The BYU baseball team got swept by Kansas in a double header Saturday, making for a tough 0-3 start to the season.
The Cougars have struggled thus far in their current four-game series against Kansas in Peoria, Ariz. According to head coach Mike Littlewood, the bullpen struggles had a major effect on the outcome of both games.
“We couldn’t shut the door,” Littlewood said. “We gave up leadoff walks in several innings, so we basically gave them first base to start an inning. It’s tough to pitch from behind.”
Kansas eked out a 2-0 win in the morning, despite an excellent start by sophomore right hander Kolton Mahoney. The solid seven-inning start by Mahoney yielded five strikeouts, three walks and only one tally mark in the hits, runs and earned runs columns. The Cougars were unable to convert any of their seven hits into runs in the first game.
Where the first game clearly displayed a pitchers duel, the evening half of the double header became a slugfest on both sides. BYU began by punishing Kansas starter Frank Duncan, teeing off for a total of 12 hits and seven runs in Duncan’s 6.2 innings. The Jayhawks responded in kind, tagging the BYU freshman lefty Hayden Rogers for six hits and two runs in four innings.
Bullpen struggles became a motif in the second game, with a combined nine runs scored after Rogers left the game. BYU kept the heat on Kansas reliever Dakota Smith, notching five hits and two runs on him in three innings. A tie in the 10th inning of game two was finally broken by Kansas center fielder Tucker Tharp’s walk-off single.
“I’m pleased with the way we played,” Littlefield said. “We just have to come back ready.”
BYU sophomore outfielder Eric Urry had a great day, batting .500 with two runs and a walk. Jayhawks infielder Michael Suiter blasted a three-run, go-ahead homer over the left field fence in the sixth inning. Both teams scrapped their way into the ninth inning tied up at 9-9 until freshman Brennon Lund scored off a clutch Brock Whitney sacrifice fly in the 10th. Kansas sealed the deal with the two-run single to walk away with their second win of the day against BYU.
“It’s a long haul in baseball,” Littlewood said. “Luckily, we have a day off. We need a renewed approach and that day off is going to help.”
The finale of the four-game series between BYU and Kansas will be on Monday February 17 at 11 a.m. in Peoria Ariz.