Kansas Hits the Road to Start 2014
LAWRENCE, Kan. — The wait is over for the Jayhawks as the 2014 softball season is finally here. Kansas opens the year on the road for the 21st-straight season. KU faces UCF, South Dakota, LIU Brooklyn, Fordham and Tennessee-Chattanooga at a tournament hosted by the Knights Feb. 7-9 at the UCF Softball Complex. All games can be followed via live stats available on KUAthletics.com. LEADING OFF FOR KANSAS
- The Jayhawks open the 2014 season in Florida for the sixth time in program history and second time at UCF. Kansas faces two opponents (LIU Brooklyn and Fordham) for the first time, while meeting UCF for the fourth time, South Dakota for the second time and Chattanooga for the third time in program history.
- KU has an overall mark of 21-16 in season openers and is 2-2 in the first game of the season under head coach Megan Smith. Kansas is 5-0 when opening the season at a tournament in Florida with the first being the start of the 2003 season.
- Smith, entering her fifth season at the helm of the Jayhawk softball program, fields a roster that features 10 veterans and eight rookies. Among the veterans leading Kansas are fifth-year senior outfielder Alex Jones and senior infielder Ashley Newman.
- The Jayhawks return seven starters from last season’s line up. Both of Kansas’ starting pitchers are back along with 3-of-4 infielders. Fifth-year senior Alex Jones is the only returning starter in the outfield, who will also make appearances in the circle.
- Kansas welcomes back two 2013 All-Big 12 Second Team selections in sophomores Chaley Brickey and Kesley Kessler and 2013 NFCA All-Region honoree Maddie Stein.
- KU finished the 2013 campaign with 34 wins and for the 27th time concluded the season with 30 or more wins. The Jayhawks have earned 30 or more wins in the past three seasons under Smith.
- Offensively, the Jayhawks return four players that hit .300 or better last season and helped lead Kansas to earn the 2013 batting title. KU hit .345 in 2013 setting a new Kansas and Big 12 single-season record.
- Junior Maddie Stein led KU with 49 RBIs in 2013. After two seasons, Stein is one RBI away from the halfway mark of the Kansas career RBI record (140, Maggie Hull).
- KU’s Maggie Hull became the first Kansas player to earn All-America honors since Serena Settlemier earned Second Team All-America honors in 2006. She became the 12th Jayhawk in program history to earn the distinction as a second team honoree in 2013.
SCOUTING THE FIELD UCF: The Knights concluded the 2013 season with an overall mark of 29-25 and a conference record 10-14. UCF finished sixth in the league standings last season and have been picked to finish fourth in the American Athletic Conference in 2014. The Knights hit .224 last season with 45 doubles, 18 home runs and 140 RBIs. In 2013, junior third baseman Farrah Sullivan led UCF in batting average (.281), hits (39) and home runs (6). In the circle, Mackenzie Audas started a team-high 31 games last season and posted a 2.53 ERA. She struck out a team-best 224 batters in 205 innings pitched and had a 14-17 record. South Dakota: The Coyotes ended the 2013 slate 29-20 and 12-7 in Summit League action. South Dakota finished 2013 in fourth place last season, and was tabbed to conclude the 2014 season in fourth place. The Coyotes collected 68 doubles, 44 home runs and 221 RBIs while hitting .283 on the year. Sophomoe Yvon Minoque led the team with a .357 batting average. She also recorded nine doubles, six home runs and 39 RBIs. USD’s pitching staff tossed a 2.92 ERA and 233 strikeouts. Sophomore Madison Frain returns to the circle in 2014. Last season, she hurled nine complete games, to record an ERA of 4.23 and 92 strikeouts. LIU Brooklyn: The Black Birds finished their 2013 slate 19-38 overall and in fourth place in the Northeast Conference with a mark of 13-7. At the plate, LIU Brooklyn hit .268 with 68 doubles, 18 home runs and 186 RBIs. Redshirt junior Lauren Morizi led the team in 2013 hitting .397 with a team-best 18 doubles and 33 RBIs. In the circle, the Black Birds posted a combined ERA of 4.49 and struck out 173 batters. Redshirt senior Cassie Vondrak tossed 27 complete games last season, recorded a team-best ERA of 4.00 and struck out a team leading 102 batters. Fordham: The Rams are the reigning Atlantic-10 champions and ended the 2013 campaign with 36-23 record. Fordham recorded a league record of 15-7 a year ago and is predicted to top the conference once again in 2014. The Rams lost only five lettermen from last season’s roster and return 15. On the year, Fordham batted .306 while tallying 78 doubles, 69 home runs and 287 RBIs. Senior Elise Fortier led the team hitting .362, while posting a team-best 16 doubles. The pitching staff hurled 224 strikeouts and combined for a 3.30 ERA. Junior Michele Daubman tossed a team-high 13 complete games and 111 strikeouts. Daubman posted a 3.49 ERA in 174.1 innings pitched. Tennessee-Chattanooga: The Mocs concluded the 2013 season with an overall record of 26-28 and a conference mark of 10-11 to finish tied for fifth in the league standings. Collectively, Chattanooga recorded 65 doubles, 15 home runs and 196 RBIs while batting .288. Sophomore Sam Taylor hit .333 last season, which is the highest of the 2014 returners. She recorded six doubles, two triples, a home run and 13 RBIs. In the circle, the Mocs posted a 3.44 ERA and 249 strikeouts. Junior ace Taylor Deason went 16-12 from the mound with 149 strikeouts and 3.46 ERA in 192.1 innings pitched.
OFFENSIVE PRODUCTION RETURNS Although Kansas lost some heavy hitters at the end of the 2013 season, the Jayhawks return 48 percent of their RBI production from a season ago. KU recorded 277 RBIs last year and 135 came from Jayhawks returning to the lineup in 2014. Junior Maddie Stein led the team with 49 RBIs. The Jayhawks also have 47.5 percent of their run production is returning this spring. SHARING THE CIRCLE The Jayhawks return three pitchers from last season’s line up who combined for 339 strikeouts and 32 wins. Kansas’ pitching trio of Alicia Pille (13-8), Kelsey Kessler (12-6) and Alex Jones (7-2) mark the first time since the 2008 season that three different Jayhawks have recorded seven or more wins in a season since 2008. In 2013, the Jayhawks hurled a combined ERA of 2.54, which is the lowest team ERA since the 2009 campaign.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN Kansas stole 36 bases in 2013, 20 of which came from seniors Alex Jones and Ashley Newman. Jones led the team with 11 stolen bases, while Newman tallied nine last season. Jones, a fifth-year senior, has led the team in stolen bases in three of the last four years.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN The Jayhawks are set to play the first five weekends of the 2013 season away from Lawrence. KU will play 24-straight games on the road before hosting the Jayhawk Invitational March 14-16. In 2013, Kansas was 12-7 on the road and 25-8 away from Arrocha Ballpark during the non-conference slate.
UP NEXT The Jayhawks stay on the road and head to Charleston, S.C. for the College of Charleston Tournament Feb. 14-16. Kansas will face College of Charleston, Fordham, Ole Miss, DePaul and Western Carolina.
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