Kessler, Pille Shut Out Jackrabbits
| Kansas 8, South Dakota State 0 (5)
Arrocha Ballpark // Lawrence, Kan.
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas’ pitching duo of Kelsey Kessler and Alicia Pille each took only five innings to shutout South Dakota State (5-14) as the Jayhawks (17-7) won both games of the doubleheader 8-0 on Tuesday afternoon at Arrocha Ballpark.
“We’ve progressed really well as a team,” said head coach Megan Smith. “We saw this past weekend our best team effort and that’s what we saw today, dominate pitching, timely hits and really good defense.”
Kessler, who is 10-5 in the circle, set the tone for the pair of games against SDSU by striking out the first six batters she faced. The sophomore pitcher struck out a total of 10 for her fifth double-digit strikeout effort this year. Kessler has tossed six shutouts, while throwing 19.1 consecutive scoreless innings dating back to her relief appearance against USF on March 7.
Pille, a junior from Royse City, Texas, followed suit in the second game of the doubleheader to record her third shutout of the season. Pille struck out five Jackrabbit batters, while allowing only two hits in her ninth start of 2014.
“Our whole pitching staff is doing well,” said Smith. “Alicia Pille went out there and threw really well. I think she has been throwing the best for us lately. She beat a great team in South Florida and Utah. I can’t say enough about our pitching staff and how strong they are right now.”
On the season, Kessler has a 1.60 ERA and 131 strikeouts, while Pille has posted an ERA of 1.67 and 57 Ks. Pille has recorded a win in her last three starts and has a 6-2 mark in the circle.
While the pitching duo dominated in the circle, sophomore shortstop Chaley Brickey jump started Kansas’ offense with a two-run home run in her first at bat of the day. She has six home runs on the year and has knocked one out of the park in four of the last five games. Her home run over the right field fence gave the Jayhawks a 2-0 advantage. Brickey ended the day 5-for-5 with six RBI and two runs scored.
“Chaley is on fire and has progressed the most offensively out of anyone,” Smith said of Brickey at the plate. “She is on a tear and not slowing down. She is confident in her approach and she knows what she is looking for. She is a force for us right now.”
Senior outfielder Alex Jones extended KU’s lead in the first inning with an RBI double to centerfield, her first of two doubles in the game. With the bases loaded, freshman Taylor McElhaney got hit by a pitch allowing the fourth Jayhawk run to cross home plate and after one inning Kansas led 4-0.
In the third inning, senior outfielder Taylor Hatfield added to the Jayhawks lead with solo home run to right field. She has two home runs in 2014. Brickey delivered again after recording two more RBI for Kansas with a single as KU’s lead grew to 7-0 heading into the fourth inning.
Junior Maddie Stein ended the first game in the bottom of the fifth inning with a RBI single sealing the first win of the day, 8-0. South Dakota State pitcher Jennifer Sutton picked up the loss after throwing three innings.
In game two of the doubleheader, Kansas struck first in the opening frame after senior infielder Ashley Newman stole third base prompting a throwing error by SDSU’s catcher Sammy Bingham. Newman, a native of Salina, Kan., was 3-for-6 on the day with three runs scored and a RBI. Brickey drove in her fifth run of the afternoon as Kansas took a 2-0 lead into the second inning.
Hatfield, who finished 3-for-5 with three RBI, drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the third inning. Junior infiedler Chanin Naudin added to Kansas’ lead with a RBI single of her own as the Jayhawks led 4-0 after three innings.
Brickey continued to produce at the plate for KU after recording her sixth RBI of the day with a single in the fourth inning. Her sixth RBI increased KU’s lead to 5-0. The Jayhawks added three more runs in the fifth inning to win the second game of the day, 8-0. Ashlyn Bender fell to 3-4 on the season for the Jackrabbits after KU handed her the loss in 4.2 innings pitched.
The Jayhawks ran away with the sweep over South Dakota State outscoring the Jackrabbits 16-0. Kansas outhit the Jackrabbits 21-5 in two games and seven Jayhawks recording multi-hit games. KU has a 15-3 mark when scoring first and has scored first in 18 of Kansas’ 24 games, including seven of the last eight games.
The Jayhawks continue its six-game homestand by hosting the Jayhawk Invitational March 14-16. The tournament features No. 14 Nebraska, Northern Illinois and Jackson State.
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