All Bark, No Bite as Kansas Withstands Late Charge from FAU
BOCA RATON, Florida – A grand slam to clear the bases in the bottom of the seventh may have been more detrimental to the offense than it was to the defense as Kansas withstood a six-run charge by Florida Atlantic to win 7-6 at the Owls home tournament Saturday night. The win moved Kansas to 4-0 to start the season, the seventh time since 1980 that the Jayhawks have won at least four to start the year and tied for the most to start a season since winning 10-straight in 2011.
Kansas starter Alicia Pille pitched six, nearly flawless innings at FAU Stadium, taking a two-hit shutout into the seventh, before taking the Owls’ best shot in a messy seventh to finish game. FAU’s Melissa Martinez made it a one-run contest with a grand slam to left field, but once the bases were cleared Pille shut the door by inducing a ground out to short.
“That was my 14th inning this weekend and I was starting to get tired – they were starting to get dinky hits,” Pille said. “We should’ve been out of the inning, I should’ve finished a pitch. It was just one of those things. When I looked at the scoreboard, I was like ‘Oh, it’s only six runs and hey, the bases are empty…one less thing to worry about.’ I just needed to attack the last out after that.
“It’s easier to pitch when the bases are empty because it’s less pressure – you don’t have to worry about passed balls, all these other things. It was like, ‘Guess what, we still have one (more) so it really doesn’t matter at the end of the day.’ A win is a win.”
KU’s Lily Behrman tied Florida Atlantic’s Delaney Rickey with a game-best three hits and was one of three Jayhawks – Briana Evans (2) and Chaley Brickey (2) – with multi-hit games. Brickey reached in all four of her plate appearances, finishing the game 2-for-2 with a pair of walks, in addition to fielding the game-ending grounder Pille induced.
“We fully expected Florida Atlantic to come out and have a very powerful offense,” Kansas head coach Megan Smith said. “We knew they had that in them, we watched them yesterday and they put up 12 runs against Arkansas. We knew they were that type of a team and Pille did a great job to hold them scoreless for six innings. The seventh just kind of snowballed a little bit. They took some momentum there offensively, but lucky for us we came out of it and we’re going home 4-0 right now and ready to come back tomorrow to go 5-0.”
Daniella Chavez plated three in the first inning with a double to the wall in left center.
The wacky ending was fitting after a similarly wacky start. Kansas sent eight batters to the plate and scored four runs on just two hits while Florida Atlantic committed a pair of errors in the first. Like the game’s end, the Jayhawks also used a bases-clearing knock as designated player Daniella Chavez broke open a 1-0 game with an opposite field double to the wall in left to score three. It was the third time in four games the freshman has recorded a hit and her second double of the year.
“I was really locked in,” Chavez said. “I had struggled the game before so I knew that I needed to come in, change my ways and make a difference. I came in with confidence and knew that I was going to get on. I needed to score some runs for our team. It felt great, came off really good – I was just happy at that moment.”
With a four run lead to work with before even throwing her first pitch, Pille went to work. The senior right-hander didn’t give up the first hit to the Owls until the third inning, working around an occasional walk, and despite going deep into many counts, didn’t labor with runners on too often.
The Jayhawks added another pair of runs in the top of the fourth, using back-to-back infield singles and a blooper to center by Behrmann to load the bases. Brickey pushed a run in when she walked in the next at bat and the Jayhawks added a run when a failed double play turned into an errant throw.
Brickey used her bat to score KU’s final run in the top of the sixth, a hot shot up the middle that glanced off the pitchers glove and fell harmlessly between first and second while Evans scored from third.
Pille had seemingly lulled everyone into a stupor by the start of the seventh inning and casually induced a leadoff fly ball to start the frame. That’s when the “dinky” hits came, three in a row to surpass FAU’s total from the previous six innings, including an RBI single by Christina Martinez to give the Owls their first run.
Pille struck out Carnesha Thompson for the second out and nearly got out of the inning before a bloop hit to first pushed across run No. 2 for FAU. That’s when Martinez homered, and instead of increasing the pressure by cutting the lead to one, decreased the pressure by reducing the runners to none.
Kansas looks to close out its perfect run at the FAU Kickoff Classic early Sunday morning when it matches up with Penn State (3-0), who has also gone undefeated in tourney play to open its season. First pitch between the Jayhawks and the Nittany Lions is scheduled for 8 a.m. (CT).
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