Kansas Makes Second Trip to Florida for FAU Invitational
March 6, 2013
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Looking to carry the momentum from its 4-1 chilly weekend in Raleigh, N.C., the Kansas softball team will travel to Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton, Fla., for the FAU Invitational, March 8-10.
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.
Vs. Eastern Michigan (Series tied, 1-1): The Jayhawks and Eagles haven’t faced each other since 2006, when EMU won 2-1 on March 10, 2006. KU took the first meeting, 1-0, on March 11, 2000.
Vs. Michigan State (KU leads, 3-0): Kansas has won all three meetings with the Spartans, but the Big 12 and Big Ten foes last met during the 1983 season.
Vs. Ball State (KU leads, 1-0): Kansas won its only game against the Cardinals fairly handily, taking the March 5, 2005 contest, 8-1.
Vs. Florida Atlantic (FAU leads, 1-0): The Owls are the only team in the field with a winning record against the Jayhawks. On March 8, 2001, FAU won 6-4.
Vs. Louisiana-Monroe (first meeting): The Jayhawks and Warhawks will pair up for the first time on the softball field this weekend.
- Head coach Megan Smith is three wins away from her 100th victory at Kansas. If she collects all three this weekend, she’ll become the third-fastest coach in program history to reach the 100-win plateau (Bob Stanclift, 144; Kalum Haack, 159; Megan Smith, potentially 182).
- Kansas has led the Big 12 in batting average for the first month of the season and sits at a remarkable .400 as a team heading into the weekend – more than 70 points higher than the second-ranked Iowa State Cyclones (.329). For point of reference, the best team batting average in a season in Big 12 history was Oklahoma’s .352 in 2001. KU’s best team average is .311 (1985).
- Five of the Big 12’s top-10 batting averages this week belong to Jayhawks: senior left fielder Maggie Hull (.460, 4th), junior second baseman Ashley Newman (.452, 5th), redshirt junior outfielder Alex Jones (.449, 6th), freshman catcher Alex Hugo (.446, 7th) and sophomore utility player Maddie Stein (.431, 10th).
- Freshman Kelsey Kessler (4-2) moved into the Big 12’s top-10 with a 1.94 ERA (9th). Sophomore Alicia Pille (5-3) moved up to fifth in the league in strikeouts (73) fourth in complete games (6).
- Tracking the Jayhawks’ continued improvement, KU was hitting .322 with 91 RBIs through the first four tournaments in 2012. This season, KU has jumped up to .400 with 140 RBIs.
Eastern Michigan (4-6) | Friday 12 p.m. CT
The Eagles were voted to finish fourth in the West division of the Mid-American Conference (MAC) after a 21-34 record in 2012. Led by 11th-year head coach Karen Baird, Eastern Michigan will have played eight games in Florida this month before facing the Jayhawks. EMU has two wins against Butler this season and will play fellow Kansas opponent Florida International in a doubleheader on Wednesday.
A veteran offense, all four of EMU’s starters that are hitting .300 or better are seniors, including senior outfielder Courtney Nicholson who has started all 10 games and holds a .370 batting average. Senior infielder Nellie Coquillard provides most of the power for the offense that hits .261 as a unit, with two home runs, three doubles and seven RBIs.
Senior Jenna Ignowski (3-1) leads the Eagles in the circle with 23.1 innings pitched and 16 strikeouts. She has yet to give up a home run in 2013. As a unit, the pitching staff holds a collective 5.19 ERA with 37 strikeouts.
Michigan State (13-7) | Friday 5 p.m. CT
Michigan State has gotten out to a hot start after an 11-42 campaign in 2012. Led by 20th-year head coach Jacquie Joseph, who collected her 700th career win on Tuesday, the Spartans already have wins over Ball State and Florida Atlantic this season.
Senior outfielder Kylene Hopkins, a USA Softball Player of the Year Watch List member, leads the offense with a .424 batting average. A First Team All-Big Ten honoree in 2012, Hopkins also leads the team in runs scored (17) and on-base percentage (.553). Junior outfielder Sarah Bowling paces the lineup with a team-high three homers, four doubles and 19 RBIs.
In the circle, junior right-handed pitcher Kelly Smith (10-2) sets the tone for the pitching staff as she’s surrendered 23 earned runs in 85.1 innings. In a win against Niagra on Monday night, Smith struck out 14 and walked one to bring her season strikeout total to 94. As a team, the Spartans hold a 2.84 ERA.
Ball State (8-8) | Saturday 3 p.m. CT
Led by seventh-year head coach Craig Nicholson, Ball State was voted to finish first in the Mid-American West division and was predicted to win the 2013 MAC Softball Championship. The Cardinals claimed the 2012 MAC regular-season crown after posting a 40-15 record. BSU will start the weekend on a four-game losing skid as the team dropped both games of a doubleheader at FIU Tuesday night.
