Runs Aplenty for Kansas, Pille Quiets Mocs in 11-1 Win
DELAND, Florida – Alicia Pille had heard enough karaoke from her teammates and wasn’t about to sit through a third rain delay. The Kansas ace retired five in a row after the game’s second stoppage, including the last four straight via strikeouts to beat the rain and Tennessee-Chattanooga in an 11-1, run-rule victory at the Stetson Classic Friday afternoon.
A persistent drizzle was the only thing that seemed to slow the No. 25 Jayhawks (19-1) as the team erupted for seven runs in the first inning and two to start the second before the game’s first weather stoppage at Wilson Field. Kansas added another in the frame and one more in the third to lead 11-1 into the fourth when the game was halted again. With the issue far from in doubt, Pille made sure to finish off the Mocs (11-5) before any other delays.
“Ugh, the rain,” Pille exclaimed. “I thought we escaped that after last weekend, but I guess not. I don’t know if there was extra pressure (to finish), I was just ready to go home. It was so wet and miserable, and pitching in the rain is the worst. It didn’t matter if I struck them out or not, I knew my team had my back on the field, but I think we were all ready to go home at that point.”
Hours after stranding 16 base runners, cashing in scoring opportunities was hardly an issue for the Jayhawks, who simply wanted to make it official after running up an early high tally. Kansas sent 11 batters to the plate and scored seven runs on six hits in the top of the first inning. Four of those hits led to runs, including singles by Chaley Brickey, Shannon McGinley, Briana Evans and Lily Behrmann, and an RBI double by Maddie Stein. Behrmann’s single, her second plate appearance of the bottom half of the first, drove in two. Kansas also pushed across a run on a squeeze bunt laid down by Chanin Naudin.
Kansas pushed it to double figures in the bottom of the second inning thanks to a two-run blast by Daniella Chavez, deep over the right field fence, and a run scoring fielder’s choice off the bat of Behrmann.
Kansas completed its scoring in the bottom of the third when Stein sent the first offering from Moc reliever Kailey Palazzolo over the centerfield fence for a solo home run.
“We had a good talk in between the games and challenged the offense, and finally we came out and attacked from the beginning,” Kansas head coach Megan Smith said. “We went right after them. That was apparent in the first inning putting up seven runs and having a lot of good at-bats. For us, offensively, we need to focus on having good, quality at-bats and I think sometimes they try to do too much instead of just having a good at-bat – working a pitcher, moving a runner, hitting the ball hard. Whatever it is, just have a good at-bat. We did that in the second game and that’s why we had better results.”
In the circle, Pille was obviously boosted by Jayhawks’ offensive outburst, but got a lift from her defense first in the top of the first inning. After surrendering a leadoff single to Alyssa Taylor and watching her move to second on a sacrifice bunt, Pille got Sara Beth Roberts to fly out to Evans in medium depth center field. Taylor tagged and tried to advance to third but Evans, the reigning Big 12 Player of the Week, threw a laser to Chanin Naudin at third to complete an unconventional 8-to-5 double play.
“She just has a cannon,” Behrmann, who patrols right field for Kansas, said. “That girl has a cannon. She has great accuracy and she’s able to throw anyone out. She’s a stud, I don’t know what else to say about her.”
Pille gave up a towering solo shot to Nicole Osterman to begin the second inning, but settled in to get a pop up and strike out two to end the frame. It would be the start of seven straight retired by the senior into the fourth inning before a walk and the second stoppage.
Out of the delay, which featured a potpourri of a Capella song selections overheard from the Jayhawk dugout, Pille worked around the walk then retired the side in order in the sixth to earn her 10th win of the year and second decision of the day, also picking up a save in KU’s 8-1 win over La Salle.
“We’re getting a great performance every time she goes out there which is great to see,” Smith said. “She was dominant against Chattanooga, a good hitting team. She did a good job moving the ball, getting ahead of batters for the most part. When the offense comes out that strong for her, she can kind of take a breath and relax a little bit.”
Eight of KU’s nine starting batters had hits in the contest and all nine Jayhawk starters scored runs in the game. Stein finished 2-for-3, both extra-base hits, and both Evans (2) and Jessie Roane (2) had multiple hits in the contest.
The same moisture that pestered the Jayhawks forced the remaining games on the opening day of the Stetson Classic to be cancelled. Tournament play will continue Saturday, with Kansas slated to meet Chattanooga again at 10 a.m. (CT) and tournament-host Stetson at 3 p.m. (CT).
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