Top of the Order Shines as Kansas Rolls Past ISU, 10-2
GAINESVILLE, Florida – Having found scoring runs difficult in a Saturday split, Kansas looked to manufacture something in the top of the first with a pair of leadoff singles, but got much, much more. Chaley Brickey waved at a bunt attempt while covering a double steal, then parked a three-run shot to ignite a 10-2 Jayhawk win over the Redbirds in both teams’ final game at the Aquafina Invitational at Pressly Stadium Sunday morning.
KU leadoff batter Briana Evans and No. 2 batter Lily Behrmann set the table all day for Kansas and Brickey was the first to make it count. The top three batters in the order banged out nine of the team’s 14 hits in the run-rule shortened victory, including a team-best four base knocks for Behrmann, who wasn’t retired in the contest.
“If your top of the order is on, like they were today, we’re going to score a lot of runs,” Kansas head coach Megan Smith said. “I can’t say enough about Lily’s performance. She did a great job hitting it hard, laying down a bunt, mixing things in. I thought she looked phenomenal today.”
Five different Jayhawks recorded multiple hit efforts with Evans (3), Brickey (2), Chanin Naudin (2) and Daniella Chavez (2) joining Behrmann (4). Kansas starter Alicia Pille scattered three hits over five innings and earned her team-leading eighth win of the year.
Either Evans or Behrmann reached in four of the Jayhawks five innings and the duo piggy-backed hits in each of the run scoring frames for KU.
After Brickey cleared the bases to get Kansas started in the first, the Jayhawks added a run in the second as Behrmann followed an Evans single with a double into right field to make it 4-0.
In the third, Kansas tried to rally with two outs but without its leadoff batters reaching, Illinois State was able to escape the jam. Pille, who struck out four in her third start of the weekend and second against Illinois State, was touched for two runs in the bottom half when Redbird cleanup hitter Regan Romshek doubled in a pair down the left field line with two outs.
Kansas would answer in a mighty way in the top of the fourth, and again, it started with Evans and Behrmann reaching base. Brickey plated one while swinging at the first pitch she saw to make it 5-2 in favor of Kansas and two batters later Chanin Naudin drove two more in with an opposite field double to the wall in right. Then Daniella Chavez blasted a three-run home run to left center to cap a six-run outburst.
“When Bri gets on and when Lily gets on, it just sets it up for the three, four and five hitters,” Brickey said. “It helps us get runs in and opportunities for RBIs – if someone doesn’t drive them in, the next batter can. It helps a lot when they’re getting on base.”
Behrmann led off the fifth with a single to left – her fourth hit in the game – but Kansas was done scoring. Pille worked a 1-2-3 fifth, including striking out the game’s final batter, to secure the run-rule victory.
Kansas scored just three runs combined in a 7-1 loss to No. 1 Florida and a 2-0 win over Mercer on Saturday, but had plenty of run support to move to 14-1 through the first three weekends of the 2015 season.
“Our energy was lacking yesterday and I told the girls that it’s a grind,” Smith said. “You get to the last day of a weekend and we’ve played 15 games – it’s tough, it’s hard work. I reminded them to remember why they play the game, remember why they love the game. They love to wear Kansas across their chest and I reminded them to go out and have run.
“Chaley’s home run in the first inning kind of made everybody relax and enjoy the day, instead of being pressed and pressured all game. She has carried us and does a great job offensively for us, and man, that was a huge hit to spark our team today.”
The Jayhawks return to Florida next weekend for another tournament at North Florida in Jacksonville. Kansas will face Stony Brook, South Dakota, Siena and the tournament-host Ospreys in five games over three days at the UNF Softball Complex (Feb. 27-March 1).
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