Kansas softball opens 50th season at Leadoff Classic in Florida

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Kansas softball will debut its 50th season in program history this weekend at the Leadoff Classic, hosted by Stetson University in DeLand, Florida. The season-opening tournament features two games against Akron, two games against College of Charleston and one game against host Stetson.

  Friday, Feb. 9 – Sunday, Feb. 11
  DeLand, Fla. (Patricia Wilson Field)
 Game 1: vs. Akron
  Friday, Feb. 9
  12:30 p.m. CT
  Live Stats
 Game 2: at Stetson
  Friday, Feb. 9
  5:30 p.m. CT
  Live Stats
 Game 3: vs. College of Charleston
  Saturday, Feb. 10
  10 a.m. CT
  Live Stats
 Game 4: vs. Akron
  Saturday, Feb. 10
  12:30 p.m. CT
  Live Stats
 Game 5: vs. College of Charleston
  Sunday, Feb. 11
  9 a.m. CT
  Live Stats

• The 2018 Kansas softball campaign marks the 50th season overall and the ninth under head coach Megan Smith. Kansas has 246-179 record during Smith’s tenure. The Jayhawks have racked up a total of 1,375 wins since 1973 (records are not available from KU’s inaugural season in 1969 through 1972).
• The Jayhawks have a combined series record of 8-0 against teams in the Leadoff Classic.  
• KU’s 2018 roster is balanced with seasoned leadership and a renewed depth of talent, featuring seven seniors along with 10 newcomers.
• In the 2018 Big 12 Preseason Coaches Poll, the Jayhawks were picked to finish fifth by the league’s head coaches.
• KU is seeking its first NCAA Regionals appearance since back-to-back appearances in 2014 and 2015 under Coach Smith.
• The Jayhawk Way team counsel of leaders for 2018 is Sam Dellinger (hard work), Becki Monaghan (character), Harli Ridling (excellence), Courtney Taylor (energy), Erin McGinley (academics), Sarah Miller (family). The Jayhawk represents the six core values of the KU softball program.  
• Kansas will be on the road for 19-straight games before its home-opener against UMKC on March 8. Kansas will host a total of 25 home games at Arrocha Ballpark at Rock Chalk Park.
• During the fall 2017 semester, Kansas reported a program-record 3.45 team grade point average (GPA); 19 Jayhawks earned individual GPAs of 3.0 or higher, including five Jayhawks with a perfect 4.0 GPA.
• Last season, the Jayhawks went 24-28 overall and finished seventh in the Big 12 with a 3-14 mark during league play.

During the Megan Smith era, Kansas enters the 2018 season with a 4-4 record in season-opening games. The Jayhawks have always played two games on opening day since Smith’s arrival in 2010; KU is 9-7 on opening day under Smith, including winning five of the last six opening-day games.

Last season, the Jayhawks swept the field at the Leadoff Classic in DeLand by outscoring its opponents, 44-4, and starting the season with a 5-0 record.

Kansas leads the all-time series against Akron, 3-0. Friday marks the second-straight season Kansas will open its season against Akron. Last season, the Jayhawks swept the Zips in DeLand, Florida, with a 2-1 season-opening win and a 6-0 victory on the final day of the tournament. The only other meeting between the teams before 2017 was a 5-3 KU victory on March 17, 1988 in San Jose, California.

Kansas leads the all-time series against Stetson, 4-0. All four meetings have been on Stetson’s home field in DeLand, Florida — Patricia Wilson Field. Last season, the Jayhawks defeated the Hatters, 4-0, during a streak of five-straight wins to open the season. The series dates back to 2011, when Kansas won an extra-inning contest, 11-8. Kansas holds a combined 33-9 scoring advantage over Stetson through four games in the series, including two shutout victories.

Kansas leads the all-time series against College of Charleston, 1-0. The first and only meeting between the teams came in 2014, when Kansas defeated College of Charleston, 6-5, in Charleston, South Carolina.

Kansas head coach Megan Smith is four wins away from her 250th win at Kansas. Smith enters her ninth season at Kansas with a 246-179 (.579) record. The Jayhawks have reached 30 wins in six of the last seven seasons, including a 40-15 campaign in 2015 — the most wins by a Jayhawk team since 1997.

