Jayhawks Head to Miami for Season Opener
Feb. 6, 2013
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Prepared and ready to start achieving goals set out for the 2013 campaign, the Kansas softball team will head to Miami, Fla., to open its season at the Florida International Tournament, Feb. 8-10.
Fourth-year head coach Megan Smith and the Jayhawks have been excitedly awaiting the opportunity to showcase the work put in via the fall season, winter conditioning and two-a-day preseason camp. With 11 returning letterwinners and seven dynamic newcomers, the Jayhawks look to better on their 31-20 record from a year ago.
Friday, Feb. 8
vs. North Carolina State: 12:30 p.m. CT
at Florida International: 3 p.m. CT
Saturday, Feb. 9
vs. Georgetown: 9 a.m. CT
vs. Bracket Play Decision: 2 p.m. or 4:30 p.m. CT
Sunday, Feb. 10
vs. Bracket Play Decision: 10 a.m. or 12:30 p.m. CT
FOLLOW THE HAWKS
Fans can follow the action on GameTracker for all five games, located on the softball schedule page on KUAthletics.com. Live scoring and weather updates can also be found by following JayhawkSoftball on Twitter.
– All three opponents in this weekend’s tournament field are new faces as Kansas has not faced any of these teams previously on the softball field.
– The Jayhawks return 80 percent of their run production (188-of-235 runs scored) and 73 percent of their home run output (24-of-33 home runs) from a lineup that hit .288 as a unit in 2012, the second-best average in school history.
– As a unit, the 2013 team captains (senior Maggie Hull, senior Mariah Montgomery, redshirt junior Alex Jones, sophomore Maddie Stein) accumulated a .360 batting average (148-for-411), 88 runs scored and 99 of the team’s 203 RBIs, without the benefit of Jones who missed last season with an injury.
– All three of KU’s 2012 All-Big 12 honorees return to reprise their roles: Maggie Hull, First Team; Chanin Naudin and Maddie Stein, Second Team. The trio marked the most named to the all-conference team for KU since 2008.
The 2013 seniors represent the first to play their entire careers under head coach Megan Smith. Entering her fourth season, Smith is 83-77 at Kansas and 209-138 as she starts her seventh-overall season as a head coach.
The Jayhawks are coming off of their second-straight 30-win season after posting a 31-20 mark in 2012. KU spent the duration of the season in the RPI’s top-50 and notched victories against nationally-ranked programs Texas Tech and Baylor. Under Smith’s direction, the Jayhawks made school history with its unprecedented 20-game win streak last spring.
Kansas brings back senior outfielder Maggie Hull, who led the Big 12 in the regular season with a .409 batting average, which also broke a 30-year program record. An All-Big 12 First Team honoree, Hull was also named an Academic Third Team All-American after racking up 67 hits and scoring 46 runs, which tied another KU single-season record.
As a unit, Kansas hit .288 as a team in 2012, the second best average in KU history, along with 33 home runs. In the circle, KU’s pitchers struck out 294 batters, including 171 from sophomore Alicia Pille, while holding opposing batters to a .239 average.
North Carolina State (0-0) | Friday | 12:30 p.m. CT
NC State is looking to rebound from a 23-31 season a year ago, starting with first-year head coach Shawn Rychcik. Rychcik took over at NC State after eight seasons at Boston University, where he was the all-time winningest coach in BU history with a 271-159 record that included four regular-season titles and three conference tournament championships.
The Wolfpack returns three seniors in Caitlin Dent, Katie Mansilla and Bethaney Wells as well as 2012 ACC Rookie of the Year Renada Davis, a shortstop who set a school record last season with a .362 batting average and a .450 on-base percentage.
NC State hit .261 as a team with 35 home runs in 2012 and returns its top pitcher in sophomore pitcher Emily Weiman, who led the team with a 2.65 ERA last spring.
Florida International (0-0) | Friday | 3:00 p.m. CT
Led by second-year head coach Jake Schumann, the Panthers will have a strong core of returning players from 2012, who finished 28-27 overall and 15-9 in the Sun Belt.
Second-Team All-Sun Belt Conference selection, junior Mariah Dawson, anchors the pitching staff. She led the team with 204 strikeouts in 2012 to complement her 20-13 record and 2.86 ERA. Seniors and four-year starters Jessy Alfonso, Brie Rojas and Kayla Burri look to power the Panthers in their final seasons.
The program welcomes six freshmen and five transfers, highlighted by former national champion and Arizona State Sun Devil Bre Kaye. Junior Rachel Slowik and catchers Krystal Garcia and Aleima Lopez are being counted on to complement the main core.
FIU hit .262 as a team with 24 home runs in 2012, while the pitching staff struck out 310 batters and held opponents to a .240 batting average.
Georgetown (0-0) | Saturday | 9 a.m. CT
Led by eight-year head coach Pat Conlan, the Hoyas finished last season with a 19-32 record. Conlan also served as pitching coach for KU’s new assistant coach Abbie Sims during her career at NC State.
The Hoyas return last year’s offensive leader in senior Shikara Lowe, who led the team in batting average (.285), home runs (five) and RBIs (23). Sophomore pitcher Megan Hyson led GU in the circle with a 2.53 ERA.
As a unit, GU hit .217 as a team with 17 home runs, while the pitching staff struck out 261 strikeouts.
HEAD COACH Megan Smith
On Miami being a glamorous location, but no more than a business trip:
“We’re excited about the warm weather, but we’re more excited about getting our first games under our belt. We’re ready and itching to go. The kids are ready. We’re finishing up our practices to prepare for this week, but we’re ready to get on that plane.”
On having a predetermined lineup:
“We’re going to see some different lineups I think. We’ve got some girls that may split a little bit of time this weekend so that we can give everybody that deserves an opportunity an opportunity this weekend. We’ll see a few different looks.”
On the pitching rotation she plans to use:
“We have four strong pitchers and I think all four will get time this weekend. Again, we’re looking to see how they respond in that first weekend. We’ve seen them a lot against our own players, but I’m just ready to see them pitch against players that don’t know them as well as our players do.”
On facing alma mater North Carolina to start the 2011 season and facing pitching coach Abbie Sims’ alma mater in NC State for the 2013 season opener:
“That was totally by coincidence since Abbie had just joined our staff, but it’s exciting to face good teams in our first weekend. That’s something that will be a challenge for us. We have to prepare for the Big 12 and prepare to play the best teams in the country, so our non-conference schedule this year is tougher and we’re going to face those good teams from the first weekend all the way through.”
On North Carolina State:
“They have a lot of good talent. They have a brand new coach (Shawn Rychcik) who was extremely successful at his former school (Boston University). I think they are going to be a well-balanced team. They don’t have anything that just jumps out and grabs you on paper, but I think overall they’re very solid. I think they’re going to be very similar to us with good pitching, good hitting and good defense. It should be a well-matched game.”
“They play in a tough conference and are coached by (assistant) coach Abbie Sims’ former pitching coach (Pat Conlan). Their record wasn’t great last year, but they played a tough schedule and always have. They’re going to be a team that’s scrappy, that fights hard and they’ve got a few returners that are impact players. They’re going to fight extremely hard.”
On the challenges of facing a warm-weather team in host school Florida International:
“FIU is going to be a tough opponent. Obviously, they’re at home so it’s always tough when you’re playing someone at their place. And while we’re used to playing in 40-degree weather, they’re used to playing in 80-degree weather. So they’ve got a little bit of a leg up on us with that. They’re another solid team with a really good pitcher returning a couple of really good hitters returning. They have a lot of new players and new transfers who did extremely well in the places they were before so I have a feeling they’re going to be really tough.”
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