Oklahoma City — Sweating from the outset on an intensely steamy day, Kansas co-ace Ryan Zeferjahn felt the heat more than he was able to deliver it within the boundaries of the strike zone Thursday in a second-round Big 12 tournament game against Baylor in Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City, Okla.
Zeferjahn started his day by walking leadoff man Nick Loftin, things quickly deteriorated from there and Baylor blasted Kansas into the losers’ bracket, 10-5.
A hard-throwing sophomore from Topeka blessed with a bright baseball future, Zeferjahn will be happy to bury this one in his past.
Coming off a dominant, 11-strikeout performance against Oklahoma, Zeferjahn faced 17 batters and retired just six of them. Two of his three innings featured a leadoff walk, the bane of any pitcher’s day. Baylor’s No. 8 hitter, Josh Bisonette, chased Zeferjahn from the game with a two-run home run to the empty Baylor bullpen behind the left-field fence with nobody out in the third.
Right-handed reliever Jonah Ulane entered and served the second and third two-run home runs of the inning, to Nick Loftin and Shea Langeliers. The Bears batted around in the six-run inning, sending 10 men to the plate and heading out to the field with a 10-1 lead.
If ever a team could be excused for going through the motions, this was the time, but Kansas did not. The Jayhawks didn’t allow a run in the final six innings and put together a four-run eighth inning that included Tanner Gragg’s two-run home run to left.
Zeferjahn threw 53 pitches and 30 of them were balls. He never looked comfortable and even appeared to have trouble getting a good grip on the baseball. Grabbing the resin bag didn’t seem to bring any relief.
The pitching line for Zeferjahn: two-plus innings, five hits, six runs (five earned), four walks, two strikeouts.
“I wasn’t able to locate much at all,” Zeferjahn said. “My fastball was all over the place, and then in 2-0, 2-1 counts, it was right down the middle and they were all over it. I don’t think I even threw a slider for a strike, maybe one that got hit for a sac fly. I think I threw two change-ups that were strikes and that was about it. I wasn’t able to do much with any pitch today.”
Kansas coach Ritch Price noted that Zeferjahn has “made phenomenal progress in his mechanics” since his freshman season, and then pointed to where he expects to see progress from him in his junior year — sure to be his last at Kansas because of his lofty status as a prospect.
“I think the next thing in Ryan’s development as a player … is when he gets out of synch with his delivery, he has trouble finding his rhythm again,” Price said.
Left-hander Taylor Turski takes the mound for Kansas (27-29) vs. Oklahoma (35-22) at 3:15 p.m. Friday. The winner of that game meets Baylor at 9 a.m. Saturday and the loser goes home.
Baylor (34-19) has the day off Friday and faces the winner of the KU-OU game at 9 a.m. Saturday, and if it wins that game, will head to Sunday’s title game. If it loses, Baylor will play the same opponent at 4 p.m. Saturday and the winner of the game heads to Sunday’s title game.