Patient Kansas Delivers 10th Straight With Win Over Weber State
LAS CRUCES, New Mexico – Kansas waited, waited and waited some more before Chanin Naudin finally came through with the hit it needed as the Jayhawks scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth to complete a come-from-behind victory over Weber State, 6-3, in the Troy Cox Classic at NMSU Softball Complex Sunday. Kansas matched a program-record 10-straight wins to start the season with the victory, having swept through two tournament fields over the first two weekends.
Kansas had base runners on in each of the first five innings, moving runners into scoring position four times, but could only tally one run as the team stranded a total of 10. Two of those foiled opportunities came with two outs and Chanin Naudin at the plate. The senior third baseman went 0-for-3 in the first five innings before delivering a two-RBI double in her fourth plate appearance, the middle and go-ahead runs during a rally that saw Kansas flip a 3-1 deficit into a 6-3 advantage.
“I have confidence that our kids are going to keep fighting and that they’re going to come through, but it is frustrating,” Kansas head coach Megan Smith said of the stranded runners. “We need to capitalize on the runners we get in scoring position early, and I think we’re waiting for things to happen instead of going and attacking things. We’ve gotten pretty lucky in a few games that we’ve been able to rely on that, but that’s not always going to happen so we have to a better job early in the game manufacturing those runs.”
Jayhawk starter Alicia Pille, who left after pitching three innings and surrendering a solo home run, re-entered in the top of the seventh to close out the victory and earn her first save of the year. During the contest, Pille reached 500 strikeouts for her career, the seventh player in school history to reach the plateau. Beth Wilson (2-0) earned the win for the Jayhawks, retiring seven straight at one point to keep the margin manageable.
“Beth did a great job coming in, she was poised and confident and went right after their hitters,” Smith said. “She did a great job for us until we got the lead then we put Pille back in there to close it out and I thought she did a great job doing that.
Kansas didn’t get its first hit until Shannon McGinley led off the bottom of the fourth with a double, but had plenty of opportunities against Weber State (1-4) starter Bailey Seek. The Wildcat pitcher walked eight and hit one batter in five innings of work, issuing at least one free pass in all six Kansas plate appearances.
In the first and third innings, Naudin stepped into the box with two on and runners in scoring position, but had little room for error with two outs. Both opportunities resulted in pop outs on the infield.
On the opposite side, Pille was effective through two before giving up a leadoff home run to Mylee Brown in the top of the third. She worked around a follow-up base hit to limit the damage and fanned Alyson Kulp to end the inning with career strikeout No. 500.
Monique Wesley entered the circle for Kansas in the top of the fourth and got two quick fly outs before wavering a little. Wesley walked a batter then gave up a two-run blast to left off the bat of Kylee Hogue to make it 3-0 in favor of Weber State. The Jayhawks turned to Beth Wilson who gave up a double and pushed a runner to third with a wild pitch before settling down and recording seven straight outs.
Kansas received a momentary boost from McGinley’s double in the fourth but it looked like Seek would escape damage again with two quick outs to follow. Taylor McElhaney was hit by full count offering then Briana Evans stroked a single down the left field line to load the bases for Lily Behrmann. Another walk, one of two issued to Behrmann, pushed across a run and cut the deficit to two.
Still, Kansas couldn’t find the base knock it needed.
Both teams went quietly in the fifth inning, with Wilson needing just five pitches to dispatch Weber State. She worked quickly in the top of the sixth as well, then Kansas used the confidence of a nine-game win streak to patiently wait for its next chance.
McElhaney led off the bottom half with a walk and WSU went to its bullpen and Saturday starter against the Jayhawks Macauley Flint. Briana Evans traded places with McElhaney with a fielder’s choice, then Behrmann delivered KU’s second hit when she singled to center where a misplayed ball allowed Evans to make it a 3-2 deficit. Chaley Brickey followed with a single through the left side to put runners on the corners and Maddie Stein nearly tied it up with a line out to short.
That brought up Naudin, who didn’t mess around in her fourth at-bat. Naudin doubled to right center and scored both Behrmann and Brickey to make it 4-3.
“At that moment, I just wanted to let go of what my other at-bats were and just knew I had the opportunity again,” Naudin said. “We know we’re never out of a game, we’re going to do what it takes to win. (This team) tends to come up big when we need to. Obviously we need to come out stronger, but we know how to finish a game and have the clutch hits when we need those hits.”
Kansas tacked on another run on a McGinley single – her team-leading, second hit of the day – and a dropped line drive by the left fielder off Chavez’ bat. When the dust settled in the sixth, Kansas led 6-3 and needed just three outs from Pille – two more strikeouts – to match the 2011 squad’s 10-straight wins to start the season.
“It’s unbelievable,” Smith said. “It’s tough to do and it’s been a tough schedule. Our girls just believe every single game that they’re going to win and they fight until they do. That’s how we’re going to win all of our games this season – none of them are going to be easy, we’re going to have to fight through every one of them. We’re OK with that because we have a group of fighters and a group of girls that won’t give up. Being 10-0 is hard to believe, but we’re going to wipe that clean and next weekend we start over, going in to play the defending National Champions and that’s going to be fun for us.”
The Jayhawks continue their season-opening road slate when they travel to Gainesville, Fla., for the Aquafina Invitational hosted by the University of Florida. Kansas will face Mercer at 10:15 a.m. Friday before taking on the top-ranked Gators at 3 p.m., both times central.
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