Home Runs, Records and Milestones, Oh My!
LAWRENCE, Kan. – With just one swing of the bat from Maddie Stein, a record was broken and a milestone victory achieved. Stein’s fourth home run of the season lifted No. 22 Kansas to a 5-4 decision over Georgia State, making the senior KU’s all-time RBI leader and marking head coach Megan Smith’s 300th career win, on Sunday afternoon at Arrocha Ballpark.
As the scoreboard showed each team with four runs, Stein entered the batter’s box to leadoff the fifth inning for the Jayhawks. The Oklahoma City, Okla. native entered the game with 140 career RBIs and in her third plate appearance took one yard to become Kansas’ all-time RBI leader, surpassing the previous mark of 140 held by former teammate Maggie Hull-Tietz.
“It’s pretty cool,” Stein said of her accomplishment. “You don’t come into a school saying you are going to do stuff like that. I have had a lot of people pulling for me and it’s really great to accomplish something like that.”
Stein’s solo home run not only put the senior on top of the KU’s RBI leaderboard, but also lifted the Jayhawks to victory as Kansas improved to 29-2 on the season.
“That was huge for her because she is such a great kid,” head coach Megan Smith said of Stein’s record. “She loves Kansas and she has worked really hard. She’s not selfish, she loves her teammates and she does anything she can for anyone, including our entire athletic department. She is a great representative of Kansas softball and for her to be the one that breaks that record makes it even more special.”
Along with the win and a record, Stein’s long ball also gave Smith her 300th career win to top off a day full of Kansas milestones. Smith, who is in the midst of her ninth season as a head coach, reached the landmark in her sixth season at the helm of the Jayhawk program.
Smith, a native of Walkertown, North Carolina, has recorded four-consecutive 30 win seasons with Kansas and is one win away from reaching 30 victories for the fifth time. Last year, Smith also guided the Jayhawks to their first postseason appearance since 2006.
“I’m more excited about Maddie’s (record) than my own,” Smith said. “But 300 wins, that’s awesome. I’ve been a part of some great programs, great players and great assistant coaches. It’s really the players that go out and play for me, it’s not about me. I’m really proud to do that here at Kansas because I’m really proud to be a Jayhawk and be here at KU.”
Kansas opened its Rock Chalk Challenge finale with a three-run home run, one of two KU home runs on day, from junior infielder Chaley Brickey. Her long ball over the wall in centerfield gave the Jayhawks an early 3-0 lead after one inning.
In the top of the next inning, Georgia State matched Kansas’ home run with a two-run long ball from the Panthers’ Lauren Coleman to close in on KU’s lead, 3-2. GSU knotted the score up to three runs apiece after the Panthers received a bases loaded walk in the proceeding inning.
With runners on first and second, freshman infielder Daniella Chavez stepped to the plate and hit the ball straight down the first base line. The ball was hit hard enough that it shot past the GSU’ first baseman to record a RBI double, regaining the lead for Kansas, 4-3.
Another Panther home run in the top of the fourth inning would even out the score for the second and final time, when senior Ashley Christy launched a solo shot over the leftfield wall.
As the home half of the fifth inning approached, Stein’s name was called and it was then that the first baseman made Kansas history recording her 141st career RBI. Her fourth home run of the season resulted in KU’s 29th victory.
KU hurler Alicia Pille is trailblazing a path of her own after throwing her 18th victory of the 2015 season. Since 2002, no other Jayhawk pitcher has boasted a perfect 18-0 record as KU heads into Big 12 Conference action next week. The Royse City, Texas native has tossed 16 complete games in 19 starts. Her strikeout count for the season climbed to 131 on the season after striking out five in her 18th win of the year.
Kansas’ win over Georgia State resulted in the Jayhawks sweeping the Rock Chalk Challenge, its fifth tournament sweep this year. Six difference Jayhawks hit a home run in the four-game tournament, while four of five Jayhawk runs on Sunday were scored off of Kansas long balls.
“I think we have done what we are supposed to do in nonconference,” Smith said. “We have one more game Tuesday against a really good Drake team, but we have taken care of business in nonconference, which was our goal. Once we get into conference it’s a battle every day and so we are ready to fight every single game that we play in conference.”
The Jayhawks will continue their 12-game homestand by facing Drake in a midweek matchup on Tuesday, March 24 at 6 p.m., inside Arrocha Ballpark at Rock Chalk Park. Following their contest against the Bulldogs Kansas will kick off Big 12 Conference play by hosting Texas in a three-game series March 27-29.
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