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Jayhawks Take Series; TCU Salvages Sunday

By Noah Darling

LAWRENCE, KS--Kansas shook the college baseball landscape with decisive victories over the #2 TCU Horned Frogs on Friday and Saturday.  On Sunday, TCU hoped to find their offensive on a warmer but crucial day at Hoglund Ballpark in Lawrence.  In search of a 3-0 weekend to begin Big 12 conference play, the Jayhawks came out swinging in the bottom of the first.  Michael Brooks drove in Jayhawk leadoff hitter John Nett before Collier Cranford’s opposite-field single gave Kansas an early 4-0 lead.

Kansas starter Patrick Steitz, who entered Sunday with a 0.61 ERA through 14 2/3 innings of work, was effective early on against a TCU offense that had struggled in Lawrence this weekend.  Steitz threw four innings, giving up three hits, two walks and one run.  He struck out three on the afternoon.  The Horned Frogs were able to produce a run on a Luke Boyers double, though he was cut down at third base to end the TCU effort.  

TCU starter Braeden Sloan produced a clean 2nd inning before handing the ball to the bullpen in the 3rd.  Horned Frog Head Coach Kirk Saarloos called on Zachary Cawyer to calm things down, and he delivered.  Cawyer threw 2 2/3 innings, walking two but giving up just one hit.  

TCU enlisted All-American Ben Abeldt to further the efforts of Cawyer in the 6th.  Abeldt was strong in relief against the Jayhawks on Friday and was dominant in long relief again on Sunday.  The southpaw threw three innings of hitless baseball, facing nine batters and sending each of them back to the dugout in succession.  

It wasn’t just pitching for Saarloos’s team, the Frogs rode timely hitting in the 6th from Logan Maxwell, Anthony Silva and Luke Boyers to cut into the Jayhawk lead.  It was recurring hero Sam Myers who gave the Horned Frogs a lead of their own as his two run single made it a 5-4 ballgame.  TCU added to their lead with a 9th inning onslaught of runs, turning a one run advantage into a 9 run lead that held true enough to secure a TCU victory.

Despite the loss, Kansas Head Coach Dan Fitzgerald was energized regarding his team’s effort not only in victory on Friday and Saturday but even in defeat.  “Fired about the series win and fired up with how we competed today”, Fitzgerald complimented the guys who stepped up in the KU bullpen and credited TCU for being one of the toughest teams in the country. This weekend marked the first time the Jayhawks had opened up Big 12 play with a series victory since Kansas won at Texas in 2014.

Next up, TCU will travel to Dallas for a midweek contest against Dallas Baptist before hosting Oklahoma next weekend.  The Jayhawks, with their 2-1 conference record, host Missouri on Tuesday ahead of a road weekend series against new conference foe Cincinnati.  As for Missouri, the significance of the rivalry is not lost on Fitzgerald.  “They’ve got new blood in that program with Kerrick Jackson and a new slate of players, they lost a lot of guys last year”.  Fitzgerald continued, “it's a rivalry game, a kid from the area that has grown up knows Kansas/Mizzou”.

Looking ahead, Fitzgerald recognizes what a series victory like this can mean for a team that is looking to turn heads in conference play.  “The formula for college baseball is pretty simple, you take care of business in the midweeks, finish high in your conference and especially in the Big 12… you finish near the top, you put yourself in position for the postseason”.  The Jayhawks have strong opportunities to build on their resume ahead of them. 


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