Kansas and Iowa State to Square Off in Key Big 12 Matchup
April 18, 2012
LAWRENCE, Kan. –When this week’s national polls were released, the USA Today/NFCA poll revealed that all but three of the Big 12 Conference softball teams rank in the country’s top-25. This weekend will pit two of the rare unranked Big 12 teams against one another as Kansas will host Iowa State in a pivotal three-game series, April 20-22.
Friday, April 20: 5 p.m. CT
Saturday, April 21: 2 p.m. CT
Sunday, April 22: 12 p.m. CT
AROUND THE BALLPARK
Friday: Blue Friday (First 100 fans wearing blue receive free popcorn)
Saturday: Pink in the Park (Jayhawks for a Cure game, $3 admission to fans wearing pink), Softball Alumni Day
Sunday:Bark in the Park (Dog admitted with a donation to the Lawrence Humane Society)
FOLLOW THE HAWKS
AT&T Jayhawk All-Access will stream live audio of all three games free of charge. Pat Strathman, Kyle Larson and Weston Pletcher will have the call throughout the weekend. Fans can also follow the action on GameTracker, located on the softball schedule page on kuathletics.com. Live scoring updates can also be found by following JayhawkSoftball on Twitter.
Kansas and Iowa State have faced each other 75 times in a series that dates back to 1980. The Jayhawks own the all-time record, 43-32, and are 16-10 in games played in Lawrence. The pair split a couple of close games last season, as ISU took game one, 4-3. KU came back on the second day to claim an 8-6 victory almost a year ago to the day (April 22-23, 2011).
Always a tight matchup, KU has a 4-6 record against the Cyclones in the last 10 meetings. Three of those were one-run losses, and only one loss was by more than two runs.
– Kansas is coming off of a marathon weekend against No. 5 Texas. After weather moved games one and two to a Friday night doubleheader, game one ran two hours, 49 minutes. Not to be outdone, Friday’s nightcap clocked three hours, 28 mins with the help of a 61-minute lightning delay. Saturday’s series finale proved to be the shortest matchup of the weekend at two hours, 45 minutes.
– Weather only disrupted game two, however. Kansas’ never-say-die attitude took charge for the lengthy contests. In game one, KU scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh before Texas claimed the win. Game two saw KU take a 5-4 lead into the fifth inning before Texas scratched three across to win. In the finale, KU entered a run-rule situation, down 10-1 in the fifth, but roared back with five runs in the frame to keep the game alive.
– The Jayhawks remain at No. 35 in the NCAA RPI projections this week (4/16). Four of the Big 12’s nine softball schools check-in in the top 20 and all but one school (ISU, 119) are in the top 40. KU is 8-13 this year against top-100 RPI opponents, and 16-15 facing schools in the top half of the RPI list (No. 1-144).
– Junior left fielder Maggie Hull has been the face of consistency in the Jayhawk lineup. After three-straight 2-for-4 performances, including two doubles, against No. 5 Texas Hull is third in the Big 12 with a .398 average. With 11 games remaining in the regular season, Hull sits three hits shy of her hit total from last season (53), which leads the Big 12. Hull’s 39 runs already tie her 2011 season total, and average out to 0.95 runs per game (44th in NCAA).
– As a team, Kansas’ .286 batting average ranks fourth in the league. Only Texas (.349), Oklahoma (.328) and Texas Tech (.295) are hitting better as a team. All three are ranked in the top 25 in at least one major poll.
– On the other side of the plate, the Jayhawk pitching staff is holding its opponents to a .232 batting average. Freshman Alicia Pille is keeping hitters at a .207 mark and recorded her 13th complete game in a close 7-5 loss to No. 5 Texas. In the latest NCAA statistics release (4/15), the rookie’s seven shutouts are tied for 22nd in the country, while her four saves are tied for seventh.
ABOUT KANSAS (26-15, 3-12 Big 12 Conference)
The scores from the weekend against the top-five Longhorns fail to depict KU’s fight. Head coach Megan Smith remarked after the series that this was the best she had seen her team look against the perennial power in her three years at KU. She was right – in all three games, KU had opportunities.
