Ridling’s Late-Inning Heroics Upset No. 8 Kentucky, 7-5
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Freshman Harli Ridling regained the lead for Kansas with her eighth home run of the season as the Jayhawks upset No. 8 Kentucky, 7-5, on Sunday afternoon at John Cropp Stadium.
The Wildcats rallied for four runs in the sixth inning to tie the game 4-4. Ridling stepped up to the plate with a runner on base and launched a shot over the centerfield fence as Kansas (24-10) took back the lead in the final frame. Ridling, a native of Sentinel, Okla., was 2-for-4 with four RBIs in the rematch against UK.
Kansas tallied 14 hits on the day compared to Kentucky’s eight. KU also had four Jayhawks record a multi-hit game, with senior Taylor Hatfield leading the charge after collecting three hits.
In her first at bat of the day, infielder Chaley Brickey doubled off the left field wall, which gave Kansas an early 1-0 lead. Freshman Taylor McElhaney added to KU’s lead in the second inning driving in a run with a single as Kansas took a 2-0 lead into the third frame.
Kentucky threatened in the bottom of the second inning, Nikki Sagermann doubled and advanced to third base on a groundout, but junior pitcher Alicia Pille struck out a Wildcat batter to retire the inning, which left Sagermann at third and the shutout intact after two innings.
In the third inning, Pille recorded back-to-back strikeouts. She won a nine-pitch at bat to retire UK’s leadoff batter. Pille induced a ground out to first to end the inning as she tossed another scoreless frame against the nationally-ranked Wildcats.
Pille worked her way out of another jam in the fourth inning. A leadoff walk and a double to centerfield put runners in scoring position for Kentucky, but Pille prompted a fly out and pop out to end the inning unscathed. Pille struck out six batters and allowed six hits in her 13th start of the year. She tossed five scoreless innings before the Wildcats were able to get a run across.
Senior Ashley Newman singled and Brickey drew a walk to put two Jayhawk runners on base as Ridling stepped into the batter’s box. The catcher doubled down the left field line recording the first of four RBIs and put Kansas on top 4-0.
In the sixth inning, Sagerman homered to left field putting the Wildcats on the board and cut Kansas’ lead 4-2. Maisie Steed tied the game 4-4 with one swing of the bat. She hit a two-run shot over the centerfield fence.
Sophomore Kelsey Kessler came on in relief in the sixth inning. She earned the win and improved to 14-7 on the season. She struck out two and gave up two hits in two innings of work.
In the top of the seventh, Ridling hit a two-run blast to centerfield and Kansas regained the lead, 6-4. Newman gave the Jayhawks another run with an RBI single as Kansas headed to the bottom half of the seventh with a 7-4 lead.
Lauren Cumbess, who started in the circle for UK, homered in the seventh to cut KU’s lead 7-5. She left the circle without a decision and struck out four while giving up six hits. Kessler shut down the Wildcats after the home run as Kansas upset the UK, 7-5.
Kansas heads to Wichita State for a midweek match-up on Wednesday, March 26 at 6 p.m. before opening Big 12 action March 28-30 against Oklahoma State at Arrocha Ballpark.
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