Early in Saturday’s doubleheader, the Kansas baseball team looked like a team playing its sixth game in seven days, as well as its second doubleheader in that time frame.
Coach Ritch Price noted the velocity of a lot of his pitchers was down from earlier in the week, and freshman James Cosentino admitted the team was worn out.
As a result, Kansas had no hits and trailed Texas Southern, a team it handled easily in the previous two games, by four runs through three innings. With the Jayhawks desperately needing a spark, junior Matt McLaughlin came through with a leadoff double in the fourth inning.
From there, the Jayhawks’ bats came alive and they scored eight unanswered runs to win the game, 8-4, and extend their winning streak to five games. They also topped the Tigers, 11-2, in the first game of the doubleheader Saturday at Hoglund Ballpark.
“That was huge, there’s no doubt about it,” Price said of McLaughlin’s hit. “We needed him to turn it around. He’s had a bad two or three weeks after an unbelievable first two months.”
After McLaughlin’s double in the fourth inning with the Jayhawks (26-22, 9-9 Big 12) trailing 4-0, sophomore David Kyriacou drove him in for their first run of the game. Owen Taylor, who went 3-for-3 on the day, doubled to left field and drove in a run to pull the Jayhawks within 4-2.
“One (hit) leads to another, we were just chipping away,” Cosentino said. “We started to go on a run and got the job done.”
Kansas’ first two batters reached base in the fifth inning, setting the table for Cosentino, who has three home runs in his last four games, to come up big for his team once again. He did just that by lacing a two-run single past the Tigers’ second baseman to tie the game at four.
“It was a hanging curveball,” Cosentino said. “I was out in front with it and got it in the hole.”
McLaughlin brought Cosentino home with a sacrifice fly to give the Jayhawks their first lead of the game at 5-4. After a scoreless sixth inning, Taylor and freshman Brett Vosik each drove in a run in the seventh, and the Jayhawks scored three runs in the inning to put the game out of reach.
It wasn’t just Kansas’ hitting that changed the game in the fourth inning, but its pitching as well. After giving up four runs in four innings, junior Blake Weiman and sophomore Zack Leban combined to throw five scoreless innings to close out the game, striking out three batters and surrendering just two hits, as Leban picked up his first career save.
When the Jayhawks take the field at 1 p.m. today at Hoglund Ballpark, it will be their seventh game in eight days. What it may be lacking in energy should be made up for by motivation. Kansas hasn’t completed a season sweep of an opponent yet this season, but has the opportunity to do so in the series finale against Texas Southern.
The Jayhawks, winners of 13 of their last 18 games, have played themselves onto the NCAA Tournament bubble, so Price knows that every game is crucial.
“It’s important to win all four games of the weekend to continue to build our momentum and try to play our way in (the NCAA Tournament),” Price said. “When you’re on the bubble you have to win every game.”
Texas Southern 000 002 000 — 2 5 3
Kansas 051 104 00x — 11 11 1
W — Jackson Goddard (5-3). L — Seth Oliver (4-5)
2B: Jose Camacho, TSU; Devin Foyle, Brett Vosik, Ty Denzer, MJ Farthing, KU. HR — Christian Sanchez, TSU; James Cosentino, KU.
KU Highlights — Matt McLaughlin 2-for-3, 2 RBI, 1 run; James Cosentino 2-for-3, 2 RBI, 2 runs, HR; MJ Farthing 3-for-4; Jackson Goddard 5 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, 0 R, 7 K.
Texas Southern 102 100 000 — 4 8 0
Kansas 000 230 30x — 8 9 1
W — Blake Weiman (3-1). L — Darius Boykins (0-6). S — Zack Leban (1).
2B — Gaudencio Lucca, Christian Sanchez (2), TSU; James Cosentino, Matt McLaughlin, Devin Foyle (2), Owen Taylor, KU. 3B — Gaudencio Lucca, TSU.
KU Highlights — Matt McLaughlin 1-for-3, 1 RBI, 2 runs; James Cosentino 1-for-5, 2 RBI, Owen Taylor 3-for-3, 2 RBI, Zack Leban 3 IP, 1 H, 0 BB, 0 R, 1 K.