LAWRENCE, Kansas – Firsts have not been kind to the Northwestern State baseball team.
The same went for the Demons first road game of the 2017 season. Playing away from Brown-Stroud Field for the first time after a seven-game homestand, Northwestern State fell to Big 12 Conference member Kansas, 8-2, on Friday afternoon at Hoglund Ballpark.
Kansas right-hander Sean Rackoski (2-1) held the Demons to one hit in five scoreless innings, working around three walks to keep Northwestern State (3-5) off the scoreboard.
“I thought (Rackoski) did a good job of making pitches when he had to, and we didn’t do a very good job of making him pay for his mistakes,” first-year coach Bobby Barbier said.
While the Demons could not make Rackoski pay, the Jayhawks (3-6) used some breaks and a relentless offense to touch up Demons starter Nathan Jones (0-2).
After Jones tossed a scoreless, nine-pitch first inning, Kansas used back-to-back singles from David Kyriacou and Rudy Karre to set up Jaxx Groshans’ two-run bloop double inside the right-field line in the second inning.
That hit seemed to jump-start the Jayhawks, who entered the game hitting .219 as a team.
After Jones escaped a bases-loaded, third-inning threat unscathed, Kansas tallied consecutive three-run innings in the fourth and fifth to knock Jones from the game.
While Kansas took advantage of its opportunities and some good fortune, the Demons were unable to create many breaks for themselves.
Down 2-0, Northwestern State loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth inning before Matthew Alford hit a hard line drive directly at left fielder Kaimana Souza-Paaluhi for the final out.
“Matty hit that ball well, but we need to create more opportunities like that,” Barbier said. “You create your own breaks, and we need to do a better job of giving ourselves more opportunities with better at-bats.”
Right-hander Cullen McDonald relieved Jones and tossed 3 2-3 scoreless innings, marking the longest scoreless stint by a Demons reliever this season.
The Demons ended their scoring drought against Blake Goldsberry, the fourth of five Kansas pitchers. Caleb Ricca led off the eighth inning with a double against Goldsberry and moved to third on Matt Valdez’ single.
A Regan Kaufman sacrifice fly scored Ricca and moved Valdez, who advanced to second on a wild pitch, to third. A batter later, David Fry’s groundout scored Ricca for the Demons’ final run.
The series continues Saturday when junior right-hander John Carter Sanner (1-0, 3.48) takes the mound for the Demons against Kansas left-hander Jeider Rincon (0-2, 6.75). First pitch is set for 2 p.m. at Hoglund Ballpark.
Kansas 8, Northwestern State 2
NSU 000 000 020 – 2 3 0
Kansas 020 330 00x – 8 15 1
W – Sean Rackoski (2-1). L – Nathan Jones (0-2). 2B – NSU, Caleb Ricca. KU, James Cosentino, Jaxx Groshans, M.J. Farthing. 3B – KU, John Remick. Highlights: KU, Matt McLaughlin 2-5; Kaimana Souza-Paaluhi 2-5, 2 RBIs; Rudy Karre 2-3; Groshans 2B, 2 RBIs; Remick 2-3, 3B, RBI.
Records: Northwestern State 3-5; Kansas 3-6.