Kansas Erases Deficit, Tops Cyclones, 8-3
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas overcame an early three-run deficit during Friday night’s series opener and scored eight unanswered runs to defeat Iowa State, 8-3, at Arrocha Ballpark.
“We got off to a sluggish start,” said head coach Megan Smith. “(Alicia) Pille came in and did a great job of setting a new tone for us. Our offense responded, fought hard and scraped together some runs to keep putting pressure on Iowa State.”
The victory over the Cyclones extends the Jayhawks’ (31-21, 5-11 Big 12) winning streak over ISU to five games. KU shook off a slow start offensively to outhit Iowa State, 11-10. KU has a 16-3 mark when recording 10 or more hits.
Senior Ashley Newman led the offense with three hits for her 17th multi-hit game of the year. Senior outfielder Taylor Hatfield and freshman Taylor Dodson also collected multi-hit performances at the plate with two hits each.
While the offense charged ahead and gave Kansas the lead, KU’s defense displayed great play after great play to back up Alicia Pille in the circle. Third baseman Chanin Naudin made several defensive gems throughout the game and turned KU’s fifth double play of 2014. Kansas’ defense has now played seven-straight games without committing an error and has a .978 team fielding percentage, which is fourth-best in the country.
“Holy cow! The defense was amazing today,” Pille said. “Chanin (Naudin) was at third base turning double plays, Chaley (Brickey) was coming way out to get fly balls and Harli (Ridling) was catching pop-ups. Those are huge plays that look really easy to do, but aren’t that easy. As a pitcher, especially when it wasn’t my best day, it’s a relief to feel the defense with me.”
Iowa State struck first with two runs on three hits in the opening frame. Pille took over in the second inning relieving starter Kelsey Kessler. The Cyclones extended their lead to 3-0 in the second inning with another run before Pille would silence ISU’s offense for the remainder of the evening.
“Our defense played great,” Smith said. “Chanin Naudin made some big plays and saved a lot runs for us. The outfield played great and (Ashley) Newman had a diving play that was big. They really helped (Alicia) Pille out a lot tonight.”
Kansas began its comeback in the second inning and scored two runs to cut the Cyclones lead to one. Ridling reached after battling back from behind in the count for a walk. Hatfield was hit by a pitch and Dodson followed with a single to load the bases. Freshman outfielder Taylor McElhaney drew a bases loaded walk bringing home the first run. Newman recorded an infield single, her second hit of the night, as Kansas trailed, 3-2.
In the top of the third, Kansas defense tagged a runner out at home plate, which saved a run and kept the momentum on KU’s side. Right fielder Lily Behrmann made a catch and fired the ball towards home plate. Brickey made the cut off and threw home to Ridling, who made the tag. Pille struck out the next batter to the end the top of the third frame without any harm.
The Jayhawks’ offense kept the momentum going at the plate and took the lead after scoring four runs on five this in the home half of the third. Hatfield’s double to centerfield sailed over the outfielder’s stretched out arm and drove in the tying run. Kansas plated three more runs to take a 6-3 lead after three innings.
Kansas got three quick and impressive outs to end the top of the fourth. Iowa State’s Brittany Gomez led off the frame with a double, but Ridling answered empying the bases by catching Gomez attempting to steal third base. Naudin snagged the first of two line drives in the game and Newman made a diving catch and threw over to first base for the final out.
Naudin, a junior from Princeton, Texas, fouled off numerous pitches during her at-bat in the fourth inning. The battle at the plate resulted in a solo home run for Naudin, who connected for her fifth long ball of 2014 increasing KU’s lead, 7-3.
“Chanin was locked in and focused,” Smith said of Naudin’s performance. “You could tell she was in battle mode and her confidence grew with each at-bat, which is how it should be. I thought she played really well today.”
In the top of the fifth, Naudin made another stellar defensive play. She grabbed a ground ball stepped on the bag at third and threw across the diamond to first base for the double play to end the inning and halt the Cyclones thought of a rally.
“When the defense makes those plays, it helps you relax as a pitcher,” said Pille. “I think it helped the whole team relax. We didn’t score in the first inning, but we kept fighting and building off what the defense was doing.”
During the home half of the fifth, Behrmann gave Kansas another insurance run with her first career home run and extended the Jayhawks lead, 8-3.
“We just kept getting hits and scoring runs, which was fun to see,” Pille said. “We had two home runs and it was Lily’s first. I was really proud of her.”
In her 27th appearance, Pille (11-6) hurled five scoreless innings of relief after giving up one run in the second. She hurled a total of six innings in the win and struck out one, while scattering seven hits.
Kansas continues its final home series of 2014 with the second game of the three-game series against Iowa State. First pitch is slated for 2 p.m., where the Jayhawks will honor the 2014 senior class. The game will also air live on the Jayhawk Television Network/ESPN3.
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