Jayhawks Walk-off Winners Against Arkansas, 4-3
BOCA RATON, Florida – Down two strikes with a pair of runners in scoring position, Taylor McElhaney drove a ball through the left side of the infield to give Kansas its third straight win to open the 2015 season, a 4-3 walk-off decision over Arkansas at FAU Softball Stadium Saturday.
McElhaney had two hits, both which drove in runs, but none was bigger than the charge in the bottom of the seventh to break a 3-3 tie at the Florida Atlantic Kickoff Classic and cap another come-from-behind victory for Kansas (3-0). The Jayhawks trailed 3-1 through the middle three innings before plating two in the sixth to tie the game and then pushed pinch runner Amanda Organ across with two outs in the seventh.
“I’m proud of our players for taking it on the chin a little bit and never giving up and fighting the whole game – I’m really proud of them for that,” Kansas head coach Megan Smith said.
Kansas scored runs in three different innings, adding a single run early in the second inning to lead before Arkansas retaliated with three in the top of the third. All three scoring frames involved McElhaney and Chanin Naudin, who went 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles and runs scored.
Naudin’s first hit of the season, a double to left center, gave McElhaney a chance to drive in her first run in the bottom of the second and gave Kansas its first lead, 1-0.
“I knew she struggled (yesterday) but I know Chanin and I know she’s going to come back and fight and get the job done, and that’s exactly what she did today,” Smith said. “She was dominant up there and she’s a reason why we got the win.”
A day after taking a no-hit bid into the fifth inning of a run-rule shortened victory over LIU-Brooklyn, Kansas starter Monique Wesley labored against a tougher Razorback (1-3) lineup. In all three of the first innings, Arkansas had at least one base runner, including the leadoff batter in the second and third.
Beth Wilson earned the win in relief for Kansas, her first appearance of the season.
Wesley worked out of jams in the first and second, but got burned in the third after walking the leadoff and hitting the third batter. Back-to-back singles by Nicole Schroeder and Loren Krzysko tied the game then gave the Razorbacks their first lead at 2-1. Wesley was lifted with one out in the third and was charged with another run as Beth Wilson worked to get Kansas out of the pickle.
Kansas stranded a runner in the bottom of the third – one of 22 total runners left on base by both teams – failed to take advantage of an opportunity to score in the fourth and was retired in order in the fifth before finally breaking through in the sixth. Even that was a bit of a struggle.
Shannon McGinley walked to lead off the sixth and Naudin crushed a double to the wall, but a ground out and failed sacrifice attempt left Arkansas one out away from leaving the Jayhawks empty and frustrated. Instead, Kansas took advantage of a Briana Evans slap that barely left the batter’s box to pull within one, then Lily Behrmann wore a pitch to load the bases and Chaley Brickey walked on four pitches to tie the game.
Arkansas reliever Allison Stewart got Maddie Stein to fly out to end the inning, but Kansas was just getting going.
Wilson, who struck out two and scattered five hits over 4.2 innings of relief, cruised through the top of the seventh and freshman designated player Daniella Chavez walked to lead off the bottom half. After Naudin singled – to reach safely for the fourth time in the game – Kansas had runners on first and second when freshman catcher Jessie Roane nearly ended the game for Kansas but lined out to short. A a passed ball moved both runners into scoring position for McElhaney, who finally punched it through.
“I have confidence in my team and I know the players out on the field can get the job done,” Smith said of her mindset in the final innings. “I felt really confident. I will say that Beth coming in and doing as well as she did kind of put us at ease a little bit. She was competing and doing a job with her hitters. That made me feel really confident in us having chances to come back offensively.
“With T-Mac you just know – she’s so calm and confident in herself – I never doubt her because she never doubts herself. That’s a great approach as a hitter. That was a great hit to end the game. Daniella starting it off with a walk was huge for us to get a runner on and breathe in some life to our offense in the bottom of the seventh.”
Wilson earned the victory in her first appearance of the season and Stewart, a Kansas City native, was tagged with the loss for Arkansas. Six different Jayhawks had base hits and the team drew six walks. Arkansas’ Kasey Fagan (3) and Stephanie Canfield (2) each had multi-hit efforts.
Kansas has won its first three games in two of the last three seasons and continues play Saturday evening at the FAU Kickoff Classic against tournament-host Florida Atlantic at 5 p.m. (CT) before closing the opening weekend against Penn State early Sunday morning.
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