Kansas senior right-hander Frank Duncan attained one of his goals on the second day of the Louisville Regional in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.
Duncan worked a complete game for the Jayhawks, helping save the bullpen a little in the double-elimination baseball regional.
But Duncan couldn’t pull off a win. He allowed 11 hits and the Jayhawks’ defense made three errors behind him early. KU fell behind 5-0 and dropped a 6-3 decision to host Louisville at Jim Patterson Stadium.
“Frank did a great job for us and we’re fine (pitching-wise),” Kansas coach Ritch Price said. “But they made three plus plays on defense in the infield and the right-fielder made another one on a ball that was hit hard.
“They made four plus plays, and we made four bad plays on defense. We just couldn’t get ourselves out of the hole we dug.”
Kansas (35-25) has at least one more game Sunday. The Jayhawks beat Kentucky 10-6 on Friday and now those teams are 1-1 in the four-team regional and will play at 11 a.m.
The winner plays Louisville at 3 p.m., while the loser is eliminated. Kentucky eliminated Kent State 4-2 on Saturday, a game that saw the Wildcats win with four runs in the top of the ninth inning.
“Anytime you can, especially in the kind of tournament we’re playing in right now, in a regional, you have to make sure you can save your pitching,” Duncan said. “I wasn’t in the best position possible, but I was able to go the distance. Even though we lost, we still have a lot of pitching left.
“Especially when you are going to have to have two, hopefully three, more games.”
Price lauded Duncan (6-4) for his effort and said he felt like the Jayhawks were “in very good shape,” going into Sunday’s game against the Wildcats.
“Frank going nine innings was huge for us,” Price said. “It gives us an opportunity tomorrow to extend things and we all know anything can happen when you start pitching your third and fourth guys in ballgames.”
Kansas will pitch junior Robert Kahana (4-6, 3.05 ERA) against Kentucky, while freshman Jon Hander (2-1, 3.23 ERA) would pitch a fourth game.
The Jayhawks began making mistakes early Saturday. Their first-inning error didn’t cost them a run. But the second inning started with Duncan hitting Alex Chittenden. Corey Ray then singled with Chittenden advancing to third on a throwing error. With one out, Sutton Whiting grounded into a fielder’s choice to score Chittenden.
Louisville added a run in the third on an RBI double by Jeff Gardner. The Cardinals took advantage of another Kansas miscue in the fourth. Ray started it with a double up the middle and went to third on a wild pitch.
With one out, Whiting singled home Ray and then stole second and third before scoring on Kyle Gibson’s single and a throwing error. Cole Sturgeon then singled to score Gibson, making it 5-0.
“The difference in the whole game is how well they played defensively,” Price said. “We didn’t play well defensively early in the game.”
The Jayhawks loaded the bases three times in the final five inning with less than two outs but only managed one run in the fifth, sixth and ninth.
Louisville starter Anthony Kidston got Colby Wright to fly out deep to left to end the fifth and Ka’iana Eldredge to ground into a double play in the sixth. All-American closer Nick Burdi got Tyler Tharp to end the game with a fly out.
“When he had to (the opposing pitcher) made some good pitches,” Price said. “We hit some balls hard but he made good pitches.”