2014 Softball Season Outlook: Pitchers
Returning: Senior Alex Jones, junior Alicia Pille and sophomore Kelsey Kessler
New: Junior Beth Wilson and freshman Sophia Templin
LAWRENCE, Kan. – The 2014 season begins later this afternoon and Kansas softball will preview its final position to conclude a four-part season outlook series. The final installment of the 2014 season outlook includes KU’s pitching staff.
Although defense may be the Jayhawks’ strongest suit in 2014, Kansas’ pitching staff is a close second. KU welcomes back 2013 All-Big 12 Second Team selection Kelsey Kessler, veterans Alicia Pille and Alex Jones to the circle. In 2013, the pitching trio helped the Jayhawks record their lowest ERA (2.54) since the 2009 season. The dominant pitching staff has only gotten stronger since 2013 ended, which concluded on a high note for Kessler.
The sophomore right-hander tallied a win in each of her final four starts, including a victory over No. 1 Oklahoma to send the seniors off in style. In Big 12 play, Kessler led the staff with a 7-3 record and 2.22 ERA, the most wins by a Jayhawk pitcher since 2001 and the best ERA in league action since 2006. On the season, Kessler compiled a 12-6 record with a 2.19 ERA in 17 starts and 26 appearances.
Pille, a junior from Royce City, Texas, is the most-experienced starter returning on the pitching staff. She started 25 games and made 31 appearances last season in the circle to lead Kansas with 13 victories and a career-high 172 strikeouts. In two seasons, Pille has struck out 343 batters to become one of 10 Jayhawks to record over 300 career strikeouts. She was fourth among all pitchers in the Big 12 with seven shutouts and totaled 16 complete games a season ago.
Although she will spend plenty of time in the outfield, Jones will again make appearances in the circle for the Jayhawks. The senior keeps batters off balance and consistently throws strikes, which Kansas will look for her to continue in her fifth and final season. Last season, Jones hurled KU’s lowest ERA (1.94) and tied her career mark of seven victories. She threw her first complete game, allowing just one run and four hits, while striking out a career-high 11 batters against St. Mary’s (3/15/13).
Additions to the pitching staff for 2014 include junior transfer Beth Wilson and freshman Sophia Templin. Wilson had success at the junior college level after earning All-America honors as a sophomore and the Jayhawks will look for that success to continue at Kansas. Wilson recorded a 1.96 ERA and 232 strikeouts as a freshman and helped Heartland to back-to-back Mid-West Athletic Conference championships. Templin, a local product from De Soto, Kan., helped DSHS to a state championship as a senior and holds the Wildcat pitching record of 62-9. She also earned all-state and all-conference honors in her senior season.
KU softball opens the 2014 season on Feb. 7 at Central Florida and will spend the first five weeks of the season on the road before hosting the Jayhawk Invitational March 14-16 at Arrocha Ballpark.
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