Long Balls Lift Kansas Past UC Riverside, 5-4

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FRESNO, Calif. – Kansas softball completed its first come-from-behind victory of 2016 after a pair of home runs lifted KU past UC Riverside, 5-4, in the first of two games on Friday at Margie Wright Diamond.
Kansas entered the fifth frame trailing by four runs, but with one swing of the bat, sophomore Daniella Chavez tied the game with her first grand slam of the year. A pair of singles and senior shortstop Chaley Brickey’s third walk of the game loaded the bases for Chavez. While Chavez’s homer cleared the bases and evened the score, Brickey’s third base on balls tied KU’s all-time walk record of 108, which was sent by Tracy Bunge (1983-86).
“That’s what Chaley needs to do. She needs be confident in herself and work counts,” said head coach Megan Smith. “She was putting too much pressure on herself last weekend and was being someone she’s not. She needs to stay with what has made her successful. She should get lots of confidence from today and we hope to see her continue to do what she’s doing.”
Redshirt sophomore Harli Ridling launched KU’s second long ball of the game, giving the Jayhawks their first lead of the afternoon, 5-4. Ridling’s first homer of the season, a solo shot well over the fence in left field in the sixth inning.
“We love long balls and home runs, but you can’t rely on that and for some reason it’s kind of what we are doing right now,” Smith said. “We worked counts better, we took walks and Taylor McElhaney had a beautiful bunt to lead that big inning for us, so we are slowly getting there offensively. I would still like to see more consistency.”
UC Riverside struck first plating two runs in the second frame. Junior outfielder Stephanie Tickemyer drove in the first Highlander run with a single to right field. UCR extended its lead, 2-0, after freshman infielder Hannah Rodriguez hit the second RBI single of the frame.
Ridling recorded the first hit of the day for the Jayhawks in the bottom of the second, she finished the game with a 2-for-3 performance at the plate. Senior outfielder Shannon McGinley followed with a two-out walk, giving Kansas two runners on base, but the Highlanders ended the threat and left Jayhawks stranded for the second inning in a row.
The highlanders led off the third inning with a walk. Freshman utility Haley Harris plated the runner at first with a double that trickled to the wall in left centerfield. Harris’ RBI double was the first of two UCR runs in the top of the third. The Highlanders increased their lead, 4-0, with a bases loaded walk that brought home the fourth run.
With one out, Kansas recorded back-to-back walks in the bottom of the third inning. The Jayhawks were unable to capitalize on runners aboard, including one in scoring position. KU left a total of five runners on base through the first three innings.
In the top of the fourth, Williams retired the batters in order for the first 1-2-3 inning of the day. Williams, who entered the game in relief in the third inning, recorded her first win the circle after striking out two in five innings of work. Sophomore Andie Formby started in the circle for KU, striking out three in two innings pitched.
“Ania had a good weekend last weekend and coming into this weekend, we felt like we needed to give her more opportunities to pitch because she did well,” said Smith. “And, she did extremely well today. She did a good job of getting ahead of batters and did better attacking them than she did last weekend. She had good composure, she got into some jams, but had a good demeanor and was able to fight out of it. I was really pleased that a freshman could come in that pressure situation and come through for us.”
Kansas scored five unanswered runs in the fifth and sixth frames to take the lead. All five of KU’s runs crossed home plate via home runs, as the Jayhawks started the Fresno State Kickoff with a 5-4 comeback win.
Kansas softball continues the Fresno State Kickoff on Saturday, Feb. 20 against Sacramento State and Fresno State. First pitch of the day is slated for 1:30 p.m. (CT) against the Hornets.
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