No. 25 Kansas Riddled by Jennings, Mocs in 4-0 Loss
DELAND, Florida – Chattanooga starter Cori Jennings scattered three hits and allowed just six base runners to become the first pitcher in 21 games to shut out No. 25 Kansas during a 4-0 win at the Stetson Classic Saturday. For the second day in a row, a Jayhawk outfielder robbed a home run but a good defensive effort without run support resulted in the team’s second loss of the season.
Jennings (5-1) struck out six Jayhawks and allowed multiple base runners in the same inning just once – working out of a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the third before facing just one over the minimum over the final four frames. Briana Evans, Taylor McElhaney and Maddie Stein were the only Jayhawks to collect hits as Chattanooga’s lefty kept Kansas (19-2) off-balance throughout the contest.
“Offensively, we made zero adjustments, but I have to give a lot of credit to their pitcher,” Kansas head coach Megan Smith said. “Their pitcher threw a phenomenal game and whoever was calling the game did an excellent job keeping our batters off-balance. I’m upset that we didn’t make adjustments, but I have to give credit to a job well done by their staff.”
Kansas starter Monique Wesley matched Jennings through the first three innings and got a huge boost from Shannon McGinley in the bottom of the third when the Jayhawk left fielder crashed into the wall while pulling in what appeared to be a home run. McGinley followed the performance with another catch at the wall to keep the game scoreless headed into the bottom half.
“That was the only bright spot of our game, our defense,” Smith said. “Shannon McGinley in left field was phenomenal. She was great today. Our defense is always a bright spot for us and today she made some great catches. She robbed a home run early in the game and made a lot of really good plays in left field to save some big hits.”
Kansas, which struggled to adjust to Jennings off-speed pitches early in the game, looked to be piecing something together in the bottom half of the third inning as McElhaney and Evans strung together back-to-back singles. A strikeout with runners in scoring position and then a groundout following a walk to load the bases left the Jayhawks without anything to show for it.
After giving up the deep fly outs in the third, Wesley was lifted for Bryn Houlton in the fourth but the freshman reliever was touched for a solo home run on just her second pitch to Sarah Beth Roberts. Houlton (2-1) worked around further trouble in the fourth despite putting two on via walks and retired the Mocs in order in the fifth before needing relief in the sixth.
The Jayhawks turned to staff ace Alicia Pille after the first two batters reached, but a bloop single to left and a sharp liner to center allowed two runs to score. Pille loaded the bases and Sophia Templin entered to get the final three outs, but not before Chattanooga tacked on one more.
Kansas tried to rally in the bottom half as Stein dropped down a bunt that was misplayed by the pitcher, but Jennings got Jess Roane to line into a double play to end the threat.
“You have to be on your toes and you can’t sit in and feel really comfortable,” Smith said of handling the off-speed pitching. “You have to adjust to, not only different locations, but speeds and it’s a hard. It’s a hard thing to do as a hitter, but good hitters should be able to do it and today we just didn’t execute.
“We had a game plan and just didn’t stick to it. I told the girls we have to attack each pitcher as a unit, learn from each other’s at-bats and we didn’t do a good job of that today.”
Kansas was retired in order in the seventh and dropped just their second contest of the season and first since dropping a 7-1 decision to No. 1 and defending National Champion Florida. Five different Chattanooga batters had base hits and Roberts scored two runs in the contest.
Smith hoped the loss would offer the Jayhawks, who have two separate streaks of 12 and seven wins this season, an opportunity to regroup and sharpen their offensive approach.
“They get a false sense that everything is going to work out for them magically, because it has,” Smith said of her team’s numerous rallies during a 19-2 start. “This should have happened to us multiple times already, but we’ve been lucky and come through. We’re fighting, but a lot of its luck. When you always come through, sometimes you expect it’s going to happen instead of going after it and getting it.
“For us to have this type of a result, against a good team, I think it’s going to wake up our girls. It’s not just going to automatically happen because you think it will, you have to go out and get it. You have to make adjustments, you have to be smart and work hard. That’s how you’re going to get wins. We lost to a great team and a great pitching performance by Chattanooga. We’re going to have to bounce back and have more intent when we play in the next game.”
Kansas was scheduled to get its next opportunity in an evening game against tournament host Stetson at 3 p.m. (CT), the fourth of five games the Jayhawks will play at the Stetson Classic at Wilson Field.
KUAthletics.com: The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.