Chavez’s Walk-Off Home Run Lifts Kansas, 2-1
TAMPA – With the ballgame tied in the final inning, sophomore infielder Daniella Chavez delivered at the plate with her team-leading fifth home run of the season, as Kansas walked off with a 2-1 victory over Wisconsin on Friday morning, at the USF Softball Stadium.
Chavez’s game-winning home run was the second of two long balls from the Jayhawks (5-6) in the first game of the day. After 11 games in 2016, Kansas has recorded 51 runs with 31 of the runs crossing home plate because of home runs. KU tallied three hits to Wisconsin’s (5-5) four.
“Three hits is not ideal,” said head coach Megan Smith. “Offensively, we were sluggish, but we made adjustments. You could tell from the first at-bat to the second at-bat to the third that we were making really good adjustments and we just weren’t getting results. Obviously, Chaley’s home run was a big one and clearly Daniella’s birthday home run was huge.”
Freshman Ania Williams opened her second career start by striking out the side. Williams finished the outing with a career-high seven strikeouts, bringing her season total to 14. Wisconsin took an early lead in the first inning after scoring the go-ahead run on a double in shallow centerfield that senior Briana Evans barely missed making the catch running in from deep center.
“Ania had a great game today,” Smith said. “She is adding to what she has already done, which is nice to see. She hasn’t taken any steps backward to this point and just building on her early performances. Again, she was moving the ball wall, hitting her spots and fighting. You watch her play and she’s a fighter in the circle, that’s fun to see.”
After giving up a run in the top of the first, Williams tossed six-straight scoreless innings to earn her third victory in the circle. Williams, who owns a 3-1 mark on the season, allowed just one run in her fifth appearance dropped her ERA to 1.25.
To lead off the bottom of fourth, senior shortstop Chaley Brickey tied the ballgame with one swing of the bat. Brickey’s third long ball of 2016 evened the score, 1-1, and broke up Wisconsin’s Taylor-Paige Stewart’s no-hitter. Brickey carried the momentum of her home run over to the defensive side, turning a 6-3 double play to clear the bases and help Williams toss her fourth scoreless inning.
Senior outfielder Shannon McGinley recorded KU’s second hit of the game, a double to left center. McGinley’s two-base knock gave Kansas the go-ahead run in scoring position in the bottom of the fifth frame, but Wisconsin halted the threat before the Jayhawks could capitalize with a runner aboard.
The Badgers led off the sixth inning with a triple off the outfield fence, a hit that was nearly a home run but was nearly caught by Shannon McGinley in left field. Despite the leadoff triple from outfielder Chloe Miller, Williams and the Jayhawk defense ended the frame without harm. Williams induced the final two outs, while great defense from Shannon McGinley and catcher Harli Ridling kept the Wisconsin runner at third on a fly out.
“We had a couple plays like that where they threatened, but Ania buckled down and defense buckled down,” said Smith. “Chaley had a huge double play and that was a big turning point for Ania. Our defense let her down in the first inning, but came back and held strong for her the rest of the game. Aside from the first inning, I thought our performance was about as good as it could be against a really good Wisconsin team.”
Chavez stepped into the batter’s box to start the bottom of the final inning and launched a homer off the scoreboard in left centerfield, as the Jayhawks walked off with a 2-1 victory over Wisconsin to open the USF Tournament.
Kansas continues the USF Tournament on Friday afternoon against South Florida. First pitch is slated for 2 p.m. from the USF Softball Stadium. Every game will be available on the Jayhawk Radio Network.
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