Walk-off homer gives Jayhawks victory in extra innings
- Apr. 25, 2012
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With the disappointment of last year’s season-ending sweep against Kansas State still fresh in their mind, the Kansas baseball team (17-25, 4-11 Big 12) sent their in-state rival home in dramatic fashion.
Senior third baseman Zac Elgie launched a walk-off homerun to straightaway center field in the bottom of the 11th inning, earning Kansas an 8-7 victory over the Wildcats. The homer was Elgie’s team-leading fifth of the season and the first Jayhawk walk-off homer since March of 2009.
Elgie went two-for-four with two RBIs in the ballgame, and the senior — recovering from a celebratory pie in the face — said that he went up to the plate looking to end the game.
“The funny thing about it is that Kuntz and I were talking at shortstop prior to our coming up. And I was like Kuntz, if they’re going to throw a first-pitch fastball, I’m going to take a leg kick and try to end it,” Elgie said.
Wednesday’s game ended offensively for Kansas the same way it began. Sophomore center fielder Tucker Tharp hit a leadoff homerun to center field, tying the game in the bottom half of the first. The homer was Tharp’s second of the season, and it started the early offensive onslaught for the Jayhawks. Kansas went on to score six runs in the inning on seven hits.
Tharp went four-for-six in the contest with an RBI and run scored. In his last 11 games, Tharp’s batting average is a lofty .378, and he attributes much of the offensive improvement to his approach as a leadoff man.
“I like starting the game off whether I can draw a walk or get on base, it just sets the tempo for the game,” Tharp said. “I think the guys feed off that, and I’m excited to be in that role.”
Kansas led K-State by as much as five, and with two outs in the ninth inning, the Wildcats’ Wade Hinkle ripped a game-tying two-run homer off junior closer Tanner Poppe. Inconsistency has been an issue for the newly appointed closer as Poppe’s ERA hovers at 5.70 to go along with a 0-4 record. Despite Poppe’s alarming statistics, coach Ritch Price was not as concerned with this ninth-inning letdown.
“I tip my cap to the guy that hit it out of the ballpark,” Price said. “That’s as hard hit as I’ve seen a baseball hit all year. He took 93 miles an hour, and he sent it over the fence at like 120 mph. That ball was crushed.”
The game did not count toward Big 12 standings, but the Jayhawks will take an emotional victory over their in-state rival heading into the weekend against Oklahoma.
“Any time you beat another Big 12 or BCS team, it’s great,” junior first baseman Jake Marasco said. “The fact that it’s K-State just makes it better.”
Edited by Katie James