoglund Ballpark.

“We just didn’t swing it today,” McLaughlin said. “You’ve got to get guys on, and we didn’t do that well enough today. We just didn’t swing it well enough to win.”

The Jayhawks (10-13) appeared to be in good position early in the contest. Sophomore Jackson Goddard threw four scoreless innings, and they led, 1-0, after McLaughlin’s RBI single that scored junior catcher Tanner Gragg in the third inning.

But the Jayhawks missed a chance to extend their lead. After sophomore outfielder Rudy Karre was intentionally walked, sophomore David Kyriacou struck out with two runners on base.

That was just one of the early opportunities coach Ritch Price said his team needed to convert.

“Your impact guys have to hit,” Price said. “Some of our best guys are off to a slow start and are struggling right now. (Samford’s) three impact guys clutched up with guys in scoring position and we had bad at bats.”

With their bats nowhere to be found, the Jayhawks couldn’t afford any letdown on defense. But they committed three errors, which Price said isn’t good enough defense when you can’t score runs.

McLaughlin thought Goddard looked fatigued in the fifth inning after throwing 119 pitches at TCU last week, and that started to become apparent as the Bulldogs zeroed in on his fastball.

Goddard gave up three hits, walked one batter and surrendered three runs in the inning. The sixth inning was more of the same, as the Bulldogs dinged Goddard for two more runs.

An average day at the plate could have erased those mistakes, but the Jayhawks were never able to find any rhythm.

Samford’s pitchers retired the side in three of the final four innings, and Price said his team wasn’t disciplined enough at the plate and they missed too many fastballs (10 strikeouts).

“They were mixing pitches well,” McLaughlin said, “and we weren’t very efficient trying to attack the fastball.”

Even though McLaughlin is frustrated with the way the Jayhawks swung the bat in their week off from Big 12 play, he still believes their offense is better than they’ve shown, and he’s confident it will eventually start clicking.

“I think it’s just being efficient with the ball, relaxing at the plate and trying to see mistake pitches,” McLaughlin said. “We’ve got to try and get the leadoff runner on and be a little more physical, drive some gaps and score some more runs.”

Kansas will continue its home stand with a two-game series against Minnesota, beginning at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Samford 000 032 001 — 6 11 1

Kansas 001 000 000 — 1 5 3

W — Stephen Jones, 2-1. L — Jackson Goddard 2-1.

2B — T.J. Dixon (2), Jordan Fucci, SU.

KU highlights — Matt McLaughlin, 1-for-4, RBI; Tanner Gragg, 1-for-3, run; Jackson Goddard, 6 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 5 K.

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