Kansas faced off against Sacramento State on Tuesday in the opener of the two-game series during the mid-week. This was a short non-conference series that was added to fill in between weekend series.
The Sacramento State Hornets are not a team to take lightly. They currently sit at third place in the Western Athletic Conference and have a legit offense with a team batting average of .289 and an impressive 40 home runs in 37 games.
It was a tight game between the teams until the seventh inning when the Hornets exploded for five runs on five hits, including back-to-back doubles down the third baseline. The Jayhawks did plenty to battle back but were simply outperformed at the plate.
Right-handed pitcher Ryan Cyr picked up the start for the Jayhawks. The redshirt senior has struggled as of late to find his rhythm. In five starts against conference opponents, Cyr is 0-5 with a 10.44 ERA.
Freshman right-hander Eli Saul got the start for the Hornets.
In the top of the first inning, Sacramento State hit its stride quickly with three straight singles to get on the board 1-0. Hornets’ third man, Steven Moretto then ripped a double to left to add another, before second man, Nick Iwasa, drove in Moretto to make it an early 3-0 lead.
With Kansas not having an answer yet, Sacramento State tacked on another in the second inning after a home run from leadoff batter Dylan McPhillips. The four earned runs in the first two innings were enough to end Cyr’s day early. Redshirt junior lefty Steve Washilewski came in out of the bullpen to start the third inning.
The Jayhawks picked up much-needed support in the bottom of the third inning after a leadoff walk set up a 2-run blast from Dylan Ditzenberger, the redshirt sophomore infielder.
Washilewski pitched a scoreless third and fourth inning before right-handed pitcher Ryan Vanderhei came in to pitch for Kansas in the fifth inning. The Hornets quickly got runners on against the redshirt freshman after a single and a reach on an error. They scored the unearned run after a fielder’s choice to make it 5-2 in favor of Sacramento State.
In the bottom half of the inning, the Hornets made a pitching change to left-hander Rylan Tinsley and ended Saul’s day on the mound. The Jayhawks took advantage of the fresh arm. They got the bases loaded after a single, hit by a pitch and a walk.
Tinsley plucked two more batters and walked one more to bring home three runs to tie up the game at 5-5. Kansas hoped to take advantage of the pitcher's mistakes.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Kansas redshirt sophomore right fielder Jack Wagner led off with a home run to left field, taking the lead for the Jayhawks 6-5.
It was a game of constant answers from the opposing side. After Kansas took the lead, Sacramento State came out once again in the seventh inning to get the bats going.
The redshirt senior Nathan Barry came in to pitch in the seventh. After Barry retired the first batter, the Hornets attacked him with a pair of singles before a hit by pitch loaded the bases. The Hornets took advantage of the runners and smashed a single and back-to-back doubles to tack on five and make it a 10-6 ballgame.
Sacramento State scored one more in the ninth before securing the 11-6 victory. Leading the way for them, Steven Moretto and Nick Iwasa combined for six hits and five RBIs.
For the Jayhawks, Ditzenberger went an impressive 4-for-4 at the plate with two RBIs, and Wagner contributed 2-for-4 with the home run.
It was not a textbook game for the Jayhawks, but it was Sacramento State who took advantage of Kansas’ pitching and got the bats going with 11 runs on 17 hits.
Kansas falls to 22-19 on the season, with Sacramento State now sitting at 25-12. The teams will conclude the series on Wednesday at Hoglund Ballpark at 11:15 a.m.