Big Adjustment in Kansas' 11-3 Rout of Chattanooga
DELAND, Florida – What a different a day makes. In the seventh inning of a Saturday shutout loss to Cori Jennings and Chattanooga, Daniella Chavez – like many Kansas hitters – couldn’t make an adjustment and was way out in front of a slew of tantalizing off-speed offerings. Given an opportunity with the bases loaded in the bottom of the first Sunday, Chavez parked Jennings’ change-up over the right field fence for her third grand slam of the season, sparking an 11-3 Jayhawk rout of the Mocs in the title game of the Stetson Classic Sunday morning.
No. 25 Kansas (21-2) loaded the bases in each of the first three innings – and four of the game’s five short frames – after getting just six total base runners in seven innings against the Mocs (13-6) Saturday. Chavez made sure the Jayhawks wouldn’t be shut out with a no-doubt blast with two outs in the bottom of the first, snapping 23 consecutive outs without a run against the Chattanooga lefty.
“Yesterday she was fooled big time by that pitcher in every single at-bat,” Kansas head coach Megan Smith said of her freshman designated player. “Today was huge – that’s the ballgame. If she doesn’t do that, who knows what happens. She sent a message that we were going to hit (Jennings) and we continued to do so. I’m really proud of how Daniella bounced back and had a better mindset at the plate today.”
The Jayhawks smacked eight hits against Chattanooga and collected another seven baserunners on walks – including two with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth to push across the run-rule inducing runs. The Mocs responded with seven hits of their own off Kansas starter Alicia Pille, but the crafty senior and KU’s defense combined to leave seven on base. Pille (12-0) was named the Stetson Classic Tournament MVP after striking out six and had an impact on all four Jayhawk victories with three wins and a save.
Kansas batters Lily Behrmann and Maddie Stein each drove in a pair of runs and reached base twice to cap weekend performances that earned them both Stetson Classic All-Tournament Team honors. Chavez’ four RBI led all players and Brickey pushed across three Jayhawk runs, including the game ender on a bases loaded walk with no outs in the fifth.
“I’m really proud of the way our team came out,” Smith said. “We were excited to play Chattanooga again and we wanted (Jennings) to pitch again because we wanted to see how our players would make adjustments after listening to more game planning and seeing some video. I’m really pleased with them coming out today and being intentional about doing a better job, we certainly did that.”
Pille looked nearly flawless in the top of the first inning as she wrapped three swinging strikeouts around a two-out walk. In the bottom half, Jennings looked like she would work around a leadoff walk with a pair of groundouts, but Stein extended the inning with a single to right and Chanin Naudin walked to load the bases. Chavez, who struck out in all three at bats against the Mocs Saturday, cleared the bases by lifting Jennings’ 0-1 offering over the wall.
Chattanooga got two runs back in the top of the second, but Kansas loaded the bases again in the bottom half and plated three, the first on a sacrifice fly by Brickey and the next two on a single by Stein through the right side.
Pille worked around a pair of base runners in the top of the third by adding two more strikeouts and Chavez walked to start the bottom half – the third straight free pass to begin a Kansas turn at the plate. Again, the Jayhawks loaded the bases and plated two on back-to-back plays – a single by Behrmann to score Jessie Roane and a walk by Brickey to move in McElhaney.
Chattanooga threatened in the top of the fourth, following KU’s game plan to load the bases, but only got one run back as J.J. Hamill hit a sacrifice fly to right, before Pille struck out Anyssa Roberts to get out of the jam. Kansas was retired in order in the bottom half, and the Mocs put the pressure on again in the top of the fifth, but Pille got Kailey Palazzolo to line out to Stein at first, who spun and dove to tag the bag and double off a Chattanooga runner.
Kansas invoked the mercy rule when all five batters reached to start the fifth inning and closed the weekend 4-1, with two wins over the Mocs and single wins over tournament-host Stetson and La Salle.
“For us to come down here and play Stetson and Chattanooga, who both are NCAA Tournament teams and will be again this year I would imagine, and play them well – it was a great weekend,” Smith said. “We got punched by Chattanooga yesterday, but came back and responded. That’s good for us.
“I really like the fact that we played Chattanooga three times – we played an NCAA Tournament team in a three-game set this weekend and it kind of helps us understand how conference is going to be. Third games of a series are usually battles of teams that are making adjustments. That’s what this one was and it was great to see our kids respond.”
Kansas concluded a road trip that saw the Jayhawks win 21 of 23, including a program-record 12 straight to start the year, with Chattanooga and defending National Champion Florida the team’s only losses. The Jayhawks open their home schedule at new Arrocha Ballpark at Rock Chalk Park by hosting Northern Colorado, Idaho State and Nebraska-Omaha for the Jayhawk Invitational (March 13-15). Season tickets for all games at the new home of Kansas softball are available by visiting KUAthletics.com or calling 1-800-34-HAWKS.
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