Kansas Heads to Aquafina Invitational, Faces No. 1 Florida
LAWRENCE, Kan. – After another undefeated weekend that has Kansas softball on the national radar, the Jayhawks take their perfect 10-0 mark back to Florida for the Aquafina Invitational, Feb. 20-22. At the Aquafina Invitational in Gainesville, Florida, KU will face nationally-ranked and defending national champion Florida twice along with Mercer, Liberty and Illinois State.
FOLLOWING THE JAYHAWKS
Listen to every pitch, home and away, all season long as part of the Jayhawk Radio Network in partnership with KJHK, the University of Kansas’ student radio station. For the first time ever, all of KU’s contests will be carried live, for free, at KUAthletics.com/radio or by clicking the links on the online schedule. Fans can also get in-game updates via twitter by following @KUsoftball.
LEADING OFF FOR KANSAS
- Seven Jayhawks are hitting above .300 in 2015 and contributing to KU’s .330 batting average. Senior utility Maddie Stein leads the charge with a .448 batting average and six doubles.
- Kansas has a perfect 10-0 mark in 2015, which is tied for the best start in program history. The last time KU began a season with a 10-0 record was in 2011 under head coach Megan Smith.
- The Jayhawks red-hot start to the 2015 campaign has put Kansas on the national radar. Heading into the third week of the season, KU received votes in both major national polls, including a No. 27 ranking in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) poll and No. 30 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate top-25 polls.
- The Jayhawks have outscored their opponents 81-27 in 10 games, including four shutouts and a no-hitter. KU scores its most runs during the first and third frames after plating 17 and 16 runs, respectively.
- KU has a perfect 7-0 record when scoring first and is also 3-0 when the opposition strikes first.
- After 10 games, the Jayhawks have outhit their opponents 86-43 and own a 7-0 record when outhitting the team in the other dugout.
- Smith has guided the Jayhawks to an upset over at least one nationally-ranked opponent in each of her five seasons at the helm of Kansas softball. In 2014, KU defeated three ranked foes. Most recently, the Jayhawks were victorious over then-No. 19 Nebraska in the first game of the NCAA Tournament.
- After finishing 2014 with the second-best fielding mark in the nation and only replacing one member of the Jayhawk infield, Kansas continues its trend of being defensively sound. After the first 10 games of the season, KU’s defense has committed only eight errors in 62 innings for a .969 fielding percentage.
A program-record-tying 10-straight wins to open the season has Kansas on the national radar heading into a weekend showdown that includes the defending National Champion and No. 1-ranked Florida Gators. Kansas has swept through its first two weekends of competition, posting quality wins over programs like Arkansas, Florida Atlantic, Georgia Tech, New Mexico State and Penn State, among others. In the first 10 games, the Jayhawks collected four victories via run-rule and three with come-from-behind rallies. In KU’s shortened wins, Kansas outscored its opponents 49-12 and three of the four victories were shutouts.
Seven Jayhawks are hitting above .300 with senior utility Maddie Stein (.448) batting over .400. Stein and senior infielder Chanin Naudin lead the squad with six doubles. Naudin has driven in a team-best 15 RBIs and has hit a team-high three home runs, while tallying a .813 slugging percentage.
Collectively, the Jayhawks are hitting .330 with 24 doubles, 10 home runs and 72 RBIs. Kansas has a .536 slugging percentage and an on-base percentage of .450. KU is 6-for-8 in stolen base attempts and has drawn a total of 54 walks, averaging 5.4 per game. The Jayhawk pitching staff has posted a 3.63 ERA in 62 innings of work while striking out 43 and allowing 23 walks. In the circle, Kansas pitchers combined to hurl 22 and two-thirds innings of scoreless softball. KU tossed three-consecutive shutouts from Feb. 8-14. The Jayhawks nearly threw a fourth-straight shutout, but Weber State scored a run in sixth inning ending the KU pitchers’ streak an out shy of 23 scoreless innings.
SCOUTING THE BEARS
Mercer heads into the weekend with a 6-4 mark overall in 2015 and 2-3 record away from home. Last weekend, the Bears went 2-3 at the Auburn Tiger Invitational, where Mercer posted victories over Eastern Illinois (6-4) and Winthrop (10-4). On the season, the Bears are hitting .332 with an on-base percentage of .452 and a slugging percentage of .538. Five Bears are batting over .300, including sophomore outfielder Taylor Miller, who is leading the way with .500 batting average. Junior catcher Natalie Shiver has tallied three home runs and a team-best 11 RBIs. In the circle, senior Riley Carter leads the pitching staff with 0.88 ERA and has struck out 10 batters. Sophomore Kirsten Stevens has thrown a team-high 29.1 innings with a 3-2 mark and 6.44 ERA. She also leads the roster with 37 Ks.
