Kansas Improves to 5-0, Pille No Hits Penn State in Run-Rule Victory
BOCA RATON, Florida – A walk to the second batter of the game was all that stood between Alicia Pille and run-rule shortened perfection as Kansas’ senior starter shut-down, and shut-out Penn State, 8-0, at Florida Atlantic Stadium Sunday morning. Kansas scored runs in four of the five innings, including three each in the second and third, to win its fifth straight game to open the season.
The showdown between the two undefeated teams at the FAU Kickoff Classic never really got a chance to be much of a contest, with Reina Furuya (walk) and Alyssa VanDerveer (fielder’s choice) the only two Penn State (3-1) players able to reach base in a no-hit effort by Pille and the Kansas (5-0) defense. The Jayhawk ace retired 14 straight to close the game and twice struck out three in a row, including the side in the top of the second.
“It absolutely (gives our team a boost) – not just to no-hit a team, but no-hit Penn State,” Kansas head Coach Smith said. “Penn State is a strong team from a strong conference and that’s a difficult task to do. We’ve watched Penn State play all weekend, they were undefeated before they played us, they have excellent hitters and hit for power. For her to come out and send that message, I thought that’s really going to inspire our team going forward – that our pitcher can go out against such a tough team and shut them down like that.”
Kansas third baseman Chanin Naudin led all players with a 3-for-4 effort and drove in a pair of runs – the second of which ended the game in the bottom of the fifth. Kansas used just seven hits to score its runs, benefitting from 11 free passes from the Penn State pitching staff. In all, eight of Kansas’ nine batters reached at least once with Maddie Stein (4), Lily Behrmann (3), Daniella Chavez (2) and Shannon McGinley (2) joining Naudin on base multiple times.
“We think (our hitters) have been too aggressive in the last few games, so we really wanted them to focus on getting their pitch and not just swing at the first one that’s close,” Smith said. “We challenged them to be aggressive, but be smart and aggressive, and they did that very well today. Penn State’s pitching staff, who is very good, had a rough day and our team being so patient didn’t help them.”
Behind Pille, second baseman Taylor McElhaney ran a ball down behind the bag to get the lead runner in the first, centerfielder Briana Evans snow coned a ball on the run in left center field to take away another hit, and the Jayhawks made all the routine plays.
After Pille worked around the one-out walk in the top of the first, thanks in part to McElhaney, Kansas got its first base runner in the bottom half but a double play ended the advance. It was the only jam the Nittany Lions would be able to wiggle out of the entire game.
Chanin Naudin went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles.
Kansas loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the second and the third free pass of the inning, issued to McGinley, pushed the first run across. Two batters later, McElhaney dropped a ball into shallow right center to score Chavez from third, then Behrmann walked to plate another. All nine batters had a plate appearance as Kansas took a 3-0 lead.
Stein, who walked to start the second, singled to start the third, then scored from first on Naudin’s first RBI double of the day. Again, Kansas would load the bases, and again, Kansas would score three runs, this time adding two on wild pitches.
Stein made it three leadoff reaches in a row when she walked in the fourth, then scored on a double off the centerfield wall by Chavez. Although she didn’t start it, Stein was also on base with a walk following Chaley Brickey’s two out walk in the bottom of the fifth when Naudin doubled to right to score Brickey and trigger the mercy rule.
“I’m glad Chanin hit the eighth run in, because I was starting to feel it,” an ice-wrapped Pille said after the game. “Our hitting has been amazing and it helps so much that we only had to play five innings.”
The win gave Kansas its best start since winning a program-record 10-straight to start the 2011 season and was Pille’s second no-hitter as a Jayhawk. Since 1980, Kansas pitchers have thrown 25 individual and combined no-hitters.
“We’re going to enjoy today’s win and this weekend’s performance for the rest of the day,” Smith said. “I’m really proud of our girls for coming out early this morning, having energy and being ready to attack. I’m proud of Pille for her performance in the circle.”
The Jayhawks will switch corners of the American South when they travel to Las Cruces, New Mexico, for New Mexico State’s Troy Cox Classic. Kansas will open the tournament against Bradley at noon Friday, the first of another five games over the weekend.
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