Late-Inning Rally Lifts No. 23 Jayhawks Past Cowgirls
STILLWATER, Okla. –The comeback kids returned to the softball diamond on Thursday night as No. 23 Kansas rallied for its seventh come-from-behind victory of the season. KU overcame a four-run deficit to defeat Oklahoma State, 7-6, at Cowgirl Softball Stadium.
The Jayhawks (30-5, 1-3) posted seven runs on 12 hits in the final two frames to end their three-game losing skid. The victory marks KU’s fifth-straight 30-win season under head coach Megan Smith, who is in the midst of her sixth season at Kansas.
“I am really proud of the fact that we hung in there tonight and (Alicia) Pille settled down after the first inning,” said Smith. “Offensively, I felt we kept getting better with each at-bat and finally broke through in those late innings. Once one person broke through, it became contagious and everyone came through. I was really pleased with everyone’s effort that inning, coming together and attacking the pitcher together as one unit.”
Overcoming a slow start, Kansas’ offense collected 13 hits and outhit Oklahoma State (17-19, 1-3), who recorded seven hits. Four Jayhawks registered a multi-hit effort in KU’s first Big 12 road trip of the 2015 slate. Freshman infielder Daniella Chavez paced the offense with two hits and team-best two RBIs, while senior utility Maddie Stein recorded a team-high three hits.
While the offense got back on track against the Cowgirls, senior hurler Alicia Pille also bounced back in her first start of the weekend. The right-hander tossed a complete game, her 17th complete game of the year. She struck out six Cowgirl batters as she earned her 19th win of the year.
“Other than the first inning, she threw the ball well,” Smith said of Pille’s outing. “I am not sure what it was, but she wasn’t sharp in the first inning and after that she pulled through to throw extremely well against a good hitting Oklahoma State team. I was really pleased with her bounce back. It was something that she didn’t do last week, but did do tonight. She gave our offense confidence by putting zeros on the board and giving us time to get the offense going.”
Oklahoma State jumped out in front during the first inning and took a 4-0 lead after recording a RBI single and three-run home run to start the game. Pille settled down in the circle after the Cowgirls big opening inning and sat the next nine batters she faced down in order.
After four scoreless frames by KU and the Cowgirls, the Jayhawks ended the scoring silence by putting five runs on the board and take its first lead of the game in the sixth inning. Sophomore Taylor McElhaney began the rally with double to right field and the trend of connecting continued as junior Chaley Brickey moved McElhaney over with a bunt single. Stein extended the inning and rally with a base knock to put a Jayhawk on each bag. Chavez drove in the first of two RBIs with a single to left field as KU trailed, 4-2.
The Jayhawks evened the score, 4-4, after freshman catcher Jessie Roane and junior Shannon McGinley each plated a run with singles. Freshman outfielder Erin McGinley entered the batter’s box to pinch hit and delivered the go ahead run for Kansas. Oklahoma State ended the inning, but not before KU could take a 5-4 lead.
“Erin McGinley, man, I am so proud of her,” Smith said. “She has worked really hard at practice. She works hard, she has a great attitude and is always learning. We did a competition during practice yesterday, that she won, and was the most productive offensive player, so I felt that she was going to have a great at-bat. She came through and got the RBI, but even if she hadn’t, I was proud because she was battling. She stuck to the game plan and was a tough hitter.”
In the bottom half of the sixth, the Cowgirls answered with a two-run home run from Michaela Patton as Oklahoma State took back the lead, 6-5.
OSU’s lead in the sixth inning was temporary after Kansas’ offense matched the Cowgirls’ two runs in the top of the seventh inning. Behrmann sparked the final rally of the night with a double to left center and moved to third after Stein recorded a base hit up the middle. Chavez tallied her second RBI with a single, which tied the game, 6-6. Senior third baseman Chanin Naudin drove in the winning run with a double to left center, her second hit of the night. Pille and the Kansas defense held off Oklahoma State in the bottom half of the inning to seal the win, 7-6.
The Cowgirls’ starter Brandi Needham opened the game with five scoreless inning, but recorded the loss after Kansas completed the comeback. OSU’s Vanessa Shippy posted a game-high three RBIs with her home run in the first inning.
Kansas continues its three-game series with Oklahoma State on Friday, April 3 at 5:30 p.m., inside Cowgirl Stadium.
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