Five-Run Fifth Sparks Kansas in Series Finale Loss to No. 5 Texas, 13-6
April 14, 2012
LAWRENCE, Kan. –A dramatic five-run fifth fired up the Kansas softball team and its home crowd of more than a thousand, but four home runs powered No. 5 Texas to the 13-6 win during a wind-altered series finale Saturday at Arrocha Ballpark.
Wind gusts surpassed 30 miles an hour, pointing straight out of the ballpark on Saturday, as home runs dominated the early part of the game. Both teams cranked one out in the first inning to set the tone for the day. In fact, through the first four innings the only hits of the game by either team were home runs.
As they had all series, the Jayhawks (26-15, 3-12) hung with the perennial power through the midway point of the game, displaying their ability to compete with the top-five Longhorns (35-5, 9-3). A seven-run fifth inning – only two of which were earned – proved fatal. KU’s hitters answered aggressively with five runs of their own in the bottom half of the frame, cutting the 10-1 deficit to a 10-6 gap, but weren’t able to overcome the big inning.
“I think we competed. We had a hard time holding them back offensively, but I felt good about the way our girls fought and answered back,” head coach Megan Smith said. “We need to get them on defense. We can’t give a team like Texas extra chances. This is the best we’ve looked against Texas in three years. Our offense really attacked the ball and made adjustments.”
No one attacked the ball with greater force on Saturday than freshman third baseman Chanin Naudin. The rookie continued her tear through Big 12 play, posting her sixth multi-hit game in her last 10, while extending her hit streak to 10 games. She finished Saturday’s game 2-for-3, including her third home run of the season. All three of Naudin’s homers have come against 2011 NCAA Super Regional teams and she now leads the Jayhawks in Big 12 action with a .378 batting average and 11 RBIs.
Junior left fielder Maggie Hull brought her consistent bat, as well. For the third time in the series, Hull went 2-for-4 and on Saturday, her team-best 12th double of the season fueled the Jayhawks’ five-run fifth.
Freshman Alicia Pille (13-8) took the loss for Kansas. She left the game in the Longhorns’ big fifth inning. She walked a season-high seven batters and for only the third time in 30 appearances, Pille did not record a strikeout. In four innings of work, she allowed only three Longhorn hits, but all three were Longhorn homers.
In relief, junior Morgan Druhan entered the game in the fifth and although she was charged with five runs, none of them were earned. Senior Ashley Spencer finished the game, tossing a season-high 2.2 innings and allowed three runs on three hits.
For Texas, junior Blaire Luna (15-2) earned the win despite giving up all six runs on five Kansas hits. After Kansas prompted her exit during their five-run fifth, sophomore Rachel Fox came on in relief and held the Jayhawks scoreless for the remainder of the game.
At the plate, designated player Taylor Hoagland became the Longhorns’ all-time leader in career home runs with the two she hit on Saturday. She led the offense going 2-for-2 with four RBIs and was walked in her next three trips to the plate. Right fielder Courtney Craig and second baseman Karina Scott each homered in the finale, as well.
Hoagland sent Pille’s first delivery of the game over the centerfield wall to give the Longhorns an early 1-0 lead. Naudin immediately answered, stepping up for a two-out solo shot of her own. All three of the Jayhawk freshman’s career home runs have come off of a WCWS opponent from last year (Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas).
Texas took advantage of the wind again in its next at bat. For the second-straight inning, the Longhorns benefitted from a leadoff homer, this time from Scott to break up the tie ballgame. UT would scratch another unearned run across in the inning to extend its lead, 3-1.
The long ball struck again in the top of the fifth when the Longhorns broke the game open with a seven-run frame. Holding a commanding 10-1 lead, Texas looked to end the game in a run rule.
Kansas wouldn’t have it.
With the bases loaded and one out, Maggie Hull came through with a double to the gap in right center. Her 12th of the year, Hull’s double brought in two runs while a bobble in the infield allowed the third to score. Freshmen Maddie Stein and Naudin each stepped up with RBI singles to finish Luna’s start after cutting the Longhorn lead to four, 10-6.
Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, the comeback would go no further. Fox came in a quieted the KU bats while the Longhorns picked up three more runs in the seventh for the 13-6 victory.
Kansas will continue enjoying its long stretch at home when the Jayhawks welcome Iowa State to Arrocha Ballpark for a three-game series, April 20-22.