Kansas Concludes 2015 Campaign at NCAA Regionals
COLUMBIA, Mo. – Kansas’ second-straight postseason run came to an end on Sunday afternoon after Missouri halted a late Jayhawk rally and held on to win, 7-6, at University Field.
Making their sixth NCAA Regional Championship appearance and first since 2006, the Jayhawks (40-15) put runs on the scoreboard first and took a 2-0 lead, but the Tigers (42-14) responded by bringing home seven runs in the second and third frames. Kansas capitalized on several Missouri miscues in the sixth to score four runs and cut the lead to one run.
Freshman outfielder Erin McGinley drove in KU’s second run of the ballgame and paced KU’s offense after going 2-for-2, her first multi-hit effort at the plate this season. The Jayhawks totaled seven hits from six different players, while Missouri registered eight hits.
Kansas closed out 2015 with its best winning percentage (.727) since 1992 when the Jayhawks ended the season 45-10 (.818), which was also KU’s first trip to the Women’s College World Series. The 40-win season marks the first under head coach Megan Smith, who has compiled a 191-131 record at the helm of Kansas softball.
Chanin Naudin, who has made spectacular plays all weekend from third base, opened the game in the same fashion. She stretched out to her left and snagged a line drive robbing Missouri’s leadoff batter Taylor Gadbois of a base hit. Naudin’s gem on the corner started a 1-2-3 inning for senior pitcher Alicia Pille.
Junior Chaley Brickey led off the home half of the first inning with a single up the middle and advanced to second base on a wild pitch. A ground out moved KU’s shortstop to third base with two outs. For the second time this weekend, Naudin reached base after Missouri intentionally walked her. Junior outfielder Shannon McGinley extended the two-out rally and loaded the bases with a walk. Roane, who drove in the game-winning runs less than 24 hours ago over Indiana State, plated the go ahead run with a single to centerfield as Kansas took a 1-0 lead in first frame. Freshman Erin McGinley continued the first inning rally with Kansas’ second RBI single of the frame. Her base hit to right field increased KU’s lead, 2-0.
Missouri answered in the second and claimed its first lead of the afternoon. Kirsten Mack and Angie Randazzo strung together a pair of hits each driving in a run to even the score. The Tigers took the lead, 3-2, after the go ahead runner scored on a wild pitch.
In the bottom of the second, the Jayhawks drew back-to-back walks to open the inning, which ended Missouri starter Tori Finucane’s outing as head coach Ehren Earleywine called upon Cheyenne Baxter in relief. Naudin loaded the bases for the second inning in a row after getting hit by a pitch. Unlike the first bases loaded jam, Missouri escaped the frame without harm.
Missouri extended its lead in the third inning after Mack hit a home run to left field with the bases loaded. Mack’s grand slam and second hit of the ballgame increased the Tigers advantage, 7-2.
Kansas responded in the home half of the inning by loading the bases for the third-consecutive frame. However, Baxter got out of the bases loaded jam unscathed as the Jayhawks left eight runners on base through the first three innings.
Sophomore Sophia Templin, making her first appearance of the weekend, relieved Pille in the third inning. The De Soto, Kansas native ended the top of the fifth with her first K of the regional. She gave up four hits in four and third innings of work.
The Jayhawks took advantage of several errors and miscues in the sixth frame to score four runs, which cut the Tigers lead to one run. Kansas loaded the bases for the fourth time before a KU run crossed home plate. Sophomore Taylor McElhaney brought home another run after getting hit by a pitch with the bases full of Jayhawks, while Brickey drew a walk to plating a fourth Jayhawk. Missouri’s third pitcher of the contest, Paige Lowary, ended the threat and the sixth with the lead, 7-6.
Kansas threatened in the final inning as the tying run reached first base, but Lowary closed out the game to earn her fourth save of the season. Baxter improved to 3-1 on the season with the win.
Pille fell to 25-8 in the circle to end her senior season. She ends her career at Kansas fourth all-time in strikeouts with 673 K’s. Pille struck out 200 batters this season, the most in a single season for the Royse City, Texas product.
Sunday’s game also marked the end of Naudin, utility Maddie Stein and pitcher Beth Wilson’s career in the Crimson and Blue. The 2015 senior class helped Kansas to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, including a trip back to the regional finale.
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