KU’s regular season schedule features 56 total games, including 18 conference games and 38 nonconference games. Kansas will play four weekends — 19 games — away from Lawrence prior to the home opener on March 8. The Jayhawks’ slate of 25 home games begins on March 8 against UMKC at Arrocha Ballpark at Rock Chalk Park.

The annual Orange Game to promote kidney cancer awareness will be Saturday, March 31 against Colorado State. Alumni Day and the 50th anniversary of women’s athletics at KU will be celebrated on Saturday, April 7 against Oklahoma State. Senior Day is set for Saturday, May 5 against Iowa State.

During the 2018 season, Kansas softball will make eight TV appearances and feature comprehensive online audio streaming coverage for the fourth-straight season.

KU’s coaching staff features two new faces for the 2018 season — associate head coach Rich Wieligman and video coordinator Chris Malveaux.

Wieligman has 11 years of experience as a head coach, including leading Oklahoma State to the Women’s College World Series in 2011. Wieligman served as the head coach at Oklahoma State for nine seasons (2007-15) and came to KU after a two-year stint at the University of Texas at Dallas (2016-17). He primarily coaches KU’s outfielders and hitters. Wieligman came to Kansas in Novmeber 2017 after former associate head coach John Rittman accepted the head coaching job at Clemson.

Malveaux joined Megan Smith’s coaching staff in February 2018 and brought with him a combined 16 years of experience as an assistant and head coach at the NCAA Division I level. Video coordinator — in charge of video capturing and analysis for the program — is a new position at KU this season. Malveaux will also be in place to step up into a temporary role as assistant coach while current assistant coach Abbie Butler and her husband, Tye, await the birth their first child this spring.

During the fall 2017 semester, Kansas reported a 3.45 team grade point average (GPA). It is the highest team GPA in program history according to the Kansas Athletics office of academic support. Of the team’s 25 student-athletes on the roster during the fall semester, 19 reported individual GPAs of 3.0 or higher, including five Jayhawks with a perfect 4.0 GPA (junior Emily Bermel, sophomore Sam Dellinger, junior Andie Formby, senior Sarah Miller and freshman Tarin Travieso).

For the second-straight season, Kansas softball was selected to finish fifth in the Big 12 Conference standings by the leagues head coaches. Kansas’ highest preseason conference ranking (fourth) was before the start of 2016 campaign. Six-time defending Big 12 regular-season champion and back-to-back reigning national champion Oklahoma and was selected to finish first after receiving six of seven first-place votes and a total of 36 points.

2018 Big 12 Preseason Poll
1          Oklahoma (6)    36
2          Baylor (1)          31
3          Texas               24
4          Oklahoma State 23
5          KANSAS           12
6          Iowa State         11
7          Texas Tech       10

From the moment a student-athlete steps on campus, Kansas head softball coach Megan Smith and her staff begin the process of instilling the Jayhawk Way into their team. The philosophy guides the Jayhawks in competing on the diamond, in the classroom and being a part of the community. There are several core values that the Jayhawks learn to live by while playing at Kansas: family, academics, character and hard work.

The Jayhawk Way team counsel of leaders for 2018 is Sam Dellinger (hard work), Becky Monaghan (character), Harli Ridling (excellence), Courtney Taylor (energy), Erin McGinley (academics), Sarah Miller (family).

The Jayhawks have made 12 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, including a trip to the Women’s College World Series in 1992. KU’s first NCAA appearance was in 1983 and from 1992-94, the Jayhawks made three-straight appearances in the field of 64 for the longest postseason streak in Kansas history. The Jayhawks hosted a regional in both the 1992 and 1994 NCAA Tournament. Overall, Kansas is 17-24 in the NCAA Tournament.

