LAWRENCE, Kan. – It had been almost twenty years to the day since the Kansas baseball team swept back-to-back weekend conference series, but that didn’t stop the Jayhawks from accomplishing that feat Sunday afternoon at Hoglund Ballpark as the squad took down No. 19 Texas Tech, 4-1, in the series finale.
Kansas (30-20, 12-9 Big 12) picked up its seventh-straight win after sweeping the series against the Red Raiders (36-16, 11-10 Big 12) and has now won six-straight conference games, a first since 2009 when the squad accomplished the same feat. The last time the Jayhawks swept consecutive weekend conference series was April 22-24, 1994 (Nebraska) and April 30-May 1, 1994 (Kansas State).
“One of the things you preach to your guys is in order to make the NCAA Tournament, you have to have two special weekends,” head coach Ritch Price said. “It started for us last weekend at Baylor and continued this weekend at home. If we continue to play well next week, we will put ourselves in solid footing and there won’t be any doubt about it.”
Senior right-handed hurler Frank Duncan (6-2) tossed his fourth complete game on the season, while sophomore second baseman Colby Wright kept his bat hot with his fifth multi-hit game in the last six contests, boasting a 3-for-4 performance at the dish.
“The sweep’s huge,” Wright said. “What coach just said–that’s a two-game swing. Instead of being 11-10, we are 12-9 and we sit in third place (in the Big 12) alone. Otherwise, we’d be tied still, so with that, it was huge.”
Wright finished the weekend batting .556 (5-for-9) with four walks, a double, four runs scored and six RBIs, including the three singles and two RBIs he had in today’s contest. Those two runs were plenty of run support for Duncan, as he allowed just one run off five hits, while striking out seven batters.
“I know they came in as the best hitting team in the Big 12,” Duncan said. “One of the benefits I have found pitching on Sundays this year is you get to see how they make adjustments the first two nights and then you work off that. So using that makes it a lot easier.”
Kansas jumped on the Red Raiders early with a two-run first inning. Wright sparked the rally with a one-out single through the right side, before junior left fielder Michael Suiter doubled down the right field line to drive him in. Junior right fielder Dakota Smith reached on a TTU error, advancing Suiter to third, who then scored when junior designated hitter Connor McKay grounded one to the right side, 2-0 Jayhawks.
Duncan on the other hand started the day retiring the first nine batters in a row, including three strikeouts, before allowing the first Red Raider hit of the day in the fourth inning. TTU right fielder Stephen Smith led off that frame with a double to right center, before left fielder Tyler Neslony followed suit with a double of his own to drive in the lone run of the game for Texas Tech, 2-1.
“He (Duncan) is one of the best college pitchers in the game,” Price said. “He’s a four-pitch mix guy and he locates on both sides of the plate. When he’s got everything working like he did today, he’s one of the best pitchers in the country.”
Wright sparked another two-run inning for the Jayhawks in the sixth, when he smoked a single to right center. Sophomore first baseman Ryan Pidhaichuk took the one-out hit by pitch and sophomore third baseman Tommy Mirabelli followed with a single to center. Junior shortstop Justin Protacio loaded the bases with a walk, setting up the two-run single for Wright, 4-1 KU.
“I think he (Wright) got one start a year ago and I think he had one hit or something the entire season,” Price said. “In the 12 years I have been at Kansas, we have never had a player make that kind of progress from year one to year two. It’s a pleasure to watch him play right now.”
Kansas will ride this seven-game winning streak into midweek play at Missouri State, Wednesday, May 7, before returning home to host the final Big 12 Conference series of the year against a red-hot West Virginia team, May 9-11.
“We set the tone today,” Price said. “To get the sweep–that was a two-game swing today in the win-loss column by finding a way to sweep them. West Virginia is going to come in and they are one of the best offensive clubs in America and we are going to have to take care of business just like we did this weekend.”