Balanced Jayhawks overpower Cougars late, 6-1
DeLAND, Fla. — Kansas softball concluded the opening weekend of the 2018 season by defeating College of Charleston, 6-1, on Sunday at Patricia Wilson Field in KU’s final game of the Stetson Leadoff Classic.
Kansas (4-1) was powered by a pair of RBI singles from senior outfielder Mikayla Warren and a steady effort from the pitching staff between senior Sarah Miller and junior Brynn Minor. Miller (2-1), who started her second game of the weekend, earned the win through four innings pitched, while Minor faced just 10 batters in three shutout innings to earn the save.
Late in the game, freshman Shelby Gayre pinch hit at the top of the order with two outs and two runners on base. The backup catcher proceeded to slam a three-run home run over the left field fence to give KU a five-run lead, 6-1.
“We challenged our team to come out with energy today and finish this weekend strong,” Kansas head coach Megan Smith said. “I felt like we felt one slip away against Charleston yesterday, so to see us come out and fight like we did and fight throughout all seven innings was really good to see.”
College of Charleston (2-1) jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning behind three hits, including a leadoff single by Taylor DuPree and an RBI single by Taylor Belfiore to score DuPree.
Kansas responded in kind with one run in the first inning.
Freshman centerfielder Brittany Jackson led off KU’s offensive day with a swinging strikeout, but advanced to first base on dropped final pitch and error by the first baseman who muffed the throw to first. Senior outfielder Erin McGinley reached on another Charleston fielding error, advancing Jackson to third base, putting runners at the corners.
McGinley stole her first base of the season to put two Jayhawks in scoring position with no outs. Senior infielder Jessie Roane drove in Jackson on a sacrifice fly to centerfield to put the Jayhawks on the board in the first.
As Miller returned to the circle for the top of the second inning it would be the first of six-straight shutout innings for KU.
Sophomore infielder Sam Dellinger led off the second inning with a double that bounced off the warning track at Patricia Wilson Field. That setup Warren’s first RBI of the day — a single through the left side to allow Dellinger to advance from second and slide safely into home.
“Mikayla is a tough out. She gets in the batter’s box and battles,” Smith said of Warren. “She is very poised and confident. With her speed, she can make a lot happen offensively. Today she came up in some clutch situations and used her speed in those instances. She had a really good weekend.”
Charleston put two runners in scoring position with no outs in the third inning, but KU kept the Cougars on base with solid defense from the outfield to keep the runners honest.
Charleston’s Belfiore hit a two-out single to drive in both runners, but the pair of runs were wiped off the scoreboard because she was not properly re-entered into the game after being subbed out with a pinch runner in the first inning. By rule, Coach Smith reported the miscue to the home-plate umpire after the play.
Miller notched her lone strikeout of the day on the next at-bat to end the third inning with two Cougar runners still in scoring position.
After both teams were retired in order in the fourth inning, senior catcher Harli Ridling drew a two-out walk in the fifth. Freshman Addie Balderston entered as a pinch runner and quickly stole second base for her first-career stolen base.
During KU’s four-run sixth inning, Warren recorded her second RBI single of the day and Gayre hit her first-career home run as Kansas pulled away with a five-run lead.
“We have a lot of confidence in Shelby,” Smith said of her freshman backup catcher. “She has great power at the plate. To pinch-hit her was just a gut feel. I felt like she would have a good at-bat against their pitcher. It’s very exciting to watch someone hit their first home run at the college level.”
Minor returned to circle in the top of the seventh and secured the victory for the Jayhawks by retiring the Cougars in order.
Kansas takes a 2-1 all-time series lead against College of Charleston and avenges Saturday’s 6-4 loss to the Cougars.
ROANE, FORMBY NAMED TO ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Senior infielder Jessie Roane and junior pitcher Andie Formby earned All-Tournament honors. Through five starts at third base, Roane is hitting .333 with five RBIs and a home run; in the field she recorded 14 putouts with a perfect fielding percentage.
Formby appeared in four of KU’s five games this weekend, earning a complete-game win during KU’s season-opener against Akron and adding two saves in as many relief appearances. Formby tossed a total of 15.0 innings with 13 strikeouts.
Next week, Kansas travels to San Antonio, Texas, for the UTSA Softball Tournament, Feb. 16-18. The tourney, held at Roadrunner Field, will feature Prairie View A&M, Lamar, Missouri State and host UTSA.
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