Kansas Comes Back to Beat Iowa State in Eight, 12-6
May 11, 2013
AMES, Iowa – Facing two outs and a two-run deficit in the seventh, senior Mariah Montgomery strode to the plate. With the bases loaded, the captain extended on an outside pitch and tied the game with a two-run single to right field. Her clutch hit opened the door to a six-run eighth inning to down Iowa State 12-6 Saturday afternoon at the Cyclone Sports Complex.
Kansas (33-16, 8-8) and Iowa State (21-33, 4-13) combined to put on a good show. When one team scored, the other would answer to set the tone for a high-scoring, high-intensity game. But after rallying from a 1-0 deficit, a 2-2 tie and a 3-3 tie by taking a 4-3 lead in the top of the fifth – the Jayhawks saw Iowa State retake the lead, 6-4, and sit just one out away from tying the series.
Then Montgomery came through. Her two-RBI single tied the game, 6-6, and forced extra innings. Once freshman Kelsey Kessler (11-6) held the Cyclones scoreless in the bottom of the seventh, the Jayhawk offense erupted. Kansas chalked up seven hits – including freshman Alex Hugo’s 15th homer of the season – to pour on six runs in the top of the eighth and seal the comeback victory.
The eight Big 12 Conference wins marks the most since KU went 8-10 in the 2006 season. On Sunday, KU has the chance to finish above .500 in Big 12 play for the first time since 2005 (9-8). KU’s series-clinching victory combined with Oklahoma State’s second loss to Oklahoma on Saturday also ensured the Jayhawks a fourth-place finish in the Big 12 standings, the highest since the 2001 season when KU also finished fourth.
“That’s big for us,” head coach Megan Smith said. “We’ve struggled in the Big 12 and we’ve been working our way up. Last year I thought we made some good strides, we just couldn’t come through with some wins that we needed. This year, we’ve really taken a big step and I’m very proud of the girls and the hard work they’ve put into it. We’re hoping for the sweep tomorrow. We’re going to face a really good Iowa State team that battled us today, and we’re going to get their best effort on Senior Day.”
Sophomore third baseman Chanin Naudin brought the same power from the series opener with her in game two. The Princeton, Texas native drilled her seventh homer of the year and second of the weekend to turn an early ISU lead to a 2-1 KU advantage in the top of the second. Naudin finished the day 3-for-3, but reached all five times as she walked twice.
Senior left fielder Maggie Hull also reprised her role as a home run hitter from game one, knocking out her second of the series in the top of the fifth, turning a 3-3 tie game into a 4-3 Kansas lead. The senior captain went 3-for-4 with three runs scored. She and Montgomery went right back to competing for the career RBI crown, as well. Montgomery’s game-tying single in the seventh tied her with Hull with 138 RBIs apiece, but Hull gave KU its last lead of the day with her two-run base hit in the eighth – bringing her total to 140 with one regular-season game remaining.
The Jayhawks had plenty of offensive stars on Saturday, churning out 16 hits and six for extra bases. Every member of the KU lineup contributed at least one hit, while more than half of KU’s nine batters posted multiple hits.
Aside from Hull, Hugo and Naudin, freshman shortstop Chaley Brickey roped two hits as did junior second baseman Ashley Newman. Sophomore right fielder Cassen Salamone logged her first career triple and drove in an RBI.
“We responded really well and had people stepping up in clutch situations,” Smith said. “I thought Mia (Mariah Montgomery) stepping up and getting that two-out hit was really big and from then, we just rolled. Our girls stayed focused and attacked good pitches.”
In the circle, sophomore Alicia Pille made the start. She threw 2.1 innings before a solo home run from ISU shortstop Lexi Slater ended her outing. Kessler came in to relieve her and although she didn’t see the shutout success from the previous day, she allowed only three runs on six hits and struck out four over 5.2 innings for the win.
Opposite Pille, fellow sophomore Taylor Smith (8-10) also made the start, but was pulled following Hull’s solo shot in the top of the fifth. Senior Tori Torrescano (11-15) took over and suffered the loss, giving up eight runs on nine hits in her four innings of work.
ISU all-time RBI leader, senior Erica Miller, kicked off the day’s scoring with an RBI single in the bottom of the first. Although it marked the Cyclones’ first lead of the weekend, it was short lived. Naudin’s two-run blast came in the Jayhawks’ next at bat to put the visitors in front, 2-1.
Setting the back-and-forth trend, Iowa State came out firing in the bottom of the second, collecting a pair of singles to lead off the frame. A sac bunt moved the runners to second and third, allowing freshman centerfielder Brittany Gomez room to drive in a game-tying RBI. The Cyclones looked to add more, loading the bases with two away, but Pille buckled down on a full count to Torrescano for the strikeout to leave the bases loaded and the game tied, 2-2.
Pille’s offense responded immediately as Hugo and Brickey drilled a double and a single, respectively, to lead off the Kansas third. A double play would cut the inning short, but allowed Hugo enough time to sprint home and untie the game in the Jayhawks’ favor, 3-2.
Once again, the Cyclones came roaring right back when Slater’s homer knotted the game, 3-3, this time ending Pille’s outing. After shutting out the Cyclones the day before, Kessler came in and ended the threat with back-to-back flyouts thanks to solid tracking from KU centerfielder Alex Jones.
Kessler and Smith each worked through a scoreless fourth inning before the Jayhawks jumped back on the board in the top of the fifth. Hull added to her KU RBI record with long solo shot past the right field wall, pushing KU ahead, 4-3.
The home run ended Smith’s start for Torrescano. The senior reliever went on to keep the Jayhawks at bay until their final four outs of the game, when KU broke loose for eight runs on nine hits to lay claim to the comeback win.
Kansas and Iowa State will square off in the series finale on Sunday at noon. The game will also be Senior Day at the Cyclone Sports Complex.
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