Jayhawks to Host Rock Chalk Challenge

Rock Chalk Challenge
Date March 18-20
Location Lawrence, Kansas
Stadium  Arrocha Ballpark
at Rock Chalk Park
Opponents Minnesota
Saint Louis
Radio  Jayhawk Radio Network               Online: KUAthletics.com  
Notes   Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas softball returns home following a midweek matchup to host the Rock Chalk Challenge March 18-20 at Rock Chalk Park. The Jayhawks welcome Minnesota, UMKC, Saint Louis and Tulsa for the non-conference tournament. KU kicks off the four-game tournament with the No. 22 Gophers at 2 p.m., Friday on the Jayhawk Television and Radio Networks.
Friday is Take a Kid to the Ballpark day at Rock Chalk Park and tickets are buy one get one free. Friday’s concession special is $1 hot dogs during KU games. On Sunday, the fun zone will be setup prior to first pitch for all to enjoy. It’s also Junior Jayhawk Day with a concession special of a hot dog and fruit snacks for $1.50.

  • Kansas has won five of its last six games and outscored its opponents 29-5 during the Jayhawk Invitational.
  • Sophomore Andie Formby has not relinquished a run in nearly 27 innings of work. In her last five outings, totaling 26 and two-thirds innings, Formby has not allowed the opposition to cross home plate.
  • At Creighton, Formby struck out seven batters, marking the third time this season she has struck out seven or more batters.
  • KU has launched 28 home runs over the outfield fence this season, second-most in the Big 12, which have plated 54 of Kansas’ 121 runs scored in 2016. Nine different Jayhawks have recorded a long ball.
  • Senior infielder Chaley Brickey walked her way into the history books after recording four base on balls during the second weekend of the season. The Haltom City, Texas native claimed Kansas’ all-time walk record, surpassing Tracy Bunge’s record 108 walks from 1983-86. Brickey currently has 122 career walks.
  • In the last three seasons, Kansas has recorded three top-10 wins including a victory over then-No. 1 Oklahoma, 2-0, in 2013. During the 2015 season, KU continued its tradition of upsetting OU with a 4-2 win over the fifth-ranked Sooners on April 24.
  • KU’s 10-4 win over Southern Illinois (3/6) gave Kansas head coach Megan Smith her 200th win at the helm of the Jayhawk program. The Jayhawks have recorded 30 wins in each of the last five seasons under Smith. Kansas’ 40 wins last season were the most victories claimed by KU in the Smith era, and the most wins by a Jayhawk team since 1997.

After a 5-1 weekend at home and a midweek road win at Creighton, Kansas improved to 16-9 on the season. The Jayhawks return to Rock Chalk Park to host Minnesota, UMKC, Saint Louis and Tulsa for the Rock Chalk Challenge. Kansas heads into the weekend after shutting out Creighton, 6-0. Kansas’ (16-9) offense produced three of six runs via home runs after launching two over the fence in left field. Redshirt sophomore catcher Harli Ridling and senior shortstop Chaley Brickey delivered the first three KU runs thanks to homers. Ridling finished the day 2-for-4 with a team-best three RBIs.
Last weekend, Kansas hosted the 2016 Jayhawk Invitational where KU outscored its opponents 23-5 in five games. The Jayhawks’ offense tallied 40 hits, 11 for extra bases, and 24 walks, while hitting .320. Sophomore outfielder Erin McGinley hit a team-high .529 over the weekend with a double and three RBIs. Sophomore infielder Daniella Chavez led KU’s roster with two home runs, two doubles and 10 RBIs while hitting .467 in five starts at first base. Chavez recorded a 1.000 slugging percentage and a .579 on-base percentage. Brickey drew a team-best six walks over the weekend with four hits and a run batted in. After a good outing at the plate in the last five games, KU’s batting average rose to .277 on the season. The Jayhawks have recorded 179 hits, including the second-most home runs in the Big 12 (28), and 90 walks. Kansas has posted a .457 slugging percentage and .382 on-base percentage through 25 games.
Kansas’ offense wasn’t the only one to produce for the Jayhawks in the last five games. KU’s pitching staff registered a 1.03 ERA after allowing just five runs in 34 innings of work. In the circle, the Jayhawks struck out 32 batters and gave up 11 walks. Opponents hit .216 against KU’s pitching staff, which surrendered 27 hits in five games. Sophomore Andie Formby recorded a perfect 3-0 mark in three appearances. She posted a 0.00 ERA in 17 and two-thirds innings of work while striking out a team-best 19 batters. Freshman Alexis Reid also threw a scoreless relief outing, allowing three hits in four and two-thirds innings pitched. Formby added to her scoreless streak with a seven-inning complete-game shutout against Creighton. After her third-straight shutout, Formby’s streak grew to 26 and two-thirds innings of scoreless work, dropping her ERA to 1.55 on the season.  After five-game swing in the circle, Kansas’ ERA dropped to 2.89 on the season. KU has surrendered 68 earned runs and 60 walks in 164 and two-thirds innings. The Jayhawks threw four shutouts in the last five games, increasing their total to six in 2016. KU has struck out 130 batters this season, the third-most by a Big 12 pitching staff.
Minnesota continues its seven-game tour of the Great Plains when it rolls into Lawrence on the heels of an extra-inning win against No. 13 Oklahoma, 12-10 – its second victory over the Sooners in 2016. The Golden Gophers have been excellent, with wins over the likes of OU and No. 9 Georgia, but not unbeatable with losses to Long Beach State, Robert Morris, and most recently Tulsa. Minnesota enters the weekend with a 17-8 overall record and a team batting average of .306. The Golden Gophers led offensively by junior table setter Sam Macken, who has reached base at a .438 clip while batting .400 and has significant pop at the top of the order with five home runs and a team-best 14 doubles. Maddie Houlihan has blasted six home runs to lead Minnesota, which as a team has 24 long balls while surrendering just 12. In all, five Gopher regulars bat over .300, making the entire order a tough out. In the circle, Sara Groenewegen has a strikeout victim list almost as long as her name with 140 punch outs in 95.1 innings, including 14 Ks against then-No. 8 Oklahoma and a no-hitter against Virginia Tech. She’s limiting opposing batters to a .193 average and has walked just 17. Her 12 wins leads Minnesota