Kansas Slams Passed Weber State for Eighth Straight
LAS CRUCES, New Mexico – That’s one way to vent. Mired in a 1-for-10 slump, Chaley Brickey let it all go on the first pitch she saw with the bases loaded in the top of the seventh inning to cap a Kansas rally with a grand slam and lift the Jayhawks to a 5-1 win over Weber State at the Troy Cox Classic early Saturday afternoon. The win extended Kansas’ season-opening win streak to eight games.
Brickey’s blast, her second homer of season, provided the last four runs of a five-run Kansas seventh that began with small ball, as the Jayhawks answered a single run by the Wildcats (1-2) in the sixth.
“She’s our go-to offensively, has been since the middle of her freshman year,” Kansas head coach Megan Smith said of her No. 3 hitter. “She’s been pressing, maybe getting a little mental yesterday. She sent (associate head coach John Rittman) a text and said ‘I’m going to start the day fresh today,’ which I like to hear, because that’s what we want her to do. We trust that she’s going to get the job done every time she steps up to the plate and I think she let it all go finally today. She had much better at-bats and came through big time in that seventh.”
Kansas starter Alicia Pille improved to 5-0 as the benefactor of the offensive outburst, topping Weber State’s MaCauley Flint after each pitcher held the opponent hitless through five innings. Pille retired 12 in a row from the first into the fifth inning, with only one ball leaving the infield during that stretch. Briana Evans made a brilliant catch on the run in left center before crashing softly into the wall to help Pille and the Kansas pitching staff run its combined scoreless innings streak to 22.
That streak, and her no-hit bid, ended in the bottom of the sixth. Pille got a fly out to center to open the frame but issued a walk to Malia Campos, who Weber State then tried to move into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Mckinley Brinkerhoff’s bunt landed between the pitcher and catcher and couldn’t be fielded in time. A no-doubt base hit up the middle loaded the bases before Pille struck out Sierra Whitmer for the second out.
Unlike Friday’s night cap against New Mexico State when she stranded nine Aggie runners, Pille couldn’t escape without getting the box score dirty. Kansas’ ace plunked pinch hitter Stephanie Mathias to push across the game’s first run then the Jayhawks escaped further damage when Chanin Naudin made a diving stab at line drive at third for the final out.
Flint looked nearly untouchable when she filled up the strike zone, holding Kansas hitless through six innings, and needed just three outs to give Weber State its second win of the tournament at NMSU Softball Complex. KU’s Shannon McGinley drew a leadoff walk – the sixth of seven total walks issued by Flint – to start the seventh, and it was just the chance Kansas was looking for. Designated player Daniella Chavez followed with a single to put two on, then both moved up on a sacrifice bunt from Jessie Roane.
With Taylor McElhaney at the plate, Kansas dropped down another bunt and the squeeze play worked to perfection. Pinch runner Mikayla Warren scored the game’s tying run from third and McElhaney reached first when a successful play couldn’t be made.
Flint fanned Evans for the second out but walked Behrmann to load the bases for Brickey, who didn’t waste any time in the box with the team’s second grand slam in as many games.
“That was a huge inning and it starts with the walk,” Smith said. “We have to have somebody on with no outs to do what we want to do. Shannon McGinley had some good at-bats today, drawing walks, and she did that that inning, and it was huge for Daniella Chavez to come through with that hit. Jessie had a perfect bunt, T-Mac a perfect squeeze. It just came together perfectly. For the first six innings I wasn’t sure if we could do anything right and in that last inning we did everything right so that was a good thing to see.”
Pilled and the Kansas defense closed out the game in the bottom of the half as Kansas inched closer to its best start since 2011, when the team opened the year with 10 straight wins.
The Jayhawks were slated to match-up with tournament-host New Mexico State again at 5 p.m. (CT) Saturday, before closing the tournament with another against Weber State Sunday morning.
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