Originally posted on Kansan.com February 16th, 2014. Printed in the Kansan February 17th, 2014.
The Jayhawk softball team (4-4) made progress this weekend in South Carolina, at the College of Charleston Cougar Classic, with a 3-2 record, improving from last week’s 1-2 record.
“It was a good weekend,” said coach Megan Smith. “We came here to get tested and we did. I thought that we battled, we fought and we learned a lot about our team. The freshmen got to see top-level competition for five games straight, which was good because we got to see how they responded.”
The first game of the weekend against Fordham University (5-3) was run ruled due to the explosive fifth inning by the Jayhawks. Fordham took a quick lead in the first inning with a run from freshman Sydney Canessa, but after that it was all Kansas. Jayhawk sophomore pitcher Kelsey Kessler (2-2) allowed three hits with six strikeouts. Major contributors to the Kansas win were sophomore Chaley Brickey, junior Maddie Stein, senior Alex Jones and Kessler. Brickey counted for two of Kansas’ 10 runs while also having a RBI. Stein connected on three of her four hits, bringing in four RBIs, while also having a run of her own. Jones had two hits and a RBI.
“We were really excited about what we saw offensively and defensively,” said Smith. “Our lineup did extremely well creating the opportunities and making the most of the opportunities.”
In the second game against Ole Miss (4-5) it looked as if the Jayhawks would carry their momentum into the game with the Rebels. It held true for the first two innings as Jones and Brickey made easy work at bat while Kessler was throwing strikeouts.
Then, Ole Miss, in the bottom of the third, started making their comeback. After the fourth inning, Ole Miss was up 4-2 and Kansas had stranded six runners. In the sixth inning, Ole Miss scored two more runs, while Kansas stranded more runners. When it was all said and done, Kansas stranded 11 total runners in the game and fell to the Rebels 6-2.
“It would be nice if you could bank some of those runs and bring them back, but that is not the way it works,” said Smith. “We had opportunities in the second game and left a lot of runners on.”
The following day, Kansas took on Western Carolina (0-4) and put their recent loss behind them. Kansas junior pitcher Alicia Pille (1-1) pitched a complete game shutout, winning 6-0. Pille had 10 strikeouts in seven innings and posted her 16th career shutout. Pille wasn’t the only leader for the Jayhawks. At bat, Stein had three hits and two RBIs.
“Maddie has been clutch her whole career,” Smith said. “She stepped up, was really confident and came through for us. She is very steady… she is just calm and confident all the time. That is why she is so clutch for us. She doesn’t get amped up and she is just consistent with her approach.”
The next game of the day, against College of Charleston (2-4), wasn’t as easy. The Cougars were coming off of wins against Western Carolina and DePaul. It took an extra inning, but the Jayhawks fought off Charleston’s rally, winning 6-5. Kessler and Pille both took the mound in the game, but Pille walked away with the win. Kessler recorded seven strikeouts and Pille added three. On offense, Kansas had 13 total hits. Freshman Harli Ridling posted three hits, leading the team. Jones, senior Ashley Newman, freshman Taylor Dodson and freshman Lily Behrmann all recorded two hits apiece.
“That’s a big win for us,” said Smith. “It’s early in the season, but to get a win like that on their home field against a really solid College of Charleston team, that’s a good win for us. Especially the way it went down, with us having to battle and fight for it. We are young and we are growing and we are going to keep doing that all season.”
In the final game of the weekend, Kansas faced DePaul (7-3). Kansas looked like they were going to pull it off, but DePaul scored in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to come from behind and win 3-2. On the mound were Kessler and Pille, with Pille taking the loss.
“Offensively, we didn’t execute, we couldn’t move runners and our defense let us down,” said Smith. “We just lost some focus there at the end defensively.”
The Kansas Jayhawks will be back in in action on Friday when they travel to Jackson, Miss., to play in the Jackson State Tournament.