Courtesy: KU Athletics
OKLAHOMA CITY – Backed by a four-run dagger of an eighth inning, the Kansas baseball team defeated No. 6-nationally ranked and No. 2 seeded TCU, 7-3, Wednesday evening at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark to open the 2017 Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship.
“This was a great win for our program against one of the best teams in America,” head coach Ritch Price said. “I am very proud of the way we competed and how we grinded out the victory.”
The Jayhawks (30-26) broke a tie in the top of the eighth, just half a frame after a Horned Frog (39-15) rally knotted the game up, 3-3. Sophomore left fielder Devin Foyle drove in the go-ahead RBI that sparked the four-run rally off TCU relief ace Sean Wymer (4-4), who picked up his fourth loss of the season.
Freshman second baseman James Cosentino led off the eighth with a four-pitch walk, before junior shortstop Matt McLaughlin and Foyle hit back-to-back singles to regain the lead. Freshman designated hitter Jaxx Groshans followed with his own single to load the bases and sophomore third baseman David Kyriacou added another run with a sacrifice fly.
However, it would be the two-run base knock by freshman right fielder Brett Vosik the put the game away, 7-3.
The victory came on the heels of an outstanding pitching performance from junior lefty Taylor Turski, who kept the TCU bats at bay for six and 1/3 innings. He struck out eight Horned Frogs without surrendering a walk. His 108-pitch performance allowed Price to go to his team’s strength – the bullpen – with the lead in the seventh.
“I felt great,” Turski said. “I wanted to go in there and throw strikes and attack the hitters, which is what I did. I felt great.”
The task at hand fell to junior Blake Weiman (5-1). The southpaw faced seven batters, and struck out two. His blemish came by way of a hit-by-pitch in the bottom of the seventh inning. A failed pickoff attempt and a single later, and TCU tied the game up, 3-3.
Kansas rallied in the eighth and Weiman pitched a perfect bottom half of the inning, before turning the ball over to closer Stephen Villines for the ninth. The senior gave off a leadoff single, but induced the double play, only to follow up with a strikeout to end the game and preserve the Kansas victory, 7-3.
That late rally by the Kansas bats mimicked a third-inning performance that seemed to ignite the Jayhawk dugout. TCU took the lead in the bottom of the second off a two-run triple by designated hitter Zach Humphreys. KU saw that two-run triple and raised a RBI-single by Groshans in the next frame.
McLaughlin hit his second-career three-bagger with one out in the third inning to score sophomore center fielder Rudy Karre (double) and Cosentino (walk), and breath some life back in the Kansas dugout. Groshans followed with a RBI knock up the middle and the Jayhawks found themselves with the lead for the next four innings.
“I think the biggest thing right now is just understanding our window,” McLaughlin said. “We believe if we go out and win two or three games, we will put ourselves in a position to make a regional.”
The victory for Kansas is the first in the Big 12 Championship since 2013 and the second over TCU in tournament play. With the win, the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in Texas Tech and TCU, respectively, both lost in the first round to unranked teams.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Turski out of trouble: After giving up a leadoff double in the bottom of the third inning, junior lefty Taylor Turski settled in and retired the next nine Horned Frogs in order. Then back-to-back singles in the bottom of the sixth looked to end Turski’s day, but the southpaw recorded back-to-back strikeouts before a fly out to get out of the jam unscathed.
I see your triple: Just half an inning after TCU broke open the scoring with a two-run triple, junior shortstop Matt McLaughlin matched that effort with his second-career triple – a two-run poke – to knot the game up, 2-2. That set the table for the then-go-ahead RBI by freshman designated hitter Jaxx Groshans for KU’s first lead.
UP NEXT: Kansas is set to play the winner of Oklahoma and Texas on Thursday, May 25, at 7:30 p.m. at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. The game will be aired on Fox College Sports and on the airwaves on KLWN 1320 AM/101.7 FM.