Bombs Away: Kansas Homers Sink No. 5 Sooners, 4-2
LAWRENCE, Kan. – A walk-off home run and a gutsy performance in the circle was the perfect mixture that resulted in Kansas upsetting No. 5 Oklahoma, 4-2, in extra inning on Friday night at Arrocha Ballpark at Rock Chalk Park.
The Jayhawks (35-8, 5-5 Big 12) clinched its 10th come-from-behind victory of the season much like the first nine, which was to fight and battle until the last pitch was thrown. That tough mentality along with a pair of home runs that accounted for all of Kansas’ runs proved to be the winning combination. KU’s four runs, including a walk-off two run homer from freshman Daniella Chavez, were unanswered in the final three innings giving the Jayhawks a 1-0 advantage in the three-game series against the Sooners (40-7, 12-2 Big 12).
“Daniella is one of the best hitters in the country and definitely one of the best freshman hitters in the country,” said head coach Megan Smith. “As a freshman she has ups and downs and had a couple bad at bats, but she’s always ready and we know with one swing of the bat she can change the game. Her poise in that third at-bat I was impressed with. As a freshman to have a couple tough at-bats and come out in that situation and deliver, that’s huge. I’m just excited she’s a freshman, so we are going to have her for a while doing that for us.”
The last time that Kansas upset a top-5 program was when the Jayhawks defeated Oklahoma, who was No. 1 at the time, on senior day during the 2013 season. KU evened it mark, 1-1, against teams in the Top 25 polls with the victory over the Sooners, the loss came at No. 1 Florida in February.
“It’s big, every year we play Oklahoma they are in the top five or 10 in the country, and they have a phenomenal program,” Smith said. “We tell our girls if you play your game and you fight, you have a chance to win and that’s what we did. Our offense, our defense and our pitching gave us a chance to win tonight. To start the series with a win is huge and huge for our confidence.”
Kansas collected three hits against OU’s freshman hurler Paige Parker, who has a 21-5 record in the circle. Chavez’s long ball mixed with junior Chaley Brickey’s team-leading 13th home run of the season were all the hits needed to seal the victory.
“We didn’t get many hits, but the ones we got were really important,” said Smith. I think tonight’s win was a total team effort. It’s the orange game, it’s in honor of my late husband, who fought really hard and lost his battle against cancer and our kids fought just as hard tonight. It was really fun to watch that.”
It wasn’t just the fight from the entire team and pair of home runs that gave Kansas its 35th win of the season, the most victories in a season under Smith’s watch, but it was also senior pitcher Alicia Pille’s stellar relief outing in the circle.
In her 33rd appearance of the season, Pille tossed six innings earning her 21st win of the year. Despite getting into several jams, Pille worked her way out each time to leave OU’s go-ahead run stranded on third base. She struck out five and allowed one run, which dropped her ERA to 2.74 on the year.
“I can say enough about Alicia Pille and her resilience and her coming out here tonight and really just getting back to her own form,” said Smith. “She was confident and attacking hitters, instead of being hesitant she was attacking and I love to see that.”
The bats were kept quiet by both teams for the first two innings with neither pitcher relinquishing a hit. Freshman hurler Bryn Houlton got the starting nod and retired the first five batters she faced in order.
In third inning, the Sooners broke the silence and tallied their first run of the game. Pille replaced Houlton in the circle and found herself in the first of two bases loaded jams. Oklahoma took a one-run advantage after senior infielder Shelby Pendley hit a sacrifice fly to left field. With Sooners still threatening, Pille went to work and recorded back-to-back outs and by tossing her first strikeout of the game, she triggered the third out as OU mounted just a one-run lead through three innings.
Kansas kept Oklahoma scoreless in the fourth inning with help from freshman catcher Jesse Roane’s bullet to second base. The throw caught the runner on first stealing and ended OU’s threat. However, before the runner was caught stealing, the Sooners tacked on their second run with another contribution from Shelby Pendley. The RBI single to center field gave Oklahoma a 2-0 lead heading into the home half of the fifth inning.
Despite drawing several walks and having runners reach base earlier in the game, Kansas was held hitless until the fifth frame. With two outs, sophomore infielder Taylor McElhaney headed to plate to start one two very important rallies for KU. The Talala, Oklahoma native put up a fight in the batter’s box, wearing down Parker and drawing a walk to keep the inning alive. Brickey stepped up to the plate, representing the tying run, and unleashed a homer that broke up Parker’s no-hitter and tied the ball game, 2-2.
KU continued to gain momentum in the seventh inning, capitalizing on OU’s attempt at a squeeze bunt play and instead of gaining the lead, Kansas recorded the out. After senior Chanin Naudin made the play at third, KU recorded two more consecutive outs to end the inning unscathed. Oklahoma threatened once again in the top of the eighth after getting another runner to third base, but Kansas halted the Sooners attempt at registering another run and went to the home half of the eighth inning with all the momentum in its dugout.
Brickey led off the bottom of the eighth with a double giving the Jayhawks the winning run in scoring position. Chavez brought Brickey home and the win, 4-2, with a home run to centerfield. Chavez’s game-winning homer kept KU’s perfect record in extended innings as Kansas improved to 5-0.
The Jayhawks will play their second game of the three-game series against the Sooners on Saturday, April 25 at 2 p.m. inside Arrocha Ballpark at Rock Chalk Park. Saturday is fan appreciation day, fans wearing blue will receive a $5 admission.
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