Jayhawks stop Bears’ win streak with 8-5 decision

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas erased four separate one-run deficits, scoring a total of four times in the sixth and seventh innings to take control of a see-saw battle en route to stopping Missouri State’s nine-game win streak with an 8-5 decision Tuesday evening at Hoglund Ballpark.

Marcus Wheeler’s pinch-hit single in the sixth inning plated the tying and go-ahead runs for the Jayhawks, who added two more tallies the following frame to put the game out of reach. KU capitalized on a pair of Missouri State errors to score three unearned runs and complete the season sweep of the Bears, who dropped their first contest since April 14.

Matt McLaughlin belted his second home run in as many games against the Bears to negate a 1-0 MSU lead in the first and sparked the Jayhawks’ momentum-swinging rally in the sixth with a leadoff double. The KU shortstop finished his night 2-for-3 with three runs scored and two RBIs to lead the Jayhawks.

MSU jumped out to an early lead thanks to Jeremy Eierman‘s two-out single in the top of the first, after Hunter Steinmetz walked and Justin Paulsen singled off KU starter Sean Rackoski to start the game.

McLaughlin’s two-run shot to left handed the home team its first lead in the home half of the inning, but a pair of Rackoski wild pitches and a throwing error allowed John Privitera to come home with the tying run in the second. Steinmetz put the Bears in front again moments later with a two-out homer—his third of the season—that cleared the wall in right for a 3-2 MSU lead.

The Jayhawks (23-22) would cash in on a fielding error to start the bottom of the second, as Owen Taylor’s sacrifice fly to center brought in Brett Vosik with the equalizing run.

The first of Alex Jefferson‘s two hits on the night opened the fourth against reliever Blake Goldsberry, and Steinmetz put the Bears on top for the third time with a sac fly to center.

Benjamin Sems’ first double of the season and an Austin Knight wild pitch on a strikeout of Taylor put runners on the corners to open the fifth. Rudy Karre’s fly ball to left allowed Sems to score, once again pulling KU even at 4-4.

Logan Geha‘s ground-ball single through a drawn-in KU infield put MSU on top in the sixth, after Jefferson doubled to start the inning and Privitered a moved the runner to third with a sacrifice bunt.

Once again, the lead would be short-lived, as McLaughlin’s double led off the sixth, before a walk to Devin Foyle and a Jaxx Groshans sacrifice set up Wheeler’s base hit to right on the first pitch he saw from Jordan Knutson.

A throwing error on a James Cosentino chopper in front of the plate led to a pair of unearned runs in the seventh, as Groshans beat out a fielder’s choice grounder to plate one run and Ty Denzer followed with a two-out single to left to score the final Jayhawk run of the night.

Three KU relievers combined to keep the Bears off the board over the final three innings, led by 2.0 frames from Blake Weiman and a scoreless ninth from closer Stephen Villines, who earned his 12th save of the season.

Steinmetz turned in a 2-for-3 night that included a pair of RBIs and two runs scored, while Jefferson finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored to pace the Bears’ 10-hit attack.

Knight (3-2) suffered the loss after allowing six runs (five earned) on five hits, while fanning six over 5 1/3 innings.

Up next, the Bears (30-14, 11-0 MVC) will travel to Carbondale, Ill., to open a three-game Missouri Valley Conference series with Southern Illinois Friday evening at 6:30 p.m.