Pille Dazzles in One-Hit Shutout of North Florida
JACKSONVILLE, Florida – For Kansas starter Alicia Pille, ignorance is bliss. She was unaware when she recently reached 500 career strikeouts, and didn’t know she fanned three straight and six of nine from the fourth through sixth innings Friday against North Florida.
What she did notice while glancing at the scoreboard at the end of the fifth, was the Ospreys didn’t have any hits – a note she couldn’t un-see, making Stacy McLelland’s leadoff single in the top of seventh more agonizing. It didn’t matter to the game result, but Pille was nearly unhittable Friday evening, winning a 1-0 complete-game shutout to lift Kansas to a 16-1 mark to open the 2015 season.
The lone hit kept Pille from her second no-hitter of the young season, but couldn’t keep the reigning Big 12 Pitcher of the Week from running her record to a perfect 9-0 after her fourth shutout in 10 starts.
“This is the one game when I looked up and saw that there were no hits,” Pille, who struck out 10 batters, laughed after the frigid contest at UNF Softball Complex. “That’s why I don’t like to know things.”
Pille only allowed three base runners through seven innings, including one in the bottom of the first when a late illegal pitch call turned an out into a second chance for McLelland, who was then hit by a pitch before Katie Mandigo struck out swinging. North Florida also had a base runner in the third when Shelby Duncan reached on an error with two outs. McLelland would reach a second time to lead off the top of the seventh with a sharply hit grounder back up the middle.
The game looked far from a pitcher’s duel in the top of the first inning with Kansas at the plate as Briana Evans and Lily Behrmann both singled to put pressure on the Ospreys and starter Kaylie Wallace early. A couple hard hit ground balls plated one, including a run scoring ground out by Maddie Stein to give the Jayhawks an early 1-0 lead. A strikeout ended the frame with a runner on, but the tone seemed to be set.
However, Kansas would manage just five more hits in the next six innings and stranded a total of eight.
“That was very stressful,” Kansas head coach Megan Smith said. “Offensively we came out hot that first inning and I thought, ‘Okay, here we go,’ and then we just absolutely went to sleep and relied on Pille. She had a great game – the best I’ve seen her throw all year. You can’t put it all on her shoulders, but we did that today and can’t do that again.”
For one game anyway, that was just fine for Pille. Kansas’ ace retired the side in order in four innings and wasn’t rattled as the pressure mounted late in the contest.
“Sometimes they need to depend on me more and sometimes I need to depend on them more, this is just the way it worked out today,” Pille said of the run support. “We were still hitting, we just didn’t hit runs in. That still gives me confidence because I knew we were hitting the ball.
“I try not to think about (the pressure increasing). It does a little bit, but at the same time, it’s more of a challenge. Its like, ‘I’m not going to let you hit this ball’ – and of course I gave up one. She’s a good hitter. It happens.”
Evans set the table for Kansas with her second consecutive multi-hit game. The Jayhawk leadoff hitter had three singles and scored the game winner off Stein’s bat in the first. Daniella Chavez was the only other Jayhawk to reach more than once with a single and a walk.
Kansas closed the first day of the UNF Tournament with a 2-0 record and are scheduled to face Siena at 9 a.m. (CT) before a rematch with North Florida at 1:30 p.m. (CT) Saturday.
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