2017 WRAP
• Kansas softball ended the 2017 season with a 24-28 mark overall and 3-14 record during Big 12 play (seventh place).
• With its victory over then-No. 14 Baylor on March 25, 2017, KU’s streak increased to eight-straight seasons with a win over nationally-ranked opponents.
• Defensively, the Jayhawks posted second-best fielding percentage (.972) in the Big 12.
• Catcher Harli Ridling led the team with 11 home runs, which is tied for fourth in the league.
• Infielder Jessie Roane finished the season with the third-most doubles in the Big 12 (16) and eighth in RBIs recorded (40).
• Outfielder Erin McGinley recorded a team-best 19 stolen bases in 2017, which is the fifth-best mark in the Big 12.
• Kansas finished the season with a 3.54 ERA, which marked the fourth-best ERA in the Big 12.
• McGinley won the team’s Big Jay Award, Offensive Player of the Year and Academic Award. She was also an NFCA All-Region Second Team honoree and named to the Academic All-Big 12 First Team. The Prairie Village, Kansas, native played in all of KU’s 52 games in centerfield, leading the squad with a .337 batting average, 57 hits, and 19 stolen bases.
• Ridling earned KU’s Defensive Player of the Year award. Ridling was the lone Jayhawk to earn All-Big 12 honors in 2017, landing on the second team. She started 49 of Kansas’ 52 games during her junior season, posting a .326 clip with 47 hits and a team-high 11 home runs. In the field, Ridling totaled 206 putouts, 35 assists and just three errors behind the plate for a .988 fielding percentage.
• Infielder Becki Monaghan was named KU’s 2017 Rookie of the Year. Monaghan’s debut season as a Jayhawk included 47 starts with a .261 batting average, seven doubles, 15 RBIs and 12 runs scored. At first base, Monaghan totaled 337 putouts and 15 assists for a .989 fielding percentage. The Stony Plain, Alberta.

Kansas continues its 19-game season-opening road swing at the UTSA Softball Tournament in San Antonio, Texas, Feb. 16-18. The Jayhawks will play five games during the tournament against Prairie View A&M, UTSA, Lamar and Missouri State. It will mark the first of three trips to the Lone Star state this season. Seven Jayhawks are from the state of Texas, including San Antonian Tarin Travieso, a freshman left-handed pitcher.

Season tickets and single-game tickets for KU’s 25 home games at Arrocha Ballpark at Rock Chalk Park are now on sale through KUTickets.com or by calling the Kansas Athletics Ticket Office at 800-34-HAWKS.


KU head coach Megan Smith
On the start of the season…
We are excited to get started this weekend. We are ready to go out and compete against other teams and see what we have. We had a really strong fall — academically we had the best team GPA in program history, which is a testament to our girls and their dedication to their academics. On the field, I felt that we have one of our strongest teams we have had in the last few years. There are a lot of good returning players with experience and we also have had a lot of newcomers step up and perform very well. The fall went really well and it makes us really excited about starting this weekend.

On freshman outfielder Brittany Jackson …
Brittany is a spark plug for us. She is probably going to open this weekend as our leadoff hitter and our centerfielder, which is a tough task for a freshman, but I know she is capable. I’m very confident in her. She has a great demeanor; great attitude. She is a gritty player who is aggressive and goes all-out. I really think she is going to spark our offense. Her speed is something we haven’t had in quite a while, so we are really excited to see what she can do for us.

On senior outfielder Erin McGinley …
Erin is a leader. She is a tough player. She is one of those players who goes out and leads by example. She is also a vocal leader for us — she is not afraid to tell our team what they need to do and how we do things. That’s really important. She has so much experience. She was so successful last season. That’s a great thing for us.

On senior leadership …
We are returning Erin and Harli (Ridling), who were two of our best offensive players last season. It’s great we are getting them back. We know they are going to give their all for their senior season. Our team is going to go where our seniors take them. It’s really important that they stay the course with their game and not put too much pressure on themselves — just go out and do what we know they can do. We are definitely going to be looking to them for leadership throughout the season.

On junior pitcher Andie Formby …
Andie looks great. We are really excited to have her back. Last year was tough not having her (due to injury). She came back determined and dedicated as ever. She is meticulous. She is one of the hardest workers on our team. She is a perfectionist. She comes every day and gives her all. She is excellent every day she comes out to the field. I think that is something that her teammates need to look to. She locks-in on every pitch she throws and we are excited to have her back.

On junior utility player Brynn Minor (2017 NJCAA Player of the Year) …
Brynn had an excellent junior college career. She was a dynamic junior college player — as pitcher and a hitter. She comes in with a lot of experience and a lot of confidence. She is very calm. Her demeanor is very calm, which I really like. In the circle, she just does her job — she hits her spots. Offensively, she has seemly effortless power — it comes out of nowhere. It’s pretty exciting to watch her play. To have someone with that great experience of winning two national championships and national player of the year awards, that is huge for our team. She goes out and expects to win every game and that’s important.





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