Jayhawks rally late to walk off winners against Mercer
ORLANDO, Fla. – In its third game of the Citrus Class II at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, the Kansas softball team picked up a 5-4 walk-off win over Mercer, thanks to timely hitting and a little bit of luck in the final two innings.
Trailing by two runs and down to their final five outs of the game, the Jayhawks (12-6) turned on their clutch hitting, starting with a one-out single from junior catcher Harli Ridling in the sixth inning. Things continued with back-to-back singles from senior pinch hitter Taylor Dodson and junior outfielder Amanda Organ to load the bases.
A hard-hit line drive from freshman pinch hitter Brittani Reid was picked out of the air by the Mercer (9-9) third baseman to calm the frenzy hitting, but senior Lily Behrmann picked things back up with her third hit of the game, a two-out RBI single to bring the Jayhawks within one.
“Lily was huge for us tonight,” head coach Megan Smith said. “She is our most consistent offensive player and she’s dynamic offensively, which is why she is our leadoff batter. We want her to get as many at bats as she can, and tonight that paid off. After her first at bat in the game, she refocused and came through big for us.”
The Jayhawks showed their offensive prowess when it mattered most, needing a run in the bottom of the seventh to extend the ballgame. Junior third baseman Jessie Roane led off the bottom half of the final inning with her first hit of the game, a single up the middle, before junior outfielder Erin McGinley moved the runner to second with her first sacrifice bunt of the season.
Following the McGinley sacrifice, freshman first baseman Becki Monaghan smashed her second double of the game to bring sophomore Emily Bermel, who pinch ran for Roane, around from second to tie things up in dramatic fashion, before Kansas was handed a couple of gifts from Mercer.
“Becki does things the right way, she works hard, she’s a team player and she’s unselfish, so it is really exciting to see her do so well today,” Smith said. “We think the world of Becki and for her to come out and produce in a game like this is huge.”
A passed ball allowed junior Annie Mehringer to reach third base as a pinch runner for Monaghan, before Ridling, who started the sixth inning rally with a single, reached on a fielding error by the Mercer shortstop. The error gave Mehringer a free pass home for the winning run as Kansas walked off with a 5-4 victory.
Mercer scored three of its four runs in the third inning off sophomore pitcher Alexis Reid to be the first team on the board. Reid, a Blue Springs, Missouri product, allowed 11 hits in the contest, before giving way to freshman Mandy Roberts (3-3) in the circle after four-plus innings of work.
Roberts inherited runners at the corners after taking over for Reid with no outs in the fifth and the Jayhawks trailing 3-2. The first batter that Roberts faced was able to drive in the runner from third with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2, but the Lee’s Summit, Missouri native settled in to record two more outs to prevent any further damage.
Prior to the one-run top of the fifth, Kansas cut a three-run deficit to one in the bottom of the fourth. Monaghan tagged a one-out double to right center field and advanced to third on a wild pitch, before Ridling drove her in with a single up the middle to make it 3-1. An illegal pitch and a wild pitch brought the Jayhawks within one as Lily Valeo scored after pinch running for Ridling.
Roberts picked up her second win in the circle on the day in the KU victory, pitching three innings of no-hit ball and not allowing a base runner in the relief appearance.
Mercer is a great team and they are well coached,” Smith said. “Their game is all about speed and getting the ball on the ground and going, and they did exactly that. They are a tough team to play and they’re really scrappy, so I was excited that when Mandy came in, she did a better job in terms of inducing some pop ups and nullifying their speed.”
The Jayhawks will continue the Citrus Classic II with games against Florida International and South Alabama on Saturday, March 4. Both games will have a free audio stream available through the Jayhawk Radio Network at KUAthletics.com/Radio.
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