NCAA Tournament: Jayhawks Edged by No. 19 Nebraska, 2-1
COLUMBIA, Mo. – Kansas’ postseason run came to an end on Saturday night after being edged, 2-1, by No. 19 Nebraska at University Field. The Jayhawks concluded its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006 with a 1-2 mark.
Kansas (34-23) had the tying run aboard in both the sixth and seventh innings, but the Cornhuskers kept the momentum from swinging in KU’s favor and claimed a spot in the regional finals. The Jayhawks collected three hits in their final game of the season.
Junior Alicia Pille went the distance throwing her 10th complete game of the year. She opened the contest with a strikeout, a ground out and fly out to retire the first three batters in order. Pille continued the momentum into the second inning and tossed another scoreless frame despite surrendering a base hit.
Kansas got the go ahead run in scoring position in the second inning, but two KU runners were stranded as Nebraska’s pitcher Emily Lockman ended the inning without allowing a run. Senior Taylor Hatfield recorded Kansas’ first hit with a single to right field and freshman Harli Ridling moved her into scoring after reaching on a walk, but the inning was retired before the Jayahwks could cross home plate.
In the third, Nebraska scored one run on two hits. Second baseman Hailey Decker drove in the first run of the ballgame for the Huskers with a RBI double down the left field line. Pille left Decker stranded in scoring position after recording her third strikeout to end the third inning as KU trailed, 1-0.
Nebraska added an insurance run in the fourth inning with a RBI single from Dawna Tyson, which increased the Huskers lead, 2-0. Pille settled down after giving up a run in the third and fourth innings hurled three more scoreless frames.
Junior third baseman Chanin Naudin led off the bottom of the fifth with a stand up double. Freshman Taylor Dodson put Kansas on the board after bringing Naudin home with a single to shallow left field cutting the Huskers lead, 2-1.
Tatum Edwards took over in the circle for Nebraska in the fifth and closed out the inning. Lockman tossed four and third innings with three strikeouts, while giving up three hits and an earned run. The victory in the circle improved Lockman to 19-4 on the season. Edwards hurled two and two-thirds innings of relief and struck out four.
The Jayhawks got the tying run on base in the sixth after junior Maddie Stein drew a walk. A fielder’s choice erased KU’s lead runner and Hatfield became the tying run at first base. Nebraska ended the inning halting Kansas from gaining momentum in the sixth.
Pille worked her way out of a bases loaded jam in the seventh inning. She threw seven innings and struck out five Husker batters. She surrendered six hits and three earned runs in her 21st start.
In the seventh, Kansas had the tying run reach after freshman Taylor McElhaney drew a walk with two outs. Edwards ended the Jayhawks threat to clinch the victory, 2-1.
Kansas Postgame Quotes
Kansas Head Coach Megan Smith
“Tough way to end the season, but proud of our girls and the effort tonight. I felt like we fought the whole game and played a really good Nebraska team again for the third time this season. They played a great game. I thought (Alicia) Pille threw extremely well and gave us a chance to win, but we just did not do enough offensively to come away with a win. But give a lot of credit to Nebraska. They have a great a program and good luck to them and Mizzou both tomorrow.”
On the senior class:
“They are phenomenal. Everyone that has that jersey on right now is phenomenal and has done a lot to get us here. I told the team afterward that five years ago, I was here playing Mizzou and I had an entirely different speech for that team then. It was a rough day for us here and we have come leaps and bounds since then. It is all because of those girls that put on that jersey and work hard every day. Alex and Ashley, those seniors have been through a lot and they have worked really hard to turn things around and they have done Kansas well today.”
On having young talent coming back next season:
“We definitely have young talent. We have good talent coming in next year. I think that just getting to this stage, they now know what they’re working for. Before they had no idea what it felt like and now they know and they’re going to want to get back. They’re going to want to do even better. We proved that we can compete at this level and that we belong here. I know that we won’t be satisfied from here on out unless we’re getting here and doing even better.”
Kansas Junior P Alicia Pille
On keeping Nebraska’s potent offense in check for most of the game:
“I just think our team has been playing well. We’ve had great defense all year and I don’t do it by myself. Everybody is behind me and Nebraska is a great team. We’ve gave them a run for their money and it just did not fall our way today.”
On what the season meant for the program:
“It was amazing. Since my freshman year, it has been our goal to get to regionals and we made it here. I’m proud of every one of us. I’m happy for our seniors that we got to come here and accomplish what we did and I can’t wait to build on this next year.”
Kansas Senior IF Ashley Newman
On facing Nebraska on back-to-back days:
“We knew what we were getting into. We’ve seen their hitters plenty of times, we’d played them twice before. Seeing a new pitcher was probably different for a lot of us.”
On Nebraska’s pitching change shifting momentum:
“I don’t think it changed momentum too much. We hit her plenty of times before. We hit her well yesterday so I don’t think it changed much.
On this season and her career:
“This season was obviously by far the best season that we have had since I have been here. This really was an amazing experience. We just wanted to know what it was like to get this far and it truly is a great feeling.”
Kansas Senior P/OF Alex Jones
On this season and her career:
“It’s always upsetting to lose, but everyone is going to play their last game at some point eventually. I’m going on my fifth year now and people kept telling me that whenever I got hurt my junior that it happened for a reason. I think the reason 100 percent was so I could get to experience this and it was amazing. I’m not disappointed at all. We played some great teams this weekend and showed that we can hang with them and we did really well and the experience was amazing. So I don’t regret anything at all and I’m just so glad that we made it here.”
KUAthletics.com: The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.