Missouri failed to get another hit for the rest of the game in its 7-1 loss to Kansas Wednesday night. Most of the Tigers’ offensive struggles were due to Thomas Taylor, who had a career night at Kauffman Stadium, adding to his already impressive résumé at the Royals’ park. The Jayhawk struck out nine batters in six innings, allowing only one run. Eight of his first 10 outs recorded were strikeouts. In two career starts now at Kauffman Stadium, Taylor has allowed only one run in 11.2 innings, with a dominant 17 strikeouts.
“After he struck out the side in the third, I thought he completely found himself,” said Kansas coach Ritch Price. “He was locating his fastball and he was mixing in his slider and I thought he was really dominant from the third inning on.”
Taylor had allowed 33 hits in 23.2 innings coming into the game, allotting to a .337 batting average against, but Missouri made him look good in his one-hitter.
“He was good, but he wasn’t great,” said Missouri outfielder Blake Brown. “We got good pitches. We made solid contact a lot, but we hit it right at guys and some people, like myself, were maybe trying too hard.”
“I don’t know if it was that he threw that well or we were that bad at the plate,” explained Missouri coach Tim Jamieson. “Guys [were] not focused.”
It was a different tale for the Missouri pitching staff. Myles Smith allowed four runs over only 1.1 innings in the freshman’s first career start. Jeff Emens hardly provided relief in replacing Smith. After he allowed two inherited runs to score, he let in three more of his own, on five hits over only 2/3 of an inning.
“He struggled to throw strikes and that’s kind of been his downfall,” Jamieson said of Smith. “The whole pitching staff, when we’ve thrown strikes, we’ve been good. When we haven’t, we haven’t been good.”
Kansas jumped out to a quick lead, scoring one in the bottom of the first on a Zac Elgie two-out, RBI double. After a Ben Turner sacrifice fly tied the game at one in the top of the second, Kansas started to pull away. The Jayhawks scored three in the bottom of the inning on a Kaiana Eldredge single and a Jordan Dreiling two-RBI double.
Kansas continued to pour it onto Missouri in the third. Already leading 4-1, the Jayhawks started the bottom of the inning off in style, with four consecutive hits off Jeff Emens, knocking him out of the game. A Jake Marasco single gave Kansas a 5-1 lead. A Chris Manship bases-loaded hit-by-pitch and an Eldredge sacrifice fly then increased the Kansas lead to 7-1.
That lead was too much for Missouri to come back from as the Jayhawks turned that 7-1 lead into a victory, one that does not count towards the conference schedule, but helps the Jayhawks improve to 13-16 overall, the same overall record as Missouri.
Dusty Ross was the silver lining for Missouri, entering the game with the bases loaded and no one out in the third inning. He allowed one inherited run to score on a sacrifice fly, but then retired every batter he saw, striking out five of nine hitters over his three innings of work.
“Dusty, that’s as good as he’s been,” said Jamieson. “Hopefully, that’s something he can do for us from here on out.”
Kansas entered the game with only 86 runs scored on the season, last in the Big 12, and was facing a Missouri team second to last in the conference in ERA (4.62). Wednesday, it seemed like bottom-of-the-league hitting, defeating bottom-of-the-league pitching, as Kansas totaled nine hits, seven of them coming within the first six outs of the game. The two teams play a three game series at Taylor Stadium in Columbia, Mo. in a week and a half. Similar emotions should be running in that series, part of a rivalry known as “The Border War”.
“We walked in here today like it’s a Big 12 championship game with Texas,” said Price.
“We don’t like Mizzou,” said Kansas closer Colton Murray, who threw a scoreless ninth inning in Wednesday’s win. “It’s just our central concept, basically.”