KU Softball Takes the Field for Fall Practice

LAWRENCE, Kan. – After several weeks of individual workouts, Kansas softball took the field for the first time all together as Fall practice began. Even more special, it marks the first time the entire Jayhawk squad practiced at the newly-constructed Rock Chalk Park.

“We’re excited for team practices to start up and to all be out here at Rock Chalk Park,” said head coach Megan Smith. “Individual workouts have been great. It allows the freshmen time to adjust to our system and our program. We’re happy about starting team practices and picking up where we left off at the end of 2014.”

Last season, the Jayhawks reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006 and opened the postseason with a win over then-No. 19 Nebraska. Not only did Smith guide Kansas softball back to a NCAA Regional, but also saw the Jayhawks break another program record after recording a .979 fielding percentage, second-best in the nation. Junior Chaley Brickey and senior Maddie Stein earned spots on the All-Big 12 Second Team and All-Big 12 Defensive team, respectively.

“Reaching the NCAA Tournament is a goal of ours every year and it was nice to see the team’s hard work pay off and be rewarded with an at-large bid,” Smith said. “We want to build on that success and continue to carry that success into this season and the seasons to come.”

A program on the rise, Smith has led the Jayhawks to four-straight 30-win seasons in her five years. Kansas recorded its fifth-consecutive season with at least one victory over a ranked opponent after defeating two nationally-ranked foes on the road in 2014.

During the offseason, Smith added John Rittman to KU’s coaching staff to aid with the Jayhawks’ offense and outfielders. Rittman comes to Kansas with an impressive resume that includes 18 years at Stanford and eight years with the USA Olympic team. While at Stanford, Rittman guided the Cardinal to 16-consecutive winning seasons, 15-straight NCAA appearances, 13 40-win seasons and produced at least one All-American in 15 of the last 16 years. During his stint with the national team, Rittman saw USA win a gold medal in 2004 and a silver medal in 2008.

Returning for her third season as the Jayhawks’ pitching coach is former All-American Abbie Sims. During the 2014 season, Sims guided Kansas’ pitching staff to a 2.59 ERA and a combined 411 strikeouts, the most by a Jayhawk pitching staff since the 2006 season. KU’s pitchers threw 30 and two-thirds consecutive scoreless innings, or five-straight complete game shutouts, before an opponent crossed home plate. Jayhawk pitchers accounted for three of five Big 12 weekly honors awarded to KU in 2014. The five weekly conference honors is the most in a single season by Kansas softball.

The Jayhawks began their Fall slate on Oct. 2 against Johnson County Community College at 6 p.m., at Rock Chalk Park. It is the first of eight contests in the month of October. Kansas returns six starters and 13 letterwinners from last year’s roster, while welcoming nine newcomers including seven freshmen and two transfers.

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