LAWRENCE, Kan. — Baylor’s bullpen forgot its bullpetproof vests on Sunday.
The Kansas batters dented the Bears’ normally reliable relievers for 13 hits and 12 runs in handing Baylor its first Big 12 loss, 12-7, in the series finale at Hoglund Ballpark. It snapped a seven-game winning streak overall for Baylor (20-7, 5-1).
After limiting the Jayhawks (15-12, 1-5) to just seven hits and two runs in taking the first two games on Saturday, the Bears failed to douse KU’s final-game explosion. Six different players had multi-hit outings for the Jayhawks.
“We just made too many mistakes early, weren’t getting ahead of hitters on the mound. We just couldn’t get anything going offensively till later in the game,” Baylor coach Steve Rodriguez said. “I thought our guys showed a lot of heart, continuing to come back and putting good swings on balls, getting guys in scoring position. We were just waiting for one more big hit to cause some panic on their side, and just couldn’t get it.”
The game marked the return of Hayden Kettler to the mound after a three-week absence. The junior right-hander had missed action due to an illness and a shoulder injury, but started this game for his first playing time since March 8 against Nebraska.
Kettler gave the Bears two scoreless innings to open the game. But once Baylor went to the bullpen, things went south in a hurry.
The Jayhawks greeted Blake Helton rudely in the third inning, as slugging catcher Jaxx Groshans put KU on the board with a leadoff home run, his 10th of the season. Kansas added two more runs in the inning, thanks to a two-run double from Skyler Messinger.
A Groshans sacrifice fly in the fourth extended the Kansas lead to 4-0.
Baylor inched a little closer by breaking up the shutout in the sixth. Richard Cunningham opened the inning with a single, and eventually came around on a single from Andy Thomas.
That made the score 4-1, but Kansas had an emphatic answer in the bottom of the frame. Tyler Thomas surrendered four hits and five runs in the inning, as the Jayhawks jumped out to a 9-1 advantage and made the comeback climb too steep for the Bears.
As Rodriguez alluded to, the Bears did display a bit of pop late in the game, putting up six runs in the final three innings. Nick Loftin pounded a two-run home run in the seventh, and Shea Langeliers added an RBI knock later in that inning. In the eighth, the Bears got a two-run single from Cunningham and an RBI double down the right-field line from Davis Wendzel.
However, even after that surge, Kansas still led, 12-7, thanks to another three-run inning by the Jayhawks in the bottom of the seventh.
KU starter Eli Davis limited the damage in the early innings on his way to picking up the win, improving to 3-3. Davis struck out five and walked one in 61/3 innings. Helton took his first loss of the year, falling to 1-1.
Loftin went 3-for-5 with a double, homer and two RBIs, and owns a 10-game hitting streak. Cunningham was 2-for-4 with three runs, two RBIs and a stolen base.
Despite the fact that they didn’t get the sweep, the Bears could still take solace in a second series win in two Big 12 weekends. They’ve yet to spend a day of the Big 12 season out of first place in the conference.
They’ll go to Dallas Baptist on Tuesday before returning home for a big series with No. 7 Texas beginning Friday.