Jayhawk Home Runs Not Enough to Overcome Texas
LAWRENCE, Kan. – For the second-straight game, Texas came out swinging in the first inning to take an early lead and each time No. 22 Kansas attempted to chip away at the deficit, the Longhorns had an answer. Texas maintained its momentum it built in the first inning to defeat the Jayhawks, 11-5, on Saturday afternoon at Arrocha Ballpark at Rock Chalk Park.
It marks the first time this season that Kansas (29-4, 0-2) has lost back-to-back games. Kansas’ potent offense was held to seven hits, including two home runs, while the Longhorns (22-9, 2-0) posted 13 hits, nine coming from the top of the order.
“I think we fought back (today) and that is something we didn’t do yesterday,” head coach Megan Smith said. “Today, we saw them fight back and work together to put some runs on the board after we gave up quite a bit in the early innings. I’m still not extremely happy with the beginning of the game and I don’t think we are sharp. We are not really locked in and focused on detail. We have to get back to focusing on the little things.”
The Longhorns opened the second game of the series with four runs in the first inning to take a quick 4-0 lead on two hits. Senior Alicia Pille earned the start, but was relieved by junior Monique Wesley before the the third out was recorded. Wesley struck out the first batter she faced and retired the side stranding two Texas runners. Wesley struck out a total of two batters in one inning of relief work.
In the bottom half of the first frame, sophomore utility Lily Behrmann led off with the first of two walks on the day. Behrmann has drawn a team-best 31 walks in 2015. Junior infielder Chaley Brickey followed suit collecting a walk of her own, giving KU two runners aboard. Freshman infielder Daniella Chavez drove in the first Kansas run with a single to left field. Chavez’s base knock also moved a Jayhawk runner into scoring position, who would score on a wild pitch cutting Texas’ lead, 4-2.
“I think giving up another big top of the first inning put us in a hole,” said Smith. “I was glad our offense fought back, but in any game that you give up 13 hits and 11 runs – that’s just not going to be a recipe for success.”
In the second inning, the Longhorns matched KU’s pair of runs with two runs to start the frame. Texas’ catcher Erin Shireman drove in a run with a single, while the second run was plated on a wild pitch. The Longhorns extended their lead, 8-2, after Texas added two more runs before the inning ended.
Freshman Bryn Houlton entered the circle with one out in the second. She struck out three batters and tossed three scoreless innings in a total of five and two-thirds innings pitched. Houlton threw back-to-back scoreless innings in the third and fourth frames, which included getting out of a bases loaded jam and stranding three Longhorns.
“They’re a tough team and they have good hitters,” Smith said of Texas’ offense. “I think they had a really good game plan an executed it well early in the game. Bryn (Houlton) came in and did a good job of keeping them off balance for a while, but what you saw from Texas offensively was that they made adjustments.”
In the bottom of the second inning, Brickey launched her team-leading seventh home run of the season over the wall in centerfield. Her two-run shot narrowed Texas’ advantage, 8-4, but once again the Longhorns ended the inning before the Jayhawks could gain momentum.
Texas put another run on the scoreboard in the fifth after center fielder Lindsey Stephens drove in a run with a triple. That run would be the only one of the inning for the Longhorns as sophomore infielder Taylor McElhaney ended the inning with back-to-back putouts, one of which was a backhanded grab that she snagged running out towards the outfield.
The Jayhawks opened the bottom of the sixth inning stringing together a pair of singles in hopes of starting a rally. Behrmann loaded the bases with her second walk of the day, but Texas ended KU’s threat and retired the side with the bases still loaded. Kansas left a total of seven runners on base.
In the final inning, Texas tacked on two more runs to increase its lead, 11-4, before the top half of the inning came to an end. Senior utility Maddie Stein led off the bottom half of the inning with a solo shot over the centerfield fence, but the Longhorns continued their trend of halting KU’s momentum and recorded the final outs to win the second game of the series, 11-5.
The Jayhawks conclude its three-game series with Texas on Sunday, March 29 at 12 p.m., inside Arrocha Ballpark at Rock Chalk Park. It’s Bark in the Park and all dogs receive free admission with a donation to the Lawrence Humane Society.
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