Kansas Drops Final Game at Fresno State Kickoff, 5-4
FRESNO, Calif. – Kansas softball headed to the final inning with an even score, but the Jayhawks couldn’t fend off UC Riverside’s rally, as a walk-off home run completed the Highlanders’ come-from-behind victory over KU, 5-4, on Sunday morning at Margi Wright Diamond.
The Jayhawks (4-6) struck early to take a 3-0 lead after the first two innings, while freshman right-hander Alexis Reid opened her third outing of the weekend with three scoreless frames. The second time around for UC Riverside’s offense provide to be too much for the Kansas pitching staff as the Highlanders tacked on four unanswered runs to take a one-lead into the final inning.
Kansas attempted to rally in the final frame after scoring the equalizer, but UCR halted the comeback and swiped the victory with a walk-off home run from outfielder Jenna Curtan.
“We’ve got to get better and that’s the bottom line,” said head coach Megan Smith. “Today every aspect of their game was off and as teammates they are allowing that from each other. They’ve got to hold each other to a higher standard. We, obviously, hold them to a high standard, but if they look to the left and to the right and the other people aren’t holding them to that same high standard then it doesn’t matter. That’s what we are seeing right now.”
Senior shortstop Chaley Brickey led off the game with her 109th career base on balls, giving Kansas a runner aboard, but also setting a new Kansas all-time walk record. The Haltom City, Texas native surpassed Tracy Bunge’s mark of 108 career walks from 1983-86.
The first inning continued after sophomore infielder Daniella Chavez reached base via a full count walk. A ground out moved the runners to second and third, while redshirt sophomore catcher Harli Ridling gave Kansas the lead with a RBI single through the left side. The Jayhawks kept attacking at the plate and loaded the bases with two outs before UC Riverside ended the frame. Despite leaving the bases loaded, Kansas headed to the bottom half of the inning with a 1-0 advantage over the Highlanders.
In the bottom of the first, UC Riverside threatened to even the game, but Brickey threw the runner out at home after Ridling made a play at the plate to tag the runner out, which preserved Kansas’ one-run lead.
Kansas extended its lead in the next inning with a long ball from Brickey. Senior outfielder Briana Evans started the second inning reaching via base on balls, while junior Taylor McElhaney bunted the runner into scoring position. Following McElhaney’s sacrifice bunt, Brickey struck again increasing KU’s lead, 3-0, with her second home run of the season.
Reid began her second start of the weekend tossing three-straight scoreless frames. Reid allowed three earned runs and two walks in three innings of work. She pitched a no decision in the circle. Fellow freshman Ania Williams dropped to 2-1 on the year after earning the loss. She gave up two earned runs and struck out one in three innings pitched.
UC Riverside offense came alive in the fourth and opened the frame by loading the bases. The Highlanders plated their first run with a bases loaded walk, cutting Kansas’ lead to two runs. UCR infielder Jenae Lockwood singled to centerfield, her base hit evened the score, 3-3, after plating the two runners in scoring position.
The Highlanders led off the bottom of the fifth a triple that barely missed Evans diving attempt to steal the hit. UC Riverside scored the go ahead run on a perfectly executed squeeze bunt back towards.
In the sixth, UC Riverside attempted to increase its lead, but KU’s defense halted the momentum. It appeared that a Highlander double would give UCR a two-run lead, but Evans threw to the cutoff man who threw home for the out, which maintained the one-run deficit.
Erin McGinley even the score, 4-4, in the seventh inning. Her first hit of the game, a double to centerfield, plated Kansas’ fourth run. However, UC Riverside answered with a walk-off home run in the bottom half of the inning to down Kansas, 5-4.
Kansas heads back to the Sunshine State, Feb. 26-28, for a five-game non-conference tournament hosted by South Florida. The Jayhawks will face Wisconsin, South Florida and UNLV, while the final two opponents are determined by the outcomes of the first three games. All five games will be available on the Jayhawk Radio Network.
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