Smith Chalks Up Career Win No. 200 as Kansas Downs OSU, 3-2
March 24, 2012
LAWRENCE, Kan. – With a series victory on the line and head coach Megan Smith’s 200th career win within reach, the Kansas softball team accepted the challenge and defeated Oklahoma State, 3-2, Saturday afternoon at Arrocha Ballpark.
Following an epic walk-off victory in the series opener, Kansas (22-5, 2-3) was handed the opportunity to collect its first back-to-back Big 12 Conference wins since the 2009 season. The Jayhawks took full advantage, rallying back from a first-inning deficit to defeat a Women’s College World Series Oklahoma State (15-12, 0-2) squad from a year ago, and take the series with the chance to sweep in Sunday’s finale.
En route to clinching the series, freshman Alicia Pille recorded her Big 12-best third save of the season, junior left fielder Maggie Hull knocked out her fifth home run of the year and Smith collected memorable No. 200.
“It means a lot,” Smith said of her personal milestone. “Conference wins have been hard to come by recently for us. So for this to come in a conference win at home is big. I didn’t even know it, I had forgotten. It’s all about the girls, the players that come out and work hard for me everyday. The wins are theirs.”
Smith took her first head coaching job at Young Harris (NJCAA) before accepting assistant coaching positions at Charlotte and alma mater North Carolina. In 2005, she began her first Division I head coaching stint at Western Carolina, where she won the Southern Conference Coach of the Year honor in 2006. Smith then moved on to an assistant coaching role at perennial softball power LSU before becoming the head coach at Kansas in 2010.
The third-year Jayhawk head coach used all three starting pitchers on Saturday for the combined effort. Sophomore Kristin Martinez earned the start, but was relieved by junior Morgan Druhan (7-2) after the Jayhawks fell behind 1-0 in the first inning. Druhan went on to throw lights out, tossing three scoreless innings before surrendering her only run in the top of the fifth. The junior transfer struck out six and allowed two hits in her first Big 12 victory.
Leading 3-2, Pille was called upon to close out the top of the seventh. She worked around a Cowgirl walk and single before ending the game on a strikeout for the rookie’s third save of the year – the most by a Jayhawk since Val George in 2008.
At the plate, it was the Hull sisters who rang up all three RBIs. Maggie Hull’s two-run homer in the third was preceded by Rosie Hull’s RBI sacrifice fly. Redshirt senior Liz Kocon contributed a single to kick start the second inning, but stayed stranded on the bases.
Oklahoma State received a complete game performance from sophomore starter Simone Freeman (5-5). Although her offense recorded more hits than the Jayhawks, 5-3, she took the loss after a three-run Kansas third produced all the offense needed.
Shortstop Chelsea Garcia led the Cowgirl offense, collecting three of her team’s five hits and one of the RBIs. Designated player Shelby Davis posted the other two hits, while left fielder Tamara Brown notched an RBI in the first inning.
In contrast to game one, the Cowgirls found a way to score in their first at bat on Saturday. A leadoff walk to second baseman Ari Morrison gave way to a manufactured run, as she advanced on a wild pitch and a pair of bunts to take the early 1-0 lead.
Druhan took over in the top of the second and went into shutdown mode. The junior racked up two strikeouts in each of her first three innings of relief.
Rallying from the 1-0 deficit, KU’s offense brought Druhan support in full force in the bottom of the third. Smith elected to move junior designated player Rosie Hull to the two-spot in the lineup to start the series. After freshman Chanin Naudin and sophomore Elsa Moyer drew a walk and beat out an infield single, respectively, to leadoff the inning, a well-executed sacrifice bunt from Ashley Newman moved them over.
Confronted with the RBI opportunity, Rosie Hull drilled a sac fly to centerfield, giving Naudin the room to tie the game at a run apiece. Maggie Hull, who moved to the three-spot for the first time this season for the OSU series, followed right behind her sister and cranked a two-out home run to dead centerfield. With one swing, Kansas took a 3-1 lead.
Still going strong in the circle, Druhan kept the Cowgirls quiet through the fourth inning until giving up her only run of the game in the top of the fifth. Again OSU found a way to create a run, using a leadoff walk, a sac bunt and a ground out to the right side to land Morrison on third base with two outs. Garcia came through with her second single of the game, an RBI up the middle cut the Kansas lead to one, 3-2.
Druhan held off the Cowgirls in the sixth before Pille came in for the closing role in the seventh. Pille collected two quick outs before OSU rallied with a walk and single, but a final strikeout sealed the 3-2 Kansas win.
Kansas and Oklahoma State will face off in the series finale on Sunday. First pitch is set for noon and will be “Faith and Family Day” at Arrocha Ballpark. All fans with a religious services bulletin will be admitted for only $3.