Twice is Nice: Jayhawks Headed Back to Columbia Regional
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas softball earned it’s second-consecutive NCAA Tournament berth after a 38-13 season and will face Louisville on Friday, May 15, in the Columbia (Mo.) Regional, as announced during the NCAA Tournament Selection Show on ESPNU Sunday night. Regional host and former Big 12 rival Missouri garnered the No. 10 national seed and will tangle with Indiana State in the region’s other opening game, with both contests slated for Friday at University Field.
“I’m really excited for our team,” said head coach Megan Smith. “I think they’ve worked extremely hard, played a tough schedule and did an unbelievable job with our tough schedule, so definitely deserving of the bid. We’re excited to go back to Columbia to play some great teams from the ACC and the SEC. I am proud of our girls and we’re going to get to work on Tuesday to prepare.”The Jayhawks waiting to learn their fate during
the 2015 NCAA Selection Show
on Sunday night.
Kansas is making its 12th NCAA Tournament appearance in program history and second under Smith. The Jayhawks concluded the regular season recording their most victories (38) of the Smith-era and the best winning percentage (.745) since KU went to the Women’s College World Series in 1992 and posted a .818 winning percentage.
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Kansas concluded the 2015 Big 12 Conference slate with a three-game sweep on the road against Iowa State. The trio of victories extended KU’s win streak over the Cyclones to 10 games, including a series sweep each of the last three seasons. During the final weekend of the regular season, freshman designated player Daniella Chavez led the offensive charge hitting .727 with three home runs and 11 RBIs.
Rewriting Kansas’ record book has become a continuing trend for the Jayhawks in 2015. Senior utility Maddie Stein claimed KU’s career RBI record after registering her 141st RBI against Georgia State (3/22), she currently has 150 RBIs in her career. Chavez has also made her mark on the Jayhawk Records after collecting 65 RBIs and 15 home runs during her rookie campaign. Chavez’s 15 long balls ties the freshman homer record, while her 65 RBIs set a new single-season mark. Additionally, junior infielder Chaley Brickey is nine walks away from becoming Kansas’ all-time walk leader.
Six different Jayhawks are hitting over .300, contributing to the team batting average of .319, while seven different Jayhawks have assisted in Kansas hitting 52 home runs this season, including 10 grand slams. Chavez has launched a team-leading 15 homers and four grand slams in 2015.
Kansas’ pitching staff is led by senior Alicia Pille, who has struck out 184 batters in 118.1 innings of work. She has registered a 2.90 ERA and collected 23 victories in the circle, which is the most wins by a Jayhawk pitcher since 2001. Overall, the Kansas staff has a 3.66 ERA after pitching 337 innings in 51 games, striking out 277 batters.
After finishing as the No. 4-seed in the ACC Tournament, Louisville (30-17) fell 3-2 to NC State in the first round of the conference tournament last Thursday afternoon at Tech Softball Field. Like the Jayhawks, the Cardinals earned an at-large bid to the 2015 postseason. Louisville is making its 12th-straight NCAA postseason appearance in school history. Last season, the Cardinals went 0-2 in the Tucson Regional.
The Cardinals are led by senior Kelsi Jones, an All-ACC selection, who is hitting .375 on the season. She has collected 36 runs, 17 doubles and 12 stolen bases during her senior campaign. Also an All-ACC First Team honoree, Maryssa Becker tops Louisville’s pitching staff with a 14-7 mark in the circle and 2.22 ERA, while striking out 137 batters in 157.1 innings of work. At the plate, Becker leads the charge with nine home runs and 39 RBIs.
Last NCAA Regional Appearance: 2014
Number of NCAA Regional Appearances: 12 (1983, 1985, 1986, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2005, 2006, 2014, 2015)
The Jayhawks have made 12 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, including a trip to the Women’s College World Series in 1992. KU’s first NCAA appearance was in 1983 and from 1992-94, the Jayhawks made three-straight appearances in the field of 64 for the longest postseason streak in Kansas history. The Jayhawks hosted a regional in the 1992 and 1994 NCAA Tournament. Overall, Kansas is 15-22 in the NCAA Tournament.
In the double-elimination regional, Kansas will face either Missouri or Indiana State on Saturday, May 16, at University Field in Columbia, Missouri.
Chanin Naudin // Senior // Infielder
On the emotions of playing in a second NCAA Tournament:
“It’s exciting this year because last year we were still on the bubble and we weren’t sure if we were going to make it in, but this year was a little bit of a relief to know that we did enough during the season to where it wasn’t such a stress and weren’t sure if our season was over yet. It’s fun to realize that we have more games to play.
On what it means to play another weekend:
“It means a lot because throughout the four years we’ve grown so much, its actually crazy how much our program has developed. Having another weekend to play is great, especially coming off of last weekend because we looked really good.”
Alicia Pille // Senior // Pitcher
On seeing Kansas pop up on the TV screen:
“We had such a good non-conference season and ended so strong. I knew there was a very good chance we were going to be in (the NCAA Tournament), so it wasn’t as stressful, but it’s still such a relief to see your name pop up on the screen. It’s an indescribable feeling that I am never going to forget. It was so much fun to be with the whole team in that atmosphere. I was awesome and I am excited.”
On getting to play another weekend:
“I am super pumped and we are prepared. We had a little dip in the road, but we’re trending upwards, which is awesome, there’s no better time to be trending upwards than now. We’re going to join together as a team and fight to the end.”
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