Salt Lake City Utah strung together three infield singles in the bottom of the ninth to score the only run in a 1-0 nonconference baseball victory over Kansas University on Saturday at Spring Mobile Ballpark.
It was KU’s 20th one-run contest of the season, the second-most in program history.
KU starter Thomas Taylor scattered four hits over eight shutout innings, but the Utes (18-29) scratched out the victory against star KU closer Jordan Piché (6-4).
The Utes beat out a throw from Kansas second baseman Justin Protacio in shallow right field and a spinning throw from third baseman Jordan Dreiling on a chopper behind the mound. With one out, Trey Nielsen hit a sharp grounder to short that looked like a potential double play, but the ball took an awkward hop, and Utes base runner Braden Anderson partially shielded KU shortstop Kevin Kuntz. The ball skipped into shallow left field, allowing Anderson to score.
“(Piché) made three good pitches to those three hitters,” KU coach Ritch Price said, “and they get two infield singles — you can’t throw the ball any better to both guys — then obviously the bad-hop single to short was a tailor-made double-play ball. It’s not often that you see a guy get beat on three balls that shouldn’t have even left the infield.”
Utah starter Mitch Watrous (4-3) held KU without a hit through four innings and surrendered just two base hits in a complete-game shutout. He walked three; Kansas stranded five base-runners.
“We had plenty of opportunities,” Price said. “We had enough chances to score, enough chances to get a run on the board and take the lead early, but unfortunately for us we had several really bad at-bats with runners in scoring position from our best players. If we’re going to be a really good team, (those guys) have to get it turned around for us to be a good, productive team offensively.”
Taylor gave up the game’s only extra-base hit in the game, a double by Konnor Armijo off the glove of a diving Michael Suiter at the warning track.
“It was one of (Taylor’s) best outings of the year. He was really efficient,” Price said. “To go out there and pitch eight innings with a little more than 80 pitches is remarkable, and I couldn’t be more pleased with how he went about it. He threw first-pitch strikes. He threw his breaking ball for strikes, let the defense play behind him — it was truly one of his best performances this season.”
The three-game series will continue with a single game at 7:30 tonight and conclude with a game at 1 p.m. Monday.
Kansas 000 000 000 — 0 2 1
Utah 000 000 001 — 1 7 0
W — Mitch Watrous, 4-3. L — Jordan Piché, 6-4.
2B — Konnor Armijo, Utah.
KU highlight — Thomas Taylor 8 IP, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 Ks.