Kansas Finally Takes Advantage, Tops La Salle, 8-1

Box Score (.pdf)

DELAND, Florida – For the glass half full crowd, No. 25 Kansas had an incredible 28 opportunities to bat with the runners on, including 23 at bats with runners in scoring position, against La Salle to open the Stetson Classic Friday morning. For the glass half empty crowd, the Jayhawks managed just six hits with runners on, five with runners in scoring position, and led just 2-1 before pouring out six runs in the seventh inning to comfortably defeat the Explorers, 8-1, at Wilson Field.

Kansas (18-1) rode freshman starter Bryn Houlton (2-0) through five innings, scratching across a pair of runs, including a leadoff home run from Lily Behrmann in the third, but needed staff ace Alicia Pille to close the contest as the Jayhawks struggled to put up much run support and stranded 16 total baserunners. The Jayhawks finally busted through in the seventh, pushing across six insurance runs on five hits while the Explorers (0-3) committed four errors.     

“I’m disappointed with our offensive production early in the game,” Kansas head coach Megan Smith said following the contest. “We created a lot of opportunities, had a lot of runners on base, but just didn’t come through in clutch situations so we didn’t score a lot early. I was hoping we could give Bryn some more run support because I thought she pitched a very good five innings. Luckily towards the end we put it together offensively. It’s great that we’re making opportunities, now we just have to capitalize on them.”

Kansas clubbed 13 hits, including three from Behrmann and two each from Chaley Brickey, Shannon McGinley and Jessie Roane. Brickey led the team with three RBI and Behrmann added two, including one on her solo shot to opposite field in the third inning after Kansas had stranded a pair of runners in each of the first two frames.

“I had noticed my first time around that the pitcher had been going for a first-pitch strike and throwing it down the middle,” Behrmann said. “I told myself to be ready for the first pitch because it’s probably going to be there and I just swung hard, it went over – it was nice. My job is just to get on base, so whatever I can do to get on base will work. Hitting it over was a bonus.”

Brickey drove in her first run for Kansas in the top of the fourth, grounding a ball to second but the throw home from Mackenzie Obert wasn’t in time to get Taylor McElhaney who slid under the tag to make it 2-0.

In the circle, Kansas got a quality start from Houlton, who worked around a pair of leadoff singles in the bottom of the first inning before retiring the side in order in the second. Houlton retired seven straight when she struck out Angelina Refice to start the third, but an error ended the streak and a single gave La Salle a real threat.

That’s when Houlton got a boost from Brickey on defense. The 5-foot-1 shortstop ran down a blooper near the edge of the outfield grass and reached high to save a base hit and record the second out. In the next at-bat, Brickey went to a knee to catch a soft liner between second and third and the Jayhawks escaped unscathed.

La Salle got its lone run in the fourth, when Tori Gollie dropped a single on the chalk down the left field line to push across Obert, who reached on a single before being bunted into scoring position.

Both teams got runners into scoring position in the fifth inning but came up empty and Kansas turned to Pille to close the door with a two-inning save. Pille cruised, never letting a ball leave the infield as she retired six straight for her third save of the year.

KU’s offense left no doubt as its first seven batters reached to start the seventh inning, including a run-scoring single by Behrmann and a near-grand-slam-double off the wall in right field by Brickey to score two. A run scored as a fly ball by Maddie Stein was dropped in the gap, and freshman infielder Morgan Bohanan got her first career hit with a single up the middle and another outfield error let Stein walk in from third.

 “I trust my team 100 percent that we’ll score runs however we need to,” Behrmann, a sophomore right fielder who saw her batting average climb to .400 after the game, said. “The fact that we were struggling to get those across didn’t worry me, it just took a little longer than we first expected. We did a good job of maintaining our composure, finally pushing them across and making it into a big inning.”

Kansas was set to play Tennessee-Chattanooga in a game immediately after defeating La Salle, the second of four scheduled games at the Stetson Classic Friday.

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