COLUMBIA, Mo. – With rain clouds lingering overhead, Kansas softball didn’t let the dreary weather deter from preparing for its second-straight NCAA Tournament appearance. After arriving in Columbia, Missouri Wednesday evening, the Jayhawks settled in and prepared for the competitive field.
Due to the stormy weather, KU moved practice to the University of Missouri’s indoor facilities on Thursday afternoon to prep for its first matchup against Louisville on Friday, May 15 at Noon (game start changed Thursday due to weather forecast). Kansas kept a similar practice routine despite not being able to take the field, while the pitchers warmed up their arms, the rest of the team took batting practice before fielding a few balls in the time allotted.
The Jayhawks (38-13, 8-10 Big 12) enter postseason play with its best overall record since 1997, a squad that also made it to the NCAA Regionals. KU continues to build its resume this season after recording the best win-loss margin Kansas has seen in the last 23 years.
Last weekend’s sweep over Iowa State added three more victories to the Jayhawks’ win column in their final conference series of the year. KU’s success on the field in 2015 has garnered recognition from the Big 12 Conference for multiple players. Freshman infielder Daniella Chavez topped the awards being named first team and co-Freshman of the Year after a record breaking rookie season. The Crowley, Texas product set a single-season RBI record, collecting 65 RBIs, and has tied the freshman home run record after launching 15 long balls.
Along with Chavez, four other Jayhawks received Big 12 honors for their performances over the course of the season. Junior infielder Chaley Brickey joined Chavez with first team accolades. Senior Maddie Stein, sophomore Taylor McElhaney and freshman Jesse Roane rounded out the awards for KU.
The record breaking season has been powered by the explosive offense Kansas continuously demonstrates. Six Jayhawks are hitting over .300 and have combined for a .319 batting average. Along with Chavez’s records, senior utility Maddie Stein also rewrote the Kansas record book earlier this year after tallying her 141st career RBI in March. Stein has currently registered 150 RBIs, 10 more than any other Jayhawk has tallied in KU history.
Kansas will kick off the Columbia Regional against Louisville, which will be the first time that the Jayhawks and the Cardinals have faced each other in a NCAA Tournament. Previously, KU has played Louisville four times with an even 2-2 record. The last contest between the two teams was in 2010, where the Cardinals defeated Kansas, 10-2.
Louisville enters the weekend with a 30-17 overall record and finished 16-7 in conference play. The Cardinals are making their 12th-straight NCAA Tournament appearance in this weekend’s regional.
The Cardinals offense is powered by senior outfielder Kelsi Jones, who is hitting .375 on the season. The veteran has collected 17 doubles and 12 stolen bases during the 2015 season. Sophomore hurler Maryssa Becker has earned a 14-7 mark in the circle and 2.22 ERA, while striking out 137 batters in 157.1 innings of work. Becker has also proven to be a force at the plate, registering a team-best nine home runs and 39 RBIs.
Kansas and Louisville will open the Columbia Regional at University Field with the first pitch scheduled for 4 p.m. on Friday, May 15th. The game will air on ESPN3 and the Jayhawk Radio Network.
KUAthletics.com: The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.