Kansas Welcomes Oklahoma State for Home Opening Weekend

March 21, 2012

Kansas vs. Oklahoma State
Sophomore second baseman Ashley Newman leads the Jayhawks with a .402 batting average.
March 23-25, 2012
Location Lawrence, Kan.
Friday 5 p.m. CT
Saturday 2 p.m. CT
Sunday 12 p.m. CT
Live Stats Kansas GameTracker
Live Audio Jayhawk All-Access
Game Notes Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Seven weeks and 25 games into the 2012 Kansas softball campaign, the Jayhawks will hit the field at Arrocha Ballpark to take on Oklahoma State in the first home series of the season, March 23-25.

Friday, March 23: 5 p.m. CT
Saturday, March 24: 2 p.m. CT
Sunday, March 25: 12 p.m. CT

The Jayhawks’ first weekend at home also marks a first for kuathletics.com. Every home game will feature live audio play-by-play on AT&T Jayhawk All-Access, located at kuathletics.com/allaccess.

Fans can also follow the action all weekend long on GameTracker, located on the softball schedule page on kuathletics.com. Live scoring updates can be found by following JayhawkSoftball on Twitter.

Friday: Blue Friday (Free popcorn to first 100 fans wearing blue)
Saturday: Heroes Day ($3 admission for those with military/fire/police/medical ID)
Sunday:Faith and Family Day ($3 admission with a religious services bulletin)

Oklahoma State leads the all-time series, 63-37. Kansas is 8-20 against OSU in Lawrence, 9-17 in Stillwater, Okla., and 20-26 at neutral site games. Although the Jayhawks’ last win against the Cowgirls was a 6-0 victory on April 27, 2008, their last three meetings were decided by a single run.

– Kansas (20-5) is receiving a vote in this week’s USA Today/NFCA poll following its Big 12 Conference opening weekend at Missouri. Missouri moved up to No. 10 in both major polls after sweeping the Jayhawks in Columbia, Mo., last weekend.

– KU’s loss in the series opener at Missouri snapped the Jayhawks’ 20-game win streak, the longest in program history. The previous record of 17-consecutive wins was held by the 1992 Jayhawks.

– As a team, Kansas’ .304 batting average ranks fourth in the league, while Ashley Newman (.402, 7th) and Maggie Hull (.398, 8th) make Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma the only schools in the conference with two players in the top 10.

– On the flip side, the Jayhawk pitching staff is holding its opponents to a .203 batting average. Freshman Alicia Pille is keeping hitters at a .187 clip, which ranks 10th in the league.

– The Jayhawks’ shutout losses at Missouri marked the first time KU suffered three-straight shutouts since the 2007 season.

– Rain has affected nine of KU’s games this season. The 25 road games prior to the home opener were supposed to be 29. Rainouts claimed four games, two of which were postponed and later played, two were canceled and this week’s doubleheader at Missouri State was moved to next Tuesday, March 27.

ABOUT KANSAS (20-5, 0-3)
The Jayhawks are looking to bounce back following a tough conference opening weekend in Columbia, Mo. KU was charged with the task of taking on the Big 12’s preseason No. 1 Missouri Tigers on their home turf in the first weekend of conference play. Intermixed within three shutouts against the now top-10 Tigers, head coach Megan Smithpulled plenty of positives from the weekend. Namely, the work of her slap hitters and key defensive plays from her outfielders.

KU enters the weekend hitting .304 as a team, one of five Big 12 squads cranking out a team average of .300 or better. Additionally, the Jayhawks are selective hitters, striking out 99 times this season compared to their opponents’ 181 Ks. Aside from both ranking in the league’s top-10 in batting average, Newman and Maggie Hullcheck in at third and fourth in the conference in hits.

As a staff, the Jayhawks check in with a 2.41 team ERA, with two of their three starters hovering around the 2.00 ERA mark. Freshman Alicia Pille(9-3) leads the starters with a 2.09 ERA and 97 strikeouts, good for fourth in the Big 12. The rookie’s six shutouts are second in the league and mark the first time a Jayhawk has recorded six or more shutouts since the 2008 season.

The three-game set in Lawrence will mark the Cowgirls’ Big 12 opener. They, too, have been pestered with rain during the pre-conference season, cancelling five games this spring, including two games at the Gaucho Classic II in Santa Barbara, Calif., last weekend. In their last time out, the Cowgirls faced a familiar foe as they defeated Wisconsin 1-0 on Sunday. Kansas also faced Wisconsin this season and took down the Badgers, 4-0.

Oklahoma State, who is receiving votes in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll, finished the regular season in seventh place in the Big 12 standings last year. Proving yet again the conference’s strength, the Cowgirls advanced to the 2011 Women’s College World Series.

Kat Espinosa (8-4) led her team to the WCWS a year ago and returns in 2012 for her senior season. She leads the pitching staff with a 2.14 ERA and 79 strikeouts. Sophomore Simone Freeman (5-4) also takes on the starting role, tossing 70.1 innings compared to Espinosa’s 85. As a unit, OSU is holding opposing hitters to a .224 average with 166 strikeouts.

At the plate, the Cowgirls are hitting a combined .235. Junior outfielder Tamara Brown is pacing the offense with a .366 batting average and a .451 slugging percentage. In 25 starts, Brown has struck out only eight times, helping her reach base at a .464 clip. Senior outfielder Kelsey Anchors is the only Cowgirl with RBI numbers in double figures (10) and has one of OSU’s five homers.

HEAD COACH Megan Smith
On moving on from the Missouri series:
“A short memory, you have to have that. I told the players that the good thing is, we don’t have to play (preseason No. 1) Missouri again we move on and focus on everybody else and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to work hard this week and get ready for the weekend.”

On preparing for the home opener during a week of constant storming:
“Luckily, we’ll be able to get inside and our indoor facility is nice enough that we can do live situations inside and get a lot of good work in. We’re hoping it clears out by Thursday so we can get back outside and get some work in.”

On getting past the jitters that come in the first series of conference play:
“I sure hope so. The first day of our season was full of nervousness and jitters and we dropped two. Then the first weekend of our conference season was full of nervousness and jitters. We bounced back from that first day of our season very well and I think we’re in a good mindset to do the same thing.”

On facing Oklahoma State:
“They are a very solid team in every aspect of the game. Kat Espinosa led them to the Women’s College World Series last year and is a really tough competitor in the circle. It’s a well-balanced team. They do everything well. They’re not going to make any mistakes, so we need to focus on what we need to do. We have to execute offensively and defensively, and we need our pitching to step up and be sharp this weekend.”

On the positives from the Missouri series:
“Anytime you play, there are good things and bad things. Even though we didn’t do extremely well outcome-wise, there were still some good things to come out of the weekend. Slappers are still doing well. We had some players have some really good at bats off of some of the best pitching in the country and we hope that will give them some confidence going into this weekend.”

Kansas will head to Springfield, Mo., for a doubleheader against Missouri State on Tuesday, March 27. Originally scheduled for March 20, the Jayhawks’ first midweek game of the season was pushed back a week due to storms in the area. First pitches are slated for 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.