Junior Jennifer Gilbert, the 2012 MAC Player of the Year, returns to reprise her role atop the Cardinals’ offense after breaking the school’s single-season home run record with 18 in 2012. She currently leads the team with six homers to accompany her team-best .440 batting average and 20 RBIs. As a unit, the Ball State offense is hitting .306 with 13 home runs.
In the circle, freshmen Nicole Steinbach (3-5) and Kelsey Shifferdecker (4-1) lead the pitching staff with 2.42 and 2.87 ERAs, respectively.
Florida Atlantic (7-13) | Saturday 5 p.m. CT
Led by NFCA Hall of Fame Coach Joan Joyce, in her 19th season as the only head coach in the program’s history, the Owls will play a three-game series with Sun Belt Conference foe Louisiana-Monroe on Wednesday and Thursday before beginning the FAU Invitational on Friday. FAU snapped a three-game losing streak with an 11-3 run-rule over Eastern Michigan on Monday.
Freshman outfielder Carnesha Thompson has quickly acclimated herself to collegiate softball, starting 19 of FAU’s 20 games while leading the team with three doubles and a .410 batting average. A strong defensive team, the Owls have turned 11 double plays on the season – nearly doubling their home run total (6). The weekend’s host hits .236 as a team.
In the circle, senior pitcher/infielder Taylor Fawbush (3-6) paces the pitchers. An All-Sun Belt Preseason Team selection, Fawbush has thrown a team-high 56.2 innings and struck out 30. The Owl pitchers have a collective 2.84 ERA.
Louisiana-Monroe (8-10) | Sunday 8 a.m. CT
ULM is led by another 700-game winner in 28-year coaching veteran Rosemary Hill-Holloway. Voted to finish eighth in the Sun Belt Conference after a 25-26 record in 2012, the Warhawks have picked up wins against Arkansas and Wichita State in 2013.
Senior first baseman Janel Salanoa leads the team with her .378 average and has struck out only twice in ULM’s 18 games this season. She and sophomore centerfielder Mackenzie Miller will mix things up on the base paths as the duo is a combined 16-for-16 in stolen bases in 2013. As a unit, the Warhawks have stolen 34 bases and are hitting .253.
In the circle, sophomore Haylie Wilson (2-6) and senior Stephanie Routzon (6-4) handle the majority of ULM’s innings, throwing more than 100 of ULM’s 108 thus far. Both right-handed pitchers, Wilson and Routzon’s opposing batting averages are both above .300. The Warhawks have a combined ERA of 5.90.
HEAD COACH Megan Smith
On the progression of the offense, especially last weekend:
“Offensively, we look really good. A lot of people are stepping up, doing a good job and being consistent offensively. I think overall it was our best offensive performance over an entire weekend. We’re seeing some people improve – freshman Chaley Brickey is starting to hit really well – and the people who started the season hitting well still are, which is good to see.”
On hitting .400 as a team:
“We know we have a strong offensive team, but to do what we’ve done so far is a big deal. It’s hard to do. We’re doing it against quality teams and quality pitching. Our girls are just getting more confident, which is going to help us as we progress into conference play.”
On the team’s primary focal point for improvement this weekend:
“I’d like to see us just improve upon what we did last weekend. I thought last weekend we were intense. We put pressure on teams and continued to put pressure on teams in every game we played, even the game that we lost. I want to see us continue to do that. If we continue to do that game-in and game-out, we’re going to win a lot of games. Those are the big things I’m looking for this weekend.”
On Eastern Michigan:
“Eastern Michigan has a pretty solid offense and is pretty solid all the way around, no real deficiencies in there. I think that’s going to be a good test for us to face a solid team to start the weekend.”
On Michigan State:
“Michigan State is off to a really good start and they have a really good pitcher. Offensively, they’re doing well. They always play a tough schedule, so I know they will be a good test for us. I would say they are similar to NC State, so it’s going to be a fun game.”
On Ball State:
“They’re an offensive team as well. It’ll be fun for two offensive teams to come together and play. Their head coach, Craig Nicholson, has done a really good job there. He’s built that team into one that contends with any BCS school, so it will be a fun game for both offenses.”
On host-team Florida Atlantic:
“FAU is always scrappy. They’re always a solid team year-in and year-out, and are coached by one of the legends in our game (Joan Joyce). Going down to their home to play, where they’re outside every day and we’re still inside, is a challenge. It’ll be fun to play them at their field with their fans and keep getting used to playing teams in their own stadiums.”
On Louisiana-Monroe and being familiar with that team from her time at LSU:
“Another great coach (Rosemary Hill-Holloway), who’s been coaching for a long time and has done a great job there. They always have a lot of speed and always very scrappy, so I’m anticipating we’ll see a lot of speed on the base paths. They’re fighters and have some big wins already this year against big teams. I think they will be a big challenge for us.”
Kansas will play in its final pre-conference tournament when the team travels to Sacramento, Calif., for the Capital Classic hosted by Sacramento State, March 15-17.
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