Jayhawks Rally Again to Defeat Fairfield, 6-4
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Freshman Harli Ridling’s team-leading seventh home run of the season gave Kansas its second-straight come-from-behind win as the Jayhawks defeated Fairfield, 6-4, Friday afternoon at John Cropp Stadium.
“We’ve been talking a lot in the last couple of weeks about playing as a team,” said head coach Megan Smith. “Today was a prime example, in both games, we needed to fight to get two wins. I am proud of our effort coming from behind to win.”
The Jayhawks (22-9) trailed the Stags through the first four innings before KU’s offense erupted for four runs in the bottom half of the inning to take the lead. Ridling’s two-run shot to left field gave KU a two-run advantage in the fourth inning. She has hit a home run in three of the last four games.
Fairfield’s Sam Frungillo gave the Stags an early, 1-0, lead with a RBI single up the middle in the opening frame. Fairfield’s designated player Tori Reed extended the Stags lead to 3-0 with a two-run home run to left field in the top of the second.
In the bottom of the second inning, junior Chanin Naudin put KU on the board with a solo home run to left field. It was the first long ball of the season for Naudin as Kansas trailed, 3-1.
Senior Alex Jones took over in the circle after junior Alicia Pille got off to a slow start. Jones threw two scoreless innings and struck out five en route to her first victory of the season in the circle.
“Alex was phenomenal,” Smith said. “Pille had a rough start. She has been throwing the ball well, but Alex came in and sent a message. She dominated their hitters, but what she really did was give our team confidence. She came in and sent a message to our team that we got this.”
In the third inning, Fairfield increased its lead, 4-1, scoring a run on a suicide squeeze.
Ridling started Kansas’ second comeback of the day driving in the first of three RBIs against the Stags. Her single through the left side cut the Jayhawks deficit to two runs as they trailed, 4-2.
In the fourth inning, Jones bunted the KU runners over to second and third base, which brought sophomore Chaley Brickey to the plate. Brickey brought Kansas within one after driving in a run with a sacrifice fly. Junior Maddie Stein recorded her team-leading 31st RBI of the season with a single up the middle tying the game. Ridling cleared the bases with a home run to left field giving Kansas the lead, 6-4.
“You need big hits to win close games,” said Smith. “Harli is hitting the ball and seeing the ball well, right now.”
Sophomore Kelsey Kessler made her second appearance of the day after coming in to close the game in the sixth inning. She hurled two scoreless innings and struck out one. Kessler recorded the save, her first of the season.
Naudin made two web gems late in the game. Her two snags at third base resulted in outs for KU, instead of Fairfield hits.
“Chanin made some great plays at third base,” Smith said. “She won the game for us. Faifield was still hitting the ball well at the end and she made some plays that could’ve easily been a double or a triple down the line.”
After giving up only one earned run, Jones’ ERA dropped to 1.56 on the year and she improved to 1-0.
Both Stein and Ridling recorded a multi-hit game with three and two hits, respectively, as the Jayhawks outhit Fairfield, 9-8. Ridling registered a game-high three RBIs.
KU continues the Kentucky Tournament on Saturday, March 22 against Saint Francis at 3 p.m CT in Lexington.