Heading into the sixth inning in game one, KU trailed just 4-1 until back-to-back four-run sixth and seventh innings brought on the lopsided score. Pille allowed six hits and four earned runs in her complete game start in game two, giving KU the 5-4 lead until UT scored three in the sixth. The Jayhawks could’ve folded in the series finale, facing a 10-1 deficit in the fifth. Rather, the Jayhawks scored five runs off of Texas’ All-American Blaire Luna in the fifth to drive her from the game and cut into the big lead, 10-6.
KU and UT each posted a .267 average as a team over the weekend, but the difference came on the defensive end. KU surrendered 32 runs, only 18 of which were earned.
As a team, KU is hitting at a .286 pace with 25 homers and have struck out 184 times compared to the opponents’ 260. The Jayhawks have now doubled their opponents’ doubles numbers (52-26), with Maggie Hull leading the way. Her 12 doubles lead the team and tie for first in the league. Junior shortstop Mariah Montgomery drilled her team-best seventh homer against Texas and leads the team with 37 RBIs.
No one’s hotter heading into the weekend, however, than freshman third baseman Chanin Naudin. On a 10-game hit streak, Naudin is hitting .600 (18-for-30) in that span with five doubles, two home runs and 12 RBIs.
In the circle, KU is throwing for a 3.10 team ERA. Pille (13-8) leads the staff with a 2.31 ERA and 147 strikeouts. Her strikeout count ranks fifth in the Big 12 and is nine shy of doubling KU’s K leader last season. One more win will tie her for fourth all-time among Kansas freshmen.
ABOUT IOWA STATE (12-28, 1-11 Big 12 Conference)
Picked to finish ninth in the Big 12 Preseason poll, the Cyclones played host to in-state rival Iowa on Wednesday night before heading to Lawrence. ISU’s lone win in Big 12 play came against then-No. 14 Texas A&M, proving the Cyclones’ ability to compete. In its most recent action, ISU was swept by Oklahoma State, including two, one-run games and a 10-6 series finale. Always battling, the Cyclones have yet to be shutout in Big 12 play.
At the plate, Iowa State’s .252 team average is ranked eighth in the Big 12. The Cyclones’ extra-base hit numbers are similar to the Jayhawks’, hitting 29 out of the park compared to KU’s 25, while Kansas holds the slight lead in team doubles (52-51). The Jayhawks do have the speed advantage, heading into the matchup with 37 stolen bases to ISU’s nine.
Junior Erica Miller leads the club with a .381 average and nine doubles, while fellow junior Tori Torrescano has a team-high 36 RBIs and 11 home runs with a .324 average. The two Cyclones are the only on the roster hitting above .300.
In the circle, ISU has six different pitchers that have seen time in the circle this season and the Cyclones hold a 7.19 team ERA. Sophomore right-hander Taylor Smith (3-3) leads the staff with a 4.95 ERA in 41 innings of work. Torrescano (7-19) takes on the bulk of the workload, tossing 121.2 innings in 30 appearances. The junior leads the team in strikeouts (64) and opponent batting average (.313).
HEAD COACH Megan Smith
On the inability to let down in the Big 12, even when facing an unranked opponent:
“Iowa State is athletic, well coached, with a great offense and can beat anyone on any given day. Every team in our conference can beat anyone on any given day. Us and Iowa State have been neck-and-neck the last three years. They’re always close games and they’re always fun games, so I expect the same this weekend.”
On the balance in Iowa State’s lineup being similar to KU’s:
“I think if you look at us, we’re very similar. They probably have a little better offensive numbers than we do. They’ve scored a lot of runs off of really good pitching in our conference. At the end of the day, I think we’re really similar and you’re going to see three very tight games.”
On reaping the benefits of the long-awaited string of home games:
“We’re playing really well, I think we’re starting to feel more comfortable at home and getting used to that routine of being here. That’s a lot different than on the road. It’s so much fun to play at home with all of our fans. We had great crowds last weekend and I know we’ll have great crowds again this weekend with our Pink in the Park game and Alumni Day on Saturday. It’s just so much more fun having that support and feeling like you have people pulling for you to do well. Our players really react to that.”
The Jayhawks will welcome the `Roos from UMKC to Arrocha Ballpark for a midweek doubleheader on Wednesday, April 25. Games times are set for 3/5 p.m.