Kansas Opens Big 12 Slate with Oklahoma State
LAWRENCE, Kan. — For the sixth time since the Big 12’s inception in 1996 and the first time since 2009, Kansas softball will open its conference slate against Oklahoma State. The Jayhawks begin league action by hosting the Cowgirls on Friday, March 28, at 5 p.m. inside Arrocha Ballpark. KU is scheduled to play three games against OSU from March 28-30.
AROUND THE BALLPARK
Friday: Bring a Kid to the Ballpark; Buy one adult and get one youth ticket free. Camper Reunion; Free for softball camp attendees and $3 ticket for guardian. Faculty & Staff Appreciation; Free admission for all staff, faculty and state employees with valid ID.
Saturday: Alumni Weekend. Fan Appreciation; Fans wearing blue receive $3 admission.
Sunday: Bark in the Park; Canines get in free with donation to Humane Society. Ice Cream Sunday; $1 ice cream floats.
FOLLOWING THE JAYHAWKS
Live stats are offered for all the Jayhawks’ games during the 2014 season and are available via KUAthletics.com. Fans can listen to every home game through Jayhawk Digital Passport, which is available at KUAthletics.com. Kansas softball’s twitter account (@KUSoftball) will also have in-game updates during each game of the season.
LEADING OFF FOR KANSAS
- Kansas is 24-10 and has won 13 of the last 16 games, including a 7-5 victory over then-No. 8 Kentucky (3/23). The win over the Wildcats extends the streak of defeating a nationally-ranked opponent to five-consecutive seasons under head coach Megan Smith.
- KU has outscored opponents 174-66 after 34 games. Kansas has a 20-4 advantage when scoring first in the ball game and has outscored opponents 29-9 in the first frame.
- The Jayhawks have outhit opponents in 26-of-34 games this season. Kansas owns a 23-3 record when out hitting its opponents.
- The Jayhawks concluded the 2013 season with the eighth-best fielding percentage (.976) in the country and currently have the best fielding percentage in the Big 12 (.979) after committing only 18 errors in 227 innings.
- Six Jayhawk starters are hitting above .300 on the season. Brickey leads the offensive charge with a .400 batting average.
- Sophomore Kelsey Kessler leads the Kansas pitching staff with 171 strikeouts on the season and is just the fifth sophomore Jayhawk pitcher to hurl 140 or more strikeouts in a single season. Kessler recorded a career-high 15 Ks earlier this season against Chattanooga (2/9) and has struck out 10 or more batters in five games. Kessler is one strikeout away from KU’s top 10 career list.
- Junior Maddie Stein has the longest hitting streak by a Jayhawk after recording at least one hit in 12-straight games. Brickey has the second-longest hitting streak after registering a hit in the last 11 games. Senior Taylor Hatfield has the longest active hitting streak with a hit in the last 10 games.
KANSAS VS. OKLAHOMA STATE: THE SERIES
Oklahoma State has a 64-40 advantage in the all-time series, which began in 1978 when Kansas topped the Cowgirls, 4-1. The Jayhawks won five of the first seven contests of the series. Oklahoma State won the last meeting and the 2013 series, 2-1. Kansas has an 11-21 mark against the Cowgirls in Lawrence. Under head coach Megan Smith, Kansas has won three of the last six meetings against Oklahoma State. Seven of the last eight games have been decided by two runs or less.
SCOUTING THE COWGIRLS
Oklahoma State was selected to finish fifth in the Big 12 rankings in 2014. The Cowgirls are 19-11 on the season heading into the opening weekend of conference action. OSU has won four its last six non-conference games, including a 12-8 victory over Central Arkansas on Wednesday night.
