Despite a seventh-inning rally, Kansas baseball fell short of the Belmont Bruins in the series opener on Friday, 7-5.
Graduate righthander Collin Baumgartner took the mound for the Jayhawks with his third start of the season. Going into Friday, Baumgartner had posted a .90 ERA in his previous two starts this season, but the Bruins found their way to Baumgartner across his five innings pitched to produce six hits and three earned runs against the righty. Nonetheless, Baumgartner still struck out nine and was not credited with the loss.
Leading off for the Jayhawks, sophomore outfielder Chase Jans connected on a full count against Belmont junior lefty Andy Bean for a double to put Kansas in scoring position right out of the gate. Sophomore outfielder Luke Leto’s RBI single brought Jans home later that inning to give the Jayhawks an early 1-0 lead, which was their only lead of the game.
The early lead was shortlived, however, and an uncharacteristic error proved to be costly en route to Friday’s loss. Leading the Big 12 Conference and ranking seventh across Division I, the Jayhawks have posted a .993 fielding percentage to start the season, but an error by Leto allowed for two Bruin runners in scoring position in the bottom of the second. With a groundout from junior outfielder Sam Slaughter and a wild pitch from Baumgartner, Belmont took advantage of the miscues for the 2-1 lead.
Kansas went down quietly in the following inning but saw itself threatening in the top of the fourth after a leadoff walk to Leto and a double by redshirt sophomore catcher Jake English put runners in scoring position. The Jayhawks only managed one run, however, with the half of the inning-ending after English was picked off by Bean following freshman infielder Kodey Shojinaga’s RBI to tie things at two a piece.
The Bruins refused to stay silent, though, and regained the lead in the bottom half of the inning off an RBI single by junior infielder Jack Rando. Belmont went on to add two more runs the following inning with an RBI triple by sophomore catcher Blake Barton, further distancing itself from the Jayhawks to go up 5-2 in the fifth. Baumgartner escaped the inning without further damage, but his day ended there.
Bean, who finished the day for the Bruins by going 6.1 innings to allow three earned runs on three hits while striking out nine, started the seventh for Belmont. Surrendering a leadoff walk, Bean was pulled from the game after English flew out to right the following at-bat, and sophomore righty Cade Granzow entered in relief.
On Granzow’s first batter faced, Shojinaga found an opening through the right center, and interference against Barton put junior outfielder Janson Reeder on to load the bases. Granzow then surrendered the second walk of the inning to help the Jayhawks chip away at the Bruins’ lead. Redshirt sophomore Mike Koszewski was the last batter Granzow faced, connecting for a single to bring home another run for the Jayhawks.
The Bruins then brought junior righty Jett Thielke into the game, who is credited with the win after finishing his appearance with 2.2 innings pitched, two hits, and four punchouts. Following an RBI groundout from Jans, Thielke struck out senior catcher Cole Elvis to limit the damage and end the inning, but Kansas still closed the gap, 5-5 after the top of the seventh.
But keeping true to the style of the game, Belmont responded in the bottom half of the inning against junior righty Thaniel Trumper to tack on two more runs as the final nail in the coffin, with Barton making up for the catcher’s interference on his two-run double to put the Bruins back on top, 7-5.
Kansas could not respond this time around, going down quietly in the top of the ninth to end the game. Trumper is credited with the loss for the Jayhawks after going 1.2 innings and surrendering the two earned runs.
The Jayhawks now move to 5-3 on the season as they look to even the series against the Bruins on Saturday. With junior righty Sam Ireland taking the mound for Kansas, the first pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. at E.S. Rose Park in Nashville, Tennessee.