Kansas Walks Off Winners Over Murray State, 3-2
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The ball hardly left the infield in the seventh inning – much like the previous four – but Kansas loaded the bases and got just enough off the bat of Ashley Newman to grind out a gritty, walk-off win over Murray State, 3-2, at Frost Stadium Saturday evening.
Kansas (10-5) used a hit batter, a grounder through the left side and an infield single to load the bases with no outs before Newman tapped a ball to the left side and allowed Taylor McElhaney to score the game winner and give the Jayhawks a 2-0 start to Southern Illinois’ Coach B Classic. The Jayhawks shutout SIU, 4-0, earlier Saturday and have won four straight.
“It was a good day – obviously if you can win two, it’s a great day,” Kansas head coach Megan Smith said. “I think we still have some work to do offensively to capitalize – we’re getting runners on, we’re getting runners in scoring position, but we’re not executing every time. We need to do a better job with that. I think our pitching and defense was stellar, so I’m excited about two wins.”
KU managed just four hits in the game – half coming in the final frame – but found a way to rally late after the Racers (7-7) had tied the game in the top of the seventh with a solo home run. Murray State was hit or miss against Kansas starter Alicia Pille, mostly miss as she struck out 10 batters. When the Racers did make contact the ball travelled far as three of the six hits surrendered went for extra bases, including Jessica Twaddle’s homer to left in the seventh.
Chaley Brickey, Chanin Naudin and McElhaney each scored runs for the Jayhawks, with McElhaney reaching twice the hard way after being hit by pitches.
After jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning, Kansas was stymied by Murray State starter Mason Robinson who retired 12-of-13 from the third through sixth innings, including nine straight ground outs. Robinson’s only hit allowed after giving up two runs in the second and before the fateful seventh was a sharply hit grounder up the middle by Maddie Stein.
While Robinson lulled hitters to sleep, Pille blew them away. The Jayhawk sophomore fanned two batters each frame through the first four innings, with seven of those eight victims going down swinging.
Pille was tagged with an unearned run in the third inning after Shelby Miller tripled to right center and scored as the ball kicked away from third. She worked out of a couple jams, including a two-out double in the fifth and a leadoff single in the sixth before surrendering the solo shot to lead off the seventh.
Kelsey Kessler came on in relief and struck out a pair, then induced a fly out to get KU out of the seventh without any further harm. Kessler earned her second win of the day and has earned a win in four of her last five appearances. Kessler and Pille combined to fan 12 batters, tied for second-most in a single game this season, and the seventh time the staff has logged double digit Ks in a game this year.
Kansas concludes play at the Coach B Classic Sunday with a 9 a.m. (CT) match-up with Miami (Ohio) and another game against Murray State 11 a.m.
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