Kansas Edges Louisville in NCAA Tournament Opener, 1-0
COLUMBIA, Mo. – For the second-consecutive season, Kansas softball began NCAA Tournament action with a victory after the Jayhawks edged Louisville, 1-0, on Friday afternoon at University Field.
The Jayhawks (39-13) took the lead in the third frame, but as the inning came to a close a storm rolled into Columbia, Missouri, which halted play for an hour and 43 minutes. Kansas was unaffected by the stoppage in play as KU’s offense and senior hurler Alicia Pille came out stronger following the delay.
In her second career NCAA Tournament start, Pille threw her seventh shutout of 2015. She allowed only one hit, a base hit that fell behind first base. Three times this season, Pille has surrendered just one hit as she improved to 24-6 in the circle. After tossing seven shutout innings, Pille’s ERA dropped to 2.80, while her strikeout count for the year grew to 188.Senior Alicia Pille improved to 24-6 in the
circle after edging Louisville, 1-0.
While Pille took care of business in the circle, the Jayhawks’ offense went to work at the plate. Kansas registered seven hits and four walks compared to Louisville recording just one hit and one walk. Freshman Daniella Chavez, who set a new KU single-season RBI record during the final series of the regular season, gave Kansas the lead with a RBI single in the third. She finished the ballgame 1-for-3 with 66th RBI of the year.
Junior Chaley Brickey led off the contest with the first of two walks. The Haltom City, Texas product has 103 career walks and needs just seven more to claim the Jayhawks’ all-time walk record. Brickey reached base in three of her four plate appearances, she also recorded a single in the third and would come to score the lone run of the day.
Pille opened the game with a quick 1-2-3 inning with the help of her defense. Pille induced a pop out, a line out and a fly out and with the aid of the Jayhawk defense put her first zero on the scoreboard. After recording her first walk, Brickey advanced to scoring position, but Louisville ended the threat stranding the first Jayhawk.
In the second frame, Louisville led off the inning with its first base runner after senior shortstop Whitney Arion was hit by a pitch. Pille retired the next batter via fly out before KU’s defense turned a double play to conclude the visiting half of the second.
The bottom half of Kansas’ lineup went to work in the second frame. The Jayhawks loaded the bases after recording a pair of base hits, but Louisville once again halted KU’s momentum by answering with a double play of its own, which stranded two more Jayhawks on base. After two complete innings, the score remained tied, 0-0.
Brickey opened the third inning with a single to reach base for the second time. A groundout advanced the shortstop into scoring position as Chavez stepped into the batter’s box. Chavez recorded the fourth KU single of the day, allowing Brickey to score as Kansas took a 1-0 lead.
In the sixth inning, the Jayhawks loaded the bases for the second time after stringing together a pair of hits and a walk. Junior Shannon McGinley ignited the offense with a base hit to center field to leadoff, while freshman Erin McGinley followed with a walk. Junior Briana Evans loaded the bases with KU’s second single of the frame, but Louisville ended the bases loaded threat without harm. In all, Kansas left 10 batters on base in its first victory of the weekend.
Three outs away from opening its second-straight NCAA Tournament with a win, Pille sat the first batter of the inning down with her fourth strikeout. Senior Kayla Soles launched her final at-bat deep to left field. It looked as though it would land on the opposite side of the fence and tie the ballgame, but Shannon McGinley tracked the ball down and made the catch, which preserved KU’s one-run advantage. Pille induced a line out to record the final out.
Along with her game-winning catch, Shannon McGinley went 2-for-3 at the plate for her 13th multi-hit effort. Evans also collected a pair of hits and finished the contest 2-for-3. Like McGinley, Evans has recorded 13 multi-hit games.
Kansas advances to play the winner of Missouri on Saturday, May 16 at 10 a.m., at University Field.
KANSAS SOFTBALL QUOTESHEAD COACH MEGAN SMITH
“Excited to be here back at Missouri for regionals. Familiar for us, so that was exciting to get sent back here. We’re just really pleased with our performance today. I thought Pille was phenomenal in the circle for us. Our defense made some really good plays. Their defense made some really good plays. It was a fun softball game to be a part of.”
SHANNON MCGINLEY // JUNIOR // OUTFIELDER
On her outstanding play in the seventh inning, robbing a potential Louisville game-tying home run:
“I saw it up and it was high enough in the air for me to get back to the fence. I was pretty confident that I could get it. It would have been out, I had to lean back a little bit for it. She hit it well, but it was just high enough where I was able to get back in time to grab it”
On whether the gravity of the situation was weighing on her mind during the play:
“We practice so much, we just get so many reps that none of that goes through your mind. It’s kind of just automatic. It’s an automatic response, so you’ve got to do it for your team. I didn’t really have time to think about anything else.”
ALICIA PILLE // SENIOR // PITCHER
On her emotions when the ball went in the air in the seventh:
“I thought it was out a little bit. Just a little bit. Then I saw her start camping underneath it by the fence and I knew she was going to go for it, wasn’t sure if she was going to catch it because I couldn’t tell by the angle whether it was going to go out or not. Then she caught it. It was the best feeling. Pretty sure I jumped a foot in the air. That was a good play.”
On what was working for her today:
“We were getting some really good corners on the plate and our defense was amazing. My rise was hitting well. We were mixing it up.”
DANIELLA CHAVEZ // FRESHMAN // INFIELDER
On helping the team to the victory with the winning RBI:
“I was still thinking we needed to tack on more. It would have been good to add on some insurance, but I’m glad we came out with the win, obviously. That at-bat, at that moment, what was honestly going through my mind was just getting a base hit. Just to move the runner, score her, anything I could do to help.”
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