🥎 Jayhawks Open 2021 Campaign in Baton Rouge
BATON ROUGE, La. – The Kansas Jayhawks have had to wait more than 11 months to return to the diamond, but that time has finally come.
Coach Jennifer McFalls and the Kansas softball program will open their 2021 season Friday with a doubleheader against McNeese State at the LSU Tiger Classic in Baton Rouge. The first game is set for 11 a.m., and the second one will follow at 1:30 pm.
Here’s what to know about the Jayhawks entering this weekend and the season:
The top three hitters from last year’s team return to the Jayhawks in 2021. Shelby Gayre led the team with a .393 clip, followed by Brittany Jackson (.386) and Sydnee Ramsey (.329). Madison Hirsch, who hit .421 in 38 at-bats also returns, as does Miranda Rodriguez, who hit .300 and started all 26 games.
In the circle, the two pitchers who saw the most innings last year also return. Hailey Reid was 4-5 in 67.2 innings, while Tatum Goff was 5-4 in 55 innings.
The Jayhawks welcome in six newcomers this season. All six are freshmen. The list includes utility Angela Price, pitcher Savanna DesRochers, catcher/utility Lyric Moore, infielder Kaitlyn Gee, outfielder Sophia Buzard and pitcher/utility Kasey Hamilton.
Like every softball team in America, Kansas had its 2020 season cut short. The Jayhawks got 26 total games in and went 13-13 in Jen McFalls’ second season. The Jayhawks finished incredibly strong, going 11-4 over their final 15 games of the 2020 season. The only losses came to Texas A&M and Arkansas.
Gayre the All-American
Shelby Gayre was able to have a banner 2020 season, despite it being cut short. Not only did Gayre lead the team with a .393 average, she also led the team with 11 home runs, 24 RBI and 13 walks. She was named a second-team All-American by Softball America.
Gayre is Kansas softball’s first All-American since 2013 when Maggie Hull earned third-team honors by the NFCA.
Mills Looking to Carry Over Success
Junior pitcher Lexy Mills had a strong finish to her 2020 season, and is one to watch as the 2021 season approaches. Over her last four games, she went 3-1 in 19.0 innings with 21 strikeouts over that stretch. Her lone loss came in a 1-0 defeat against the No. 20 ranked Arkansas Razorbacks. All total, Mills went 3-3 on the season with a 3.86 ERA in 23.1 innings.
The Jayhawks return their sparkplug in 2021 in senior outfielder Brittany Jackson. She has appeared in 115 games for the Jayhawks and has a career batting average of .297. She gets on a base at a .361 clip for her career and has scored 64 runs.
Last year, she was having her best season as a Jayhawk, hitting .386 and playing in all 26 games for Kansas. At one point of the season last year, she had multi-hit games in six of eight contests.
Numbers to Know:
The Jayhawks return 17 players from last year’s squad. Kansas will rely on that experience to navigate through the 2021 season. Seven returning starters are also back this season for the Jayhawks.
Shelby Gayre led the team with 11 home runs last season. That ranked her fourth overall in the country and first overall in the Big 12 Conference.
Brittany Jackson led last year’s squad with 32 hits. That ranked her second in the Big 12 Conference behind Janae Jefferson from Texas.
The Jayhawks finished the season ranked second in the Big 12 Conference in home runs per game at 1.31. They trailed only Oklahoma, who sits at 1.42. KU’s average also ranked them 10th overall in the country.
Kansas pitchers struck out 126 batters last season in 13 games. Of those 126 strikeouts, 120 return this season, thanks to Hailey Reed, Tatum Goff, Lexy Mills and Hannah Todd.
Sophomore Lexy Mills recorded three wins at the Rock Chalk Challenge last season. She tallied 12.2 innings and 17 strikeouts for the Jayhawks in her three games in the RCC.
Kansas drew 87 walks last season in 26 games. That ranked them in a tie for first place in the Big 12 Conference with Texas.
KU hit 34 home runs in 26 games last season. That was eight more than its opponents who compiled 26 against the Jayhawks.
Kansas had 193 hits in 26 games last season. Of the 193, 153 of those hits are back in this year’s lineup, headlined by Brittany Jackson, who had a team-high 32 hits last year. Sydnee Ramsey had 25 hits, which was second on the team, while Shelby Gayre had 24. Miranda Rodriguez, also back this year, had 21.