After a slow start, Kansas University’s baseball team used a five-run seventh inning to slip past Arkansas-Little Rock, 9-8, Tuesday at Hoglund Ballpark.
Senior Robby Price and junior Brian Heere had RBI hits in back-to-back at-bats in the decisive inning.
“I was disappointed early in the game,” KU coach Ritch Price said. “We had the bases loaded three times and did not score. We had an opportunity early to put some runs on the board that we did not take advantage of. They walked eight guys in four innings, and we only had four runs as a result of it.
“I paid the guys a great compliment at the end of the game. They rebounded like a Top-25 ball club. We had a chance to come from behind late, our best players were at the plate, and those guys clutched up and got it done for us. They found a way to win a 9-8 game that we could have easily lost.”
KU (16-9 overall) trailed by four runs entering the bottom of the seventh.
Junior Jimmy Waters started the inning with a single up the middle and moved to third on a double by Jake Marasco. After a walk to Chris Manship loaded the bases with one out, freshman Kevin Kuntz drove in a run with a fielder’s choice, beating out the throw to avoid narrowly a double play.
After Jason Brunansky walked to reload the bases, Robby Price delivered a two-run double to bring KU within one at 8-7. Price hit a line drive in front of the right fielder, but hustled into second base with a double.
Robby Price’s hustle proved to be a key play, as Heere collected a bloop single up the middle to score Brunansky and Price with the go-ahead run. Heere led the Jayhawks with three hits.
“I think we have confidence, but at the same time a lot of guys are seeing the ball pretty well and putting good swings on it,” Robby Price said. “When you contribute and put good at bats up back-to-back, that is the only way that you can come back from these deficits. It seems like every guy in the lineup is grinding out at-bats and making it tough for the opposition to get us out. That is the only way you can come back.”
That they needed to come back is something of a recurring theme with the Jayhawks.
Stellar pitching out of the bullpen lifted KU to a 2-1 series victory at Baylor over the weekend.
Tuesday, starter Thomas Taylor was touched for five runs — all earned — off seven hits over 4 1/3 innings, and reliever Wally Marciel gave up three runs — two earned — off three hits over 1 2/3 innings. Matt Kohorst (1-0), Travis Blankenship and Colton Murray each pitched a scoreless inning.
“Our starting pitching has to improve, there is no doubt about it,” Ritch Price said. “Thomas Taylor is too talented not to be able to finish hitters off who have two strikes. He has got to improve his breaking ball and the command of his fastball when he is ahead in the count. He also hit two guys. Those things set the table for you to leave the game behind, which was the case for us. We need him to take that next step and be a productive guy that we can count on, but today I was disappointed.”
KU, which has won five of its last six, will play host to Missouri State at 6 p.m. today.