It wasn’t exactly the performance Ritch Price hoped for, but the Kansas University baseball coach will certainly take it.
Just days removed from being swept by No. 14 Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, the Jayhawks nearly suffered their fourth straight loss Tuesday before pinch-hitter Nick Faunce hit a game-winning two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to give Kansas an 8-6 come-from-behind victory over visiting Northern Colorado.
“You make the NCAA Tournament by winning on Tuesday and Wednesday,” said Price. “If you take care of business in your conference, you can’t afford to step back in your mid-week games, and that could have been a devastating loss.”
In the end, however, Kansas executed when it needed to.
After falling behind 4-1 heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, the Jayhawks, behind a walk and three consecutive hits, put three runs on the board to tie the game, 4-4, going into the ninth.
But Kansas closer Paul Smyth proceeded to give up back-to-back home runs to Northern Colorado’s Andy Mees and Kevin Sandberg and the Jayhawks found themselves in a two-run hole.
The Jayhawks responded with a four-run ninth — which included hits by Tony Thompson, Jimmy Waters, and Preston Land — gave Smyth the win and helped Kansas improve to 16-10 this season.
David Narodowski led the Jayhawks offensively, going 3-for-5 with two RBIs from the leadoff spot, and pitcher Cameron Selik pitched 4 2⁄3 innings to start the game, giving up six hits and three runs while striking out seven.
“Anytime you have a come-from-behind win in the ninth, it’s huge as far as morale in the dugout and morale in the locker room,” said Land, whose single set the table for Faunce’s home run. “(But) we came out really flat, and that’s not something you want to happen, especially against a team that is capable of beating you.”