Jayhawks take three of four from Omaha in weekend series

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Reggie Wortman
CONTRIBUTOR

Omaha catcher Brett Bonar launched a seventh-inning grand slam in Friday’s 9-7 win over the Kansas Jayhawks. Photo courtesy of Omaha Athletics.

On a weekend where weather affected numerous college baseball games across the county, Omaha and Kansas weren’t able to hide. As snow and rain barreled across the Rockies and the plains, the four-game series between the Mavericks and Jayhawks set to happen in Lawrence was shifted to Omaha. At the end of the weekend, the two teams were able to get all four games in, three of them going to the Jayhawks.

Coming into the weekend at 5-5, Kansas started the scoring early in game one. The Jayhawks plated four in the second inning, thanks in part to a Skylar Messinger home run. KU leadoff man Casey Burnham stretched the lead to in the sixth with a sacrifice fly.

In the bottom of the seventh, the Omaha bats finally woke up. Ryan Doran started the inning with a single to center, catcher Brett Bonar reached on an error the next play, and Jack Lombardi drove in two runs with a double. However, it wasn’t enough to sustain a comeback. Omaha dropped the first contest, 7-3.

The second game was an exciting one as Junior Spencer Koelewyn was on the mound for his third start of the season. The Jayhawks scored early once again thanks to an RBI double by the freshman Anthony Tulimero.

The lead was short-live, however, as Bonar scored off a wild pitch to tie.  Kansas junior Nolan Metcalf grabbed the lead back in the third though with a two-run shot, which pushed the score to 4-1.

In the fifth inning, the Jayhawks scored another run following some confusion on the field. Two KU baserunners found themselves on third base at the same time. Both were tagged out, but suddenly the lead runner darted for home and scored. After the umpires met on the field, they determined that everyone was ultimately safe, although an initial out was called.

“They got it wrong,” said head coach Evan Porter. “They got the sequence wrong in my mind. It’s a weird play, but they just said we tagged the wrong guy first then that lead runner took off before we could tag him, but we just disagree.

“Those are plays that can spin a ballgame. They are weird plays. You tag both runners and then it’s up to the umpires’ discretion on if we tagged the right one, we’ve been on the wrong end of it three times this year.”

The Omaha half of the frame is where things started to turn. Masen Prososki singled to left and Harrison Denk immediately followed with a double that drove in a run. Mike Boeve and Chris Esposito joined the fun, as both doubled to center, which plated another two runs.

The Mavericks entered the sixth trailing by one, but the Jayhawks answered back with a sacrifice fly, making it 6-4.

Once again, the game turned in the Omaha half of the seventh. Denk started the rally off this time with a single into right, Boeve doubled, which advanced Denk to third, and Esposito walked to load the bases for Bonar. The senior catcher made no mistake.

Bonar ripped a no-doubt home run over the right field wall for the first grand slam in Tal Anderson Field history, giving Omaha the 8-6 lead.

“Off the bat I didn’t really feel it. It was just one of those with all the adrenaline I wasn’t sure it was gone. Then I saw it, and just kind of started celebrating,” he said.

The two teams traded runs one more time, but Josiah Scott came into the game for the save and secured the win for Omaha, 9-7, and the Friday split.

SATURDAY

It was an early morning for both teams as a 10 a.m. first pitch started off the second half of the weekend series.

Game three started off as a pitcher’s duel between Riche Holetz, who only allowed one run in the first six innings, and Kansas starter Cole Larsen. The Kansas bats eventually woke up as the Jayhawks scored four in each of the seventh and the eighth, and added another one in the ninth.

As for Larsen, the Kansas starter went the distance and tallied six strikeouts across nine scoreless innings.

The fourth and final game fared a little better for Omaha, but they still fell short. After the Jayhawks plated two in the first, Omaha answered right back as an Esposito double brought home Denk and Boeve. The Mavericks added another run in the fifth on Matt Bondarchuk’s first double of the season, but Kansas always seemed to answer.

Two in the fourth, three in the sixth, and two in the seventh. Out of the 36 innings played between the two teams this weekend, Kansas scored in 18 of them. The Jayhawks took the fourth and final game 10-7, and the series 3-1.

Omaha’s next scheduled games are in doubt now after South Dakota State’s program was put on pause following positive COVID cases. As of right now the four games are still scheduled. Game one is slated for a 2 p.m. first pitch at Tal Anderson Field.

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