Kansas Travels to Florida for Final Tune-Up of Non-Conference Season

March 7, 2012

Tournament Information
RS senior Liz Kocon broke KU’s all-time RBI record last weekend with a three-run homer against Wisconsin.
Osprey Classic (March 9-11, 2012)
Location Jacksonville, Fla.
Fri. (1) vs. Delaware State, 2 p.m. CT
Fri. (2) vs. Delaware State, 4 p.m. CT
Sat. (1) at North Florida, 1:30 p.m. CT
Sat. (2) vs. Delaware State, 4 p.m. CT
Sun. at North Florida, 9 a.m. CT
Live Stats Kansas GameTracker
Game Notes Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kan. –Three wins away from the setting the longest winning streak in school history, the Kansas softball team is focused only on competing in its final tournament before the Big 12 Conference season starts when the Jayhawks travel to Jacksonville, Fla., for the Osprey Classic, March 9-11.

Friday, March 9
vs. Delaware State, 2 p.m. CT
vs. Delaware State, 4 p.m. CT
Saturday, March 10
vs. North Florida, 1:30 p.m. CT
vs. Delaware State, 4 p.m. CT
Sunday, March 11
vs. North Florida, 9 a.m. CT

Fans can follow the action on GameTracker for all five games, located on the softball schedule page on KUAthletics.com. Live scoring updates can also be found by following JayhawkSoftball on Twitter.

– Kansas (15-2) is receiving votes in this week’s ESPN.com/USA Softball poll. The Jayhawks were last ranked during the 2011 season, earning a No. 22 spot on the March 22 Ultimate College Softball poll.

– Kansas won its third-straight tournament in the team’s last time out, going 3-0 to claim the Charleston Southern Tournament, hosted by Charleston Southern. The Jayhawks defeated Big East foe Connecticut, 8-0 in six innings; tournament host Charleston Southern, 6-3 and Big Ten opponent, Wisconsin 4-0.

– The flawless weekend stretched KU’s win streak to 15, marking the second-longest span in school history. Only one Jayhawk squad in the team’s existence has won more consecutive games (17, 1992).

– Aside from the team milestone, redshirt senior Liz Kocon reached a historical marker of her own. In the Jayhawks’ last time out, Kocon drove in all four runs to defeat Wisconsin, 4-0. Her three-run homer in the fifth inning made her the new all-time RBI leader at Kansas (119), passing KU’s 2006 Big 12 Player of the Year Serena Settlemier (117, 2002-06).

– During the Jayhawks’ win streak, they have outscored opponents, 95-22. In their two losses, KU’s pitchers walked a combined 21 batters. During the streak, the staff has allowed just 33 total free passes while striking out 119.

– KU (.322) is second in the Big 12 behind Texas (.369) in team batting average. Six of the nine Jayhawks who started the last game – eight total regulars – are hitting .300 or better. Three of KU’s hitters rank in the league’s top 10 individually, Rosie Hull (.412, 3rd), Ashley Newman (.407, 5th) and Maggie Hull (.386, 8th). Only Texas has more in the top 10.

Delaware State (3-3)
Overall: The Hornets are coming off of a 6-5, bottom of the seventh loss against Bethune-Cookman on Tuesday and are on the road for a doubleheader at Jacksonville on Wednesday after opening their season last weekend. Delaware State also spent last weekend in Jacksonville, Fla., as the team kicked off the 2012 campaign at the first of two tournament’s hosted by North Florida in back-to-back weekends. The Hornets were picked to win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) in the preseason coaches poll. In the Circle: Sophomore Stephanie Sarris (2-1) was named to the Preseason All-MEAC Team after earning Second Team recognition last season. She holds a 0.93 ERA in five appearances in 2012. As a staff, the Hornets hold an even 1.68 ERA with 13 strikeouts. At the Plate:Senior OF/2B Jordan Reid was voted to repeat her 2011 MEAC Player of the Year performance this season. She leads the team with a .550 batting average with two doubles and a triple.

North Florida (10-6)
Overall: The Ospreys are hosting their second tournament in as many weeks when they welcome the Jayhawks to Jacksonville. North Florida hosted a doubleheader against Ball State on Wednesday and lost to Delaware State in its last time out, 1-2 (8). UNF was predicted to finish sixth in the Atlantic Sun Conference. In the Circle: Freshman Kaylie Wallace (5-1) leads the staff with a 1.36 ERA in her eight appearances. Wallace has struck out 35 this season and surrendered only one home run. As a staff, the Ospreys hold a 2.20 ERA. At the Plate:Sophomore C/OF Mariah Roberts is hitting at a .370 clip with four doubles and a team-high 15 RBIs. As a team, UNF is hitting .297 with four home runs.

HEAD COACH Megan Smith
On this weekend being the last tournament before conference play begins:
“I think we’ve seen a really good progression by the team. This doesn’t add any pressure. We’ve seen good improvement. We’ve addressed weaknesses from early on, and we’ve seen those improve. This is just the final tune-up. This is to go out and keep polishing what we need to do and keep improving in all aspects of the game. We’ve really seen strong pitching, strong offense and strong defense so we’re expecting to see that again this weekend.”

On the dependable defensive play so far this season:
“Our pitchers have done a good job to help our defense, too. They’ve struck out quite a few people and given up a lot of pop-ups, which helps in terms of fielding. We’re very stable on defense, very consistent. I think that comes from experience. We have Marissa Ingle who’s doing a great at first base. Of course, our middle (infielders) are returning so they’ve had the experience. Losing Alex Jones, we thought that would leave a little question mark in the outfield, but we’ve filled that pretty well. Elsa (Moyer) and Cassen (Salamone) both have done an excellent job defensively. Defensively, we’re really steady and making routine plays. We hope that continues.”

On freshman pitcher Alicia Pille’s rapid progression:
“She’s a freshman so she needs some time to get comfortable. I think that’s what we saw early on. She just wasn’t quite comfortable out there. She has worked through it. Like any freshman, she has ups and downs but way more ups than downs for her. She is going to keep us in all of the games. She does a great job hitting her spots. She has a commanding presence on the mound, which I love to see. Against Wisconsin, we had a few pressure situations for her to get herself out of. It was really great to let her get herself out of those jams, and she did so with a lot of confidence and poise. We’re really excited about what she’s doing, and we know it’s going to continue.”

On the frustration of already experiencing three rainouts:
“It’s part of the game. We’ve only had a few rainouts since I’ve been here. I don’t think we’ve ever had one before conference started. It’s a little frustrating, but you have to know when you coach an outdoor sport that it’s a possibility. We’ve been lucky. This past weekend we were lucky to get three (games) in. We’ve been lucky to get some of the games we’ve gotten in. It’s just a part of the game you have to deal with.”

Kansas will open Big 12 Conference play against Missouri in Columbia, Mo., March 16-18. This season will debut the league’s three-game series format with each member school facing off on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. First pitches for the Kansas-Missouri series are set for 6 p.m., 2 p.m. and noon, respectively.