Jayhawks Take Home Opener, 7-4
By Blake Schuster
As Nelly’s song “Here Comes the Boom” blasted through the Hoglund ballpark speakers, senior third baseman Zac Elgie strolled up to the plate in the bottom of the first, with the bases loaded, and no outs.
The song wasn’t merely to pump up Elgie in the Jayhawks home opener; it was a warning to the North Dakota Fighting Sioux.
After letting his first pitch — a ball — sail by without flinching, Elgie dug in and ripped a 1-0 fastball that hung around the windy left field sky before eventually flying out of the park.
“I was coming into the game thinking no one was going to hit a home run,” Elgie said, Michael Suitor belted another in the bottom of the third. “With the wind howling in as hard as it was, we were hitting balls well in batting practice and they weren’t going anywhere near the warning track. I was just trying to see the ball deep and put a good swing on it.”
The grand slam was the first of Elgie’s career and the first for Kansas since Brandon Macias smacked one against Texas Tech in 2010.
It was Elgie’s grand slam that ended up being the difference in Kansas’ 7-4 victory over the Fighting Sioux.
But hitting the ball hasn’t been a problem for the Jayhawks lately; rather it’s poor pitching that has put Kansas out of winnable games early in the 2012 campaign.
Yet — at least for today — it seemed the Jayhawks’ pitchers were able to get back on the track that had Kansas sitting atop the Big 12 in ERA.
After slumping through a three-game losing streak, Kansas’ pitchers allowed only six hits to the Fighting Sioux. It was a much-needed recovery after yielding a minimum of 10 hits during that losing streak.
Freshman pitcher Robert Kahana record four perfect innings in his first career start en route to his first career win. Tanner Poppe recorded his second save of the season.
“I went out in the first inning just trying to throw strikes,” Kahana said, who was only scheduled to pitch four innings in preparation for this weekend’s series. “My offense went out and gave me some breathing room.”
After shortstop Kevin Kuntz and second baseman Kai’ana Eldridge walked to start off the bottom of the first, right fielder Tucker Tharp placed a perfect bunt down the third baseline to load up the bases before Elgie came up and cleared them.
Every Kansas batter in the starting lineup batted in first inning, the second time this season Kansas has had all nine hitters get an at-bat in one inning — Kansas batted around in the first inning against Mississippi Valley State on February 26th.
“The fact that we’ve been able to get outside and see live pitching has been a big help to get us going,” Elgie said of Kansas’ offensive outburst — Kansas had 12 hits against UND .
The only blemish on the night came from Lawrence native Colin Toalson, who in his second appearance as a Jayhawk went one inning with four hits, three earned runs, and two strikeouts. However, that didn’t stop his replacement, Jordan Jakubov, from praising the potential in the Free State High School grad, Toalson.
“By the time Toalson leaves here, he’ll be one of the best pitchers on the staff,” Jakubov said. “That’s pitching. You have your up’s and down’s, but it’s just how you bounce back from it.”
-Edited by C.J. Matson