Pille Dazzles in Rock Chalk Park Debut Victory
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Senior hurler Alicia Pille delivered one of her best performances of the season with her second-straight double-digit strikeout effort as No. 23 Kansas debuted its brand-new facility on Friday afternoon. The Jayhawks opened its home slate with a 5-0 victory over Northern Colorado improving to 22-2 on the season.
A native of Royse City, Texas, Pille sat down the first six batters she faced in order. She totaled a season-high 11 strikeouts, her fourth appearance to record 10 or more strikeouts this season. Pille threw her fifth shutout and 12th complete game of the year as she improved to 13-0 in the circle. After tossing seven scoreless innings, her ERA dropped to 1.49 on the year. Pille’s effort in the circle set the tone for a pitchers’ duel, which lasted for four and half innings until KU’s offense gave the senior some run support in the fifth frame.
“Pille came out looking really sharp and was dominating for the first few innings,” said head coach Megan Smith. “Offensively, we were in a little bit of a slump there, but Pille was strong for us and kept the zeros on the board giving us some time to score.”
Offensively, the Jayhawks threatened early and often, freshman Jessie Roane entered the batter’s box in the second inning with two runners in scoring position. The catcher from Rio Rancho, New Mexico loaded the bases after reaching via walk, but the following batters couldn’t push any runs across and the Bears retired the inning to end the threat with the bases still loaded.
The first eight Northern Colorado batters were retired in order before the Bears collected their first hit, but it didn’t come easy as sophomore second baseman Taylor McElhaney nearly made the out. She tracked the ball down deep in the hole at second base and her throw to first was just a second behind the runner.
In the third inning, Kansas’ offense picked up momentum opening the third inning with a single from both junior Chaley Brickey and senior Chanin Naudin. The Jayhawks momentum at the plate was halted as two more runners were stranded. Through the first three innings, Kansas left seven runners on base.
“We did have chances early and they didn’t quite come through,” Smith said of the offense. “We weren’t adjusting to the pitcher very well and weren’t sticking to the game plan. Daniella Chavez had a really good at-bat for us and stayed within herself. She worried about having a quality at-bat and hitting a line drive instead of trying to do too much. She was a big spark for the offense and I think we started working the pitcher more. We were drawing walks and getting on base, which was creating more opportunities. I am really proud of the way we kept attacking.”
It looked as though Northern Colorado’s offense was gaining momentum in the fifth frame, but sophomore Lily Behrmann halted the Bears charge with a sliding catch in right field for the first out of the inning. Pille recorded two more strikeouts to end the inning stranding a UNC runner in scoring position, the first threat of the game from the Bears.
“Defense is always solid for us and comes through for us pretty much every game,” said Smith of Behrmann’s defensive gem in the fifth inning. “Lily had a great catch in right field. That easily could’ve been a hit, but Lily came out of nowhere sliding to catch that ball. Our defense continues to be really strong and we’re going to count on that the rest of the year.”
The defensive gem from Behrmann sparked the offense as the Jayhawks took its first lead in the bottom half of the fifth inning. Back-to-back walks from seniors Maddie Stein and Chanin Naudin led the two-out rally. With a full count, freshman Daniella Chavez hit a base knock to centerfield driving in the go-ahead run for Kansas. Junior Shannon McGinley followed suit driving in two more KU runs with a single to right field.
Kansas’ offense broke the pitchers’ duel and gave Pille a 3-0 lead to work with heading into the sixth inning. Pille loaded the bases after giving up a single and hitting a pair of batters, but ended the inning with her 11th strikeout leaving the bases loaded and ending another Northern Colorado threat.
In the bottom of the sixth, Brickey drove in an insurance run with a sacrifice fly to center field, while Chavez recorded another RBI with single to left field giving the Jayhawks a 5-0 advantage heading into the final frame.
Chavez, a native of Crowley, Texas, was one three Jayhawks to post a multi-hit game and recorded her seventh multi-RBI game of the season. McGinley also finished the afternoon with two hits and two RBIs.
Kansas continues action at the Jayhawk Invitational on Saturday, March 14 against Idaho State. First pitch is slated for 2 p.m. at Arrocha Ballpark at Rock Chalk Park.
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