ANN ARBOR, Mich. – After ending the conference slate on a nine-game winning streak and taking game one against non-conference foe Michigan on Saturday, the No. 22-ranked Kansas baseball team had its bats cooled as the Jayhawks fell to the Wolverines, 4-0, Sunday afternoon at Ray Fisher Stadium.
KU (34-22, 15-9 Big 12) won 11 of its last 13 games en route to finishing in third place in the Big 12 Conference, its highest finish in the 18-year history of the league.
“When the opposing coaches pick you to finish dead last and you end up 15-9 and in third place in the second-best baseball conference in America this year—it’s a really great accomplishment for our team,” head coach Ritch Price said. “I am really proud of the way we finished the regular season.”
Sunday’s loss at Michigan (28-27-1, 13-11 Big Ten) mainly resulted from an offense that failed to get a baserunner past second base, as the Jayhawks posted just four singles on the day, three of which were infield hits. Give credit to the Michigan pitching staff, as all four Wolverine hurlers pounded the strike zone all day, striking out nine KU batters in the shutout.
“I think it was an important two-game series,” Price said. “Obviously we didn’t swing the bats very well either day. The greatest thing that has happened here is we got a chance to play two days. We picked up a ‘W’ yesterday. I’m disappointed in the outcome of the game today, but from a bigger picture standpoint, this sets us up for what’s most important – being prepared to play Wednesday of next week.”
Kansas split up the first seven innings by design between junior right-hander Robert Kahana (4-6) and freshman righty Jon Hander. Kahana dealt effectively for the first two innings before giving up a three-spot in the third. Hander came on in the fourth and threw up three zeroes on the scoreboard, before allowing a run in the seventh.
“I thought Robert got off to a good start, then his command and timing wasn’t as sharp,” Price said. “It was good to see the freshman go out and put zeroes up and start to make some progress. It was important that both of those guys threw today with the conference championship coming up.”
Junior shortstop Justin Protacio, sophomore second baseman Colby Wright, senior centerfielder Tucker Tharp and sophomore third baseman Tommy Mirabelli each tallied a single on the day to contribute to the total of four KU hits on the day.
The difference maker in the game came in the third inning when Michigan threw up a three-spot on the scoreboard thanks to three base hits and a pair of KU miscues. UM shortstop Travis Maezes led off the inning with a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by third baseman Jacob Cronenworth. Junior centerfielder Jackson Glines drew a walk before first baseman Kyle Jusick singled to load the bases with one out.
It was Michigan senior catcher Cole Martin who delivered the game-winning blow, a two-run single up the middle to break open the scoring and put the Wolverines on top, 2-0. A wild pitch and a passed ball allowed another UM runner to score, increasing the lead to three, 3-0.
KU didn’t have any great opportunities to score throughout the day, with only two baserunners reaching second base – one in the sixth and one in the seventh. The Wolverines tacked on an insurance run in the seventh inning, before retiring six of the next seven KU batters for the win/
The Jayhawks conclude the regular-season slate with the same win total from a year ago (34), and will be the No. 3 seed in the 2014 Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship, May 21-25, at Chickasaw Brickton Ballpark in Oklahoma City. Kansas will open play against the No. 6 seed, West Virginia, Wednesday at 9 a.m. All games leading up the championship matchup can be seen on FOX College Sports, with the title game to be aired on FOX Sports 1.