Run-Rule, Shutout Makes it Six-Straight for Kansas Softball
LAS CRUCES, New Mexico – The morning after a night batting practice session that saw few balls stay within the fences, Kansas was able to maintain its approach at the plate and in the circle. Monique Wesley mitigated the nearly 4,200-foot change in altitude from a week ago by fanning seven and allowing just one hit, and Kansas used four extra-base hits – three to the opposite field – to shutout Bradley, 8-0, in a run-rule shortened opener to the Troy Cox Classic at New Mexico State Softball Complex early Friday afternoon.
Following the formula it used a week ago to start the 2015 season and FAU Classic with five straight wins, Kansas used Wesley to stymie its opening opponent while scoring a handful of runs early on. To improve to 6-0 Friday, the longest streak to start the season since a program-record 10 wins to begin the 2011 campaign, the Jayhawks also had to deal with thinner air at a much higher elevation. For Wesley, that simply meant not allowing the Braves (1-5) to get many hits as the junior transfer struck out a KU career-best seven batters and allowed just a single in the top of the third.
“I thought she was stellar today,” Kansas head coach Megan Smith said of Wesley. “Her demeanor and her poise is exceptional in the circle for us. She’s just so calm and you have confidence in her when you watch her work. Today, her stuff was working really well. She was moving the ball really well. Her spins were great, she was getting a lot of swings and misses and I thought that she went right at their hitters, attacked their hitters. Only for that one base hit, man, she had a great game.”
There was no home run derby effect for the offense either as KU stayed patient at the plate and three different Jayhawks cranked opposite field doubles. Chanin Naudin was one of the three and added a two-run blast in the top of the fourth to finish with a game-best four RBI. Maddie Stein also recorded multiple hits (2) and reached in all three plate appearances to extend her streak to seven straight over the last two games. Kansas out-hit Bradley 9-1.
“Their pitcher was pounding the zone in and out, and stayed away from a few of our hitters,” Smith said. “It was critical that (our batters) were able to sit and wait and go with that pitch. I thought we did a good job with that. Offensively, I thought we had a good approach and followed through with it, looked pretty solid.”
Wesley worked around a pair of base runners in the first, then Kansas gave her all she needed in the bottom half, turning a nearly inning-ending double play into five-run, two-out rally.
Naudin logged her first hit of the game with a double to right center and plated Kansas’ first two runs, then after a Daniella Chavez walk, Shannon McGinley made it 3-0 with an RBI double of her own. Jessie Roane kept the scoring going with a sharp grounder to short that pushed across Chavez, then a throwing error on the same play saw McGinley come home.
“That was great,” Smith said of the first inning spurt, “and it was with two outs. Chanin, again, steps up and just killed the ball to right center and started the rally for us.
“That’s a huge thing for our entire team. It sends a message that we’re ready to go and gives our pitcher a little breathing room. She can relax a little bit and not have to stress so much about keeping zeroes on the board. That offensive push in the first inning really set the tone for the game.’
Wesley struck out the last two batters in a 1-2-3 second, and Kansas added one more to go up 6-0 in the bottom half when Stein singled in Briana Evans – one of three hits in the inning for the Jayhawks.
Bradley’s Brittany Burgess tagged a Wesley pitch for a base hit up the middle to lead off the third inning, and momentarily gave the Jayhawk starter a reason to sweat after moving up to second on a wild pitch, but three straight popups on the left side of the infield ended the inning.
Wesley continued to cruise from there, pitching two perfect frames in the fourth and fifth to close the game. In all, she retired the last nine batters she faced in order.
Naudin delivered the run-rule dagger with a blast over the left field wall to plate two in the bottom of the fourth. It was the third home run of the season for the Jayhawks and eighth hit in 16 at-bats for Naudin through six games. Naudin has clubbed five doubles in the scorching start.
“It’s awesome,” Smith said. “For a player like Chanin, it’s even better. For three years, she’s given her heart and soul to Kansas softball and worked her butt off. She is the hardest worker on the team, one of our best kids, just a great representative of Kansas softball, so for her to be the one right now tearing it up, it’s fun to watch and I’m excited for her.
Kansas was scheduled to get a short breather before taking on tournament host New Mexico State in the night cap at the NMSU Softball Complex. First pitch was scheduled for 5 p.m. (CT) and marks the second of five games for the Jayhawks over the weekend.