Slated to play in a doubleheader due to inclement weather on Monday, Kansas baseball began its series against Jackson State on Monday. Behind a strong start from sophomore pitcher Steve Washilewski, Kansas took down its non-conference opponent, 2-1. Firing a career-high six and two-thirds innings, the left-hander surrendered just four hits and one earned run.
“He was outstanding,” said Kansas coach Ritch Price, according to a Kansas Athletics press release. “He gave up that run in the first inning and then settled in and got us to the seventh. When you use your whole bullpen multiple days during the weekend like we did, then we needed him to get deep in this game.”
Holding down the fort on the defensive side, the Jayhawk offense wasn’t asked of much to secure the lead. In the second inning, redshirt freshman first basemen Dylan Ditzenberger and junior second basemen James Cosentino drove in a pair of runs thus holding the advantage for the final seven innings of play.
Ditzenberger extended his hitting streak to four games and is six for his last 12 at the plate.
“I thought we chased too many of the really slow breaking balls out of the zone and got ourselves out,” Price said. “We did hit three balls right on the butt and they could have changed the game but obviously the left fielder made an unbelievable catch.”
Redshirt junior Blake Goldsberry tossed the final one and two-thirds innings scoreless to slam the door on the Tigers and earn Kansas’ 27th win on the campaign.
In game two, the team’s bats sprung to life in a barrage of runs. Unable to surmount a comeback in the final innings of this one, Kansas came up on the other end of a one-run game, falling to Jackson State, 8-7.
Giving the ball to senior pitcher and Blue Valley West product, Ryan Ralston, the Jayhawks benefited from some early inning dominance from the right-hander. Maneuvering through four shout innings while only allowing a lone hit and walk, Ralston managed to receive some cushion from his teammates on the offensive side.
In the fourth inning, after freshman outfielder Casey Burnham and senior outfielder Rudy Karre drove in a couple of runs, Kansas jumped out to a 4-0 lead and seemed well on their way to sweeping the doubleheader.
Yet following a breakthrough by the Tigers in the top of the sixth, the Jayhawks coughed up the lead heading into the home half. Clawing back in the bottom of the eighth thanks to sophomore first baseman Connor VanCleave belting his third home run of the season and a pair of singles from Burnham and Karre, the deficit was cut to one at 8-7.
“It got it started,” Price said on Vancleave's homerun. “When you put him in the game, he’s the guy that you’re hoping will get the ball elevated that can get in the air and hit it out of the ballpark.”
With two runners on in the bottom of the ninth, the hero in Friday’s win over Texas last weekend, Burnham stepped to the dish. Unable to strike magic for the second time in less than a week, he grounded out to conclude matters in the final inning.
“We had the right guys up,” Price said. “We battled back, we had guys in scoring position in several different innings. The really soft lefty gave us fits. Guys couldn’t stay back and wait long enough to see the ball get to them and I was disappointed.”
Splitting the series with Jackson State, Kansas will hit the road to take on TCU to continue Big 12 play. Game one will begin on May 10th.