By Blake Schuster
After the North Dakota Fighting Sioux got outscored in their first four games 62-3 at Wichita State, it would have seemed that the Jayhawks would have no problem rolling over them in a two-game, mid-week series — it would have seemed.
Kansas split the series with North Dakota after a 12-9 defeat today in front of 849 spectators at Hoglund Ballpark, and according to Kansas head coach Ritch Price, Kansas didn’t need more than nine runs to secure a Jayhawk victory.
“It shouldn’t have [taken more than nine],” Price said. “We walked five in the inning, they scored five in; obviously way too many free passes.”
It wasn’t just that Kansas was giving free passes. They were handing them out at the most inopportune times.
Kansas pitchers issued five walks in scenarios where North Dakota already had men in scoring position. It was their inability to pitch under pressure that cost them the game, allowing four runs in the top of the ninth inning.
After Michael Suitor’s second home run in as many games — a three-run shot in the bottom of the fifth — and two-run rally in the seventh, Kansas had finally taken back the lead with a bases loaded walk to make it 9-8.
That lead lasted one inning.
Tanner Poppe was called upon in the ninth inning to finish the game for Kansas. He gave up four runs and blew what would have been his third save of the season.
“Last night he completely dominated,” Price said of Poppe. “Tonight, to their credit, they were on time and hit the breaking ball that he left up over the plate.”
After pitching Poppe four out of the last five days, Price hoped he would not have to throw him back out onto the mound, but after starting Robert Kahana in yesterday’s game, Price was left with little choice.
It would be too easy to place the blame on Poppe. Freshmen Drew Morovick allowed five runs on five hits in 2.1 innings, and Jordan Luvisi gave up three earned runs. But overall, Kansas pitchers tossed 194 pitches and only 113 of them were strikes.
For every 1.7 strikes, Kansas gave another free pass.
“The guys need to go out there, trust their stuff,” Price said. “Pitch to contact, and not try to be so nit-picky with the perfect pitch every pitch, all it did today was get us in trouble.”
The Jayhawks now fall to 6-6, and are back to .500 for the second time this season. They travel to Minneapolis to play a weekend tournament in the Metrodome.
“This is our biggest signature win,” North Dakota head coach Jeff Dodson said. “Beating a school like Kansas, it’s a big win for our program.”
-Edited by C.J. Matson