Kansas Back on the Road for First Midweek Matchup of 2012

March 26, 2012

Kansas at Missouri State
Freshman Alicia Pille leads the Big 12 Conference with three saves and ranks third with her 113 strikeouts.
March 27, 2012
Location Springfield, Mo.
Game One 4 p.m. CT
Game Two 6 p.m. CT
Live Stats Kansas GameTracker
Game Notes Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kan. –A weekend at home coupled with a series win against Oklahoma State has the Kansas softball team riding a wave of momentum into a doubleheader at Missouri State, Tuesday at 4 and 6 p.m.

Tuesday, March 27: 4 p.m. CT
Tuesday, March 27: 6 p.m. CT

Fans can 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.

Kansas leads the all-time series against Missouri State, 63-16. The last time the two squared off, KU claimed the 4-3 victory on March 14, 2010. In Lawrence the Jayhawks hold a 31-9 advantage, in Springfield, Mo., KU is 20-5 against the Bears and at neutral sites Kansas holds a 12-2 edge. KU has won eight of the teams’ last 10 meetings.

– Tuesday’s doubleheader at Missouri State was originally scheduled for March 20 before being postponed due to rain – KU’s ninth game to be altered by rain in 2012.

– Kansas is receiving a vote in the USA Today/NFCA poll released on March 20. At press time, the week eight polls had not been released. Kansas heads to Springfield after taking two of three games from Oklahoma State in its home-opening weekend.

– The Jayhawks defeated the Cowgirls 1-0 in eight innings on Friday and clinched the series victory with a 3-2 win on Saturday before falling in the finale, 3-1. The back-to-back victories marked KU’s first consecutive Big 12 wins since the 2009 season.

– Saturday’s victory also signified career win No. 200 for head coach Megan Smith. Smith, who took her first head coaching job at Young Harris (NJCAA) in 2001 holds a 200-124 (.617) career record.

– Friday’s win couldn’t have been scripted any better. Kansas, who played 10 of its 12 home games against nationally-ranked opponents last season, had not won a home game since the 2010 campaign. In the bottom of the eighth inning, freshman third baseman Chanin Naudin’sfirst career home run broke the dry spell walk-off style.

– As a team, Kansas’ .295 batting average ranks fifth in the league, while Ashley Newman (.385, 8th) ranks is the conference’s top-10 individually. Both Newman and junior Maggie Hullrank in the Big 12’s top-10 in hits and runs scored.

– On the flip side, the Jayhawk pitching staff is holding its opponents to a .202 batting average. Freshman Alicia Pilleis keeping hitters at a .186 clip, which ranks ninth in the league. Pille also recorded her Big 12-best third save this weekend and her seventh shutout (2nd).

ABOUT KANSAS (22-6, 2-4 Big 12 Conference)
The Jayhawks head into Tuesday’s matchup after taking two of three from Oklahoma State, a Women’s College World Series participant last season. After suffering a sweep at No. 10 Missouri, KU bounced back in a big way with the series win against OSU to move up to fifth in the Big 12 standings.

KU enters Tuesday’s doubleheader hitting .295 as a team, with six Jayhawks posting batting averages of .300 or better. Additionally, the Jayhawks are selective hitters, striking out nearly 100 times less than their opponents. Aside from leading the team in batting average, Newman and Maggie Hullrank in the top-10 among Big 12 hitters in total hits and runs scored.

As a staff, the Jayhawks lowered their team ERA over the weekend to 2.24, with all three starters checking in under the 3.00 ERA mark. Freshman Alicia Pille (10-3) leads the starters with a 1.85 ERA and 113 strikeouts, good for third in the Big 12. The rookie’s seven shutouts mark the fourth-most all-time for a Kansas freshman and the most recorded by a Jayhawk pitcher since the 2006 season (Kassie Humphreys, 10).

ABOUT MISSOURI STATE (13-10, 3-3 Missouri Valley Conference)
The Bears won their sixth Missouri Valley Conference Tournament title in 2011. With 10 underclassmen on its roster of 16, MSU was voted to finish fourth in the Valley in 2012. Missouri State is coming off of a series win at Evansville last weekend, taking games one and two before dropping the finale, 3-1. Against common foes, MSU played then-No. 13 Missouri to a close 3-1 loss and split with Iowa State in a doubleheader earlier this month.

At the plate, MSU is hitting .221 as a team with six home runs, four of which belong to junior outfielder Caitlin Chapin. Sophomore second baseman Ashley Brentz has started all 23 games and leads the team with a .294 batting average and 10 runs scored. Freshman catcher Rebecca McPherson comes in second behind Chapin, hitting at a .275 clip in 16 starts.

In the circle, Natalie Rose is one of two seniors on the squad and leads the pitching staff with a 9-3 record and 1.39 ERA. Selected to the 2012 MVC Preseason All-Conference Team, Rose has thrown 10 complete games in 14 starts and compares 95 strikeouts to just 14 walks. The 2011 MVC Tournament MVP is a work horse, tossing 95.2 of a possible 152 total innings this season.

HEAD COACH Megan Smith
On the first midweek games of the season:
“It will be good and Missouri State is always a tough opponent. They always play Big 12 teams tough, so it’s good to play that caliber of an opponent midweek.”

On the team’s momentum after a series win against Oklahoma State:
“This weekend really helped our confidence. I think the girls needed that to see that they can compete and they can win these games. We just have to go out Tuesday and have the same mentality as if we were playing a Big 12 team. We have to attack and be really locked in on what we’re doing and not worry about who we’re playing.”

On the emerging strength and consistency on the pitching staff:
“The pitching that we saw this weekend is the pitching that we thought we were going to see all year. We’ve seen it in spurts, but I thought they really put together three good games this weekend. Even though we lost the third game, the pitchers still held up their end of the deal. They did a good job. For them to bounce back from last week’s series (at Missouri) was huge for them. It shows how tough they are and that they can bounce back, which they are going to have to do at this level and the conference that we play in.”

The Jayhawks continue their road-warrior ways when they head to Norman, Okla., for a three-game bout at No. 7 Oklahoma, March 30-April 1. Games times are set for 7 p.m., 2 p.m. and noon, respectively.