SCOUTING THE GATORS
Like the Jayhawks, top-ranked Florida enters the weekend with an unblemished record of 11-0. The Gators are 5-0 at home, while posting a 6-0 mark away from Gainesville. Florida is 1-0 in 2015 when facing an opponent in the national polls after defeating Michigan, 2-1, during its season-opening weekend. The defending national champion Gators are hitting .348 on the season with 33 extra base hits, including 13 home runs, and 78 RBIs. Florida has 10 batters on its roster batting over .300. Reigning national player of the week Lauren Haeger is hitting .464 with 12 RBIs in 11 starts, while tossing a 0.00 ERA in the circle with a 5-0 record and 37 strikeouts. The Gators’ pitching staff has a combined 0.32 ERA with 108 strikeouts in 65 innings of work.
SCOUTING THE FLAMES
Liberty is off to a 4-5 start in 2015 and, like the Jayhawks, has played every game to begin the year on the road. The Flames have won three of their last five games, including a 2-0 victory in their final outing of the Dot Richardson Invitational over UMass Lowell. Liberty has posted a .265 batting average with four batters hitting above .300 and two over .400. Collectively, the Flames recorded 18 extra base hits and 37 RBIs, while posting an on-base percentage of .333 and a slugging percentage of .398. Senior catcher Kelby Allen and freshman outfielder Tori Zavodny are each hitting .400, while junior shortstop Mickey Loveridge leads the team with nine RBIs. The Flames’ pitching staff has tossed a combined 5.06 ERA with 39 strikeouts in 56 and two-thirds innings of work. Redshirt junior Chandler Ball owns a 3-2 record with a 4.67 ERA and team-best 32 Ks.
SCOUTING THE REDBIRDS
Illinois State enters the Aquafina Invitational with a 4-6 mark on the season all of which have been away from home. The Redbirds snapped a three-game losing streak after finishing the Arizona State Littlewood Tournament with a 6-5 extra-inning victory over Boston University. ISU went 2-3 last weekend while playing in Tempe, Arizona. Offensively, the Redbirds are batting .254 on the year with 20 extra-base hits and 36 RBIs, while recording a .408 slugging percentage and a .327 on-base percentage. Junior pitcher Regan Romshek is hitting .419 with five doubles and six RBIs in 10 starts. She is also 3-3 in the circle with a 5.21 ERA and has struck out 23 batters. Sophomore catcher Jordan de los Reyes leads the roster with six long balls and 14 RBIs. The Redbirds’ pitching staff has thrown a combined 7.13 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 65 and two-thirds innings of work.
Record vs. Mercer
The Jayhawks and Bears meet on the diamond for the first time in program history Friday morning.
Record vs. Florida
Kansas owns a 2-1 advantage in the all-time series against the Gators. The series began in 1997 with 4-0 victory for KU on a neutral field. The Jayhawks posted their second shutout over Florida in 2006. KU suffered its first loss to the Gators, 12-4, in the last outing during the 2010 season.
Record vs. Liberty
KU has faced Liberty one time prior to this weekend’s match up. The Jayhawks kicked off the series in 2000 with a 6-0 win on a neutral diamond.
Record vs. Illinois State
The Jayhawks and Redbirds meet for the 28th time in program history to conclude the 2015 Aquafina Invitational. Kansas leads the all-time series, 15-12, which began in 1978 with a 5-1 KU victory. The Jayhawks have won four of the last five contests against Illinois State, including a 4-3 extra-inning decision in KU’s favor the last time out in 2008.
JAYHAWKS ON THE NATIONAL RADAR
After a 10-0 start to 2015, the Jayhawks received votes in both national polls released Tuesday, sitting at No. 27 in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) poll and No. 30 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate top-25 polls. Kansas received votes last year while making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006, but hasn’t cracked the top-25 since holding the No. 22 spot in the March 22, 2011 poll – the Jayhawks’ last 10-0 start.
The Jayhawks blasted five home runs, including three grand slams, while setting a program record for runs and hits in a 25-12 win over New Mexico State (2/14). Kansas set team single-game records for hits (23), runs (25), RBIs (25) and doubles (7) against the Aggies. Additionally, senior utility Maddie Stein set a new single-game mark with eight RBIs behind a 5-for-5 performance at the plate that included a grand slam and a total of four extra base hits. She finished the game a triple shy of the cycle.
KANSAS VS. RANKED OPPONENTS
The Jayhawks faced four teams during the 2014 season that were ranked in USA Today/NFCA poll or the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll. Oklahoma was the highest nationally-ranked opponent that Kansas played in 2014 and was No. 12 in the USA Today/NFCA Poll. This season Kansas faces three opponents that are ranked in the polls with Florida being the highest as the No. 1 team in the country in both polls.
The Jayhawks head back to Florida for the third time this season for the UNF Home Tournament Feb. 27 – March 1. Kansas will face Stony Brook, South Dakota, Siena and North Florida, playing five games over three days.
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