🥎 Jayhawks Ready for Season Opener at NFCA Leadoff Classic
CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Kansas Softball team travels to Clearwater, Florida, to compete in the annual NFCA Leadoff Classic from Feb. 9-11 at Eddie C. Moore Complex. KU will play in two games Friday, two on Saturday and one on Sunday.
On Friday, Feb. 9, Kansas will take the field against No. 15 Oregon in the season opener before squaring off against St. John’s. On Saturday, Feb. 10, Kansas will match up against Big Ten foe Indiana, followed by a contest with Central Arkansas. Kansas will conclude its weekend in Clearwater facing off against Western Kentucky.
“I’m excited for our team to get started and face somebody other than ourselves, in terms of competition,” said Head Coach Jennifer McFalls. “I think it’s a great weekend to measure where we are at, get on the dirt and play in front of some great crowds. Most importantly, this is a great opportunity to self-evaluate and see what we have to do to keep getting better.”
The 2023 season was one of the program’s most successful campaigns under sixth-year head coach Jennifer McFalls. The Jayhawks posted 25 wins, their most since 2018, along with five Big 12 Conference wins, the most since 2016. Last season, KU defeated nine NCAA Tournament teams, including Baylor, Cal State Fullerton, Liberty, Long Beach State, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Texas and Wichita State. Kansas also claimed its first Big 12 Tournament win since 2007 with its 8-7 comeback victory over No. 8 Oklahoma State, leading Kansas to a 53rd-place finish on the RPI list.
Kansas is led by its senior class of eight student-athletes, five of which are regular producers. Of the seniors, left-handed pitcher Kasey Hamilton and catcher Lyric Moore are the standouts. Hamilton has led KU in innings pitched every year since 2021 and led last year’s team with 96 strikeouts. Her best performance came at No. 8 Texas, tossing a complete game and allowing the Longhorns to just three runs off five hits. That was the first win against a top-10 Big 12 Conference opponent on the road since 2002. Hamilton threw complete games on two other occasions last season, leading KU to a 5-0 win over Cal State Fullerton and a 4-3 win over Tulsa.
Moore enters the season after being a NFCA All-Region Third Team selection last season, leading KU in batting average, runs, hits, doubles, triples, home runs and total bases in 2023. She also earned Big 12 Softball Player of the Week on February 14, 2023. Behind the dish, Moore caught nine runners stealing, which ranked second in the Big 12.
Kansas is also returning Big 12 All-Freshmen Team selection Lizzy Ludwig, a right-handed pitcher who led KU with an ERA of 2.72 in 67.0 innings pitched and ranked T-3rd in the Big 12 with four saves. In her first career start, Ludwig earned a win over Big 12 opponent Texas Tech, clinching KU’s first conference series victory since 2019.
Last season, KU faced off against Central Arkansas early in the season in the Jayhawk Invitational on March 10. Central Arkansas rose victorious in five innings. Overall, Kansas holds a 3-2 all-time series lead over UCA. Oregon leads KU 8-3 all-time, Kansas leads St. John’s 1-0, Kansas leads Indiana 8-1 and this will be the first matchup against Western Kentucky in program history.
HOW TO FOLLOW ALONG
All five games will be streamed via GameChanger. Fans have the option to either stream the action from a smartphone using the GameChanger app or can stream the action on the GameChanger website here. Fans can also follow live stats here and are encouraged to follow along with the official Kansas Softball X Account for updates throughout the tournament.
Kansas will continue its road trip in Florida as it will take on USF at the USF Softball Stadium on Monday, Feb. 12, at 5 p.m. CT, with the game being streamed via ESPN+.