Two of the top pitchers in the Big 12 square off in the circle this weekend. Kansas’ Kelsey Kessler is among the top pitchers in wins, strikeouts, shutouts and opposing batting average, while Oklahoma State’s senior hurler Simone Freeman is battling Kessler to reach the top of the rankings. Freeman is 14-6 on the season with a 1.51 ERA, the third-best ERA in the conference. She has registered 172 strikeouts, which is first in the league and one more than Kessler. Freeman is also tied for second in the Big 12 in wins (14), fourth in shutouts (4) and second in opponents batting average (.164). Freeman has tossed 129.2 innings allowing 77 hits, 28 earned runs and 46 walks. The Cowgirls’ staff has a 2.16 ERA, which is fourth in the Big 12, and has struck out a total of 224 batters. OSU has posted eight shutouts and 15 complete games.
Offensively, Oklahoma State is batting .308 with 144 hits including, 39 doubles, 13 home runs and 125 RBIs. The Cowgirls have an on-base percentage of .386, while posting a .403 slugging percentage after 30 games. OSU has stolen 52 bases in 57 attempts with Shelby Davis leading the charge with 25 stolen bases this season. Davis also leads the team with 43 hits and is hitting a team-high .377. She has three doubles and 10 RBIs in 30 starts. Tiffany Mikkelson has recorded a team-leading 28 RBIs and nine doubles, batting .349 this season. Tarah Ettinger leads the team with five home runs and has collected 23 RBIs in her final collegiate season. Six Cowgirl starters are hitting above .300 heading into the first weekend of the conference slate.
AMONG THE BEST IN THE NATION
Kansas is among the top in the country in several statistical categories. The Jayhawks posted the sixth-best fielding percentage in the nation at .979 and are ranked No. 16 in the country in staff ERA at 1.70. Individually, sophomore Kelsey Kessler is second in the country in strikeouts (171) just two Ks behind the national leader. She is 10th in shutouts (6), 14th in victories (14) and her 1.57 ERA is the 55th-best ERA in the nation. Freshman Harli Ridling is ninth in the nation in hit-by-pitch per game (0.44), while senior Ashley Newman is fourth in sacrifice hits per game (0.41). Senior Taylor Hatfield is 20th in the country in triples (3).
AND THE WINNER IS…
For the third week in a row, a Jayhawk earned Big 12 honors after freshman Harli Ridling was named Big 12 Player of the Week for the week ending on March 23. Junior Alicia Pille and sophomore infielder Chaley Brickey also earned their first career Big 12 weekly honor this season.
RUN JAYHAWKS RUN
Kansas has outscored opponents 174-66 and has ended six games early due to the run-rule this season. When a Jayhawk runner scores first, KU has a 20-4 advantage. Kansas scores more runs during the fifth inning than any other in 2014 and has outscored the opposition 33-7 in the fifth frame.
NO MISTAKE ABOUT IT
Through 227 innings of play this season, the Jayhawk defense has committed only 18 errors for the Big 12’s best fielding percentage (.979). A year ago, Kansas broke the program fielding percentage record with a .976 mark, which finished eighth in the NCAA.
WALK IT OUT
The Jayhawks have recorded 114 walks after 34 games in the 2014 campaign. Sophomore Chaley Brickey has tallied a team-high 27 walks this season, while senior Alex Jones has collected 16 walks. Kansas’ individual single-season record for walks is 36 set in 1985 by Tracy Bunge.
AROUND THE CONFERENCE
Kansas is among the top half of several Big 12 statistical categories in 2014. The Jayhawk defense has the best fielding percentage in the conference (.979), while KU’s pitching staff has the second-lowest ERA at 1.70. Individually, sophomore Kelsey Kessler is second in the conference in strikeouts (171), first in shutouts (6), is second in complete games (15), tied for second in victories (14) and ranks fourth in opposing batting average (.180). Junior Alicia Pille is eighth in the conference in strikeouts (86), second in shutouts (5) and is fifth in opposing batting average (.196). Sophomore Chaley Brickey is tied for third in the league in doubles (9), is second in walks (27) and fifth in home runs (7). Junior Maddie Stein is tied for third in the Big 12 in both hits (46) and in RBIs (31). Senior Taylor Hatfield is tied for second in triples (3), while freshman Harli Ridling is fourth in the conference in home runs (8) and tied for fourth in RBIs (30).
KUAthletics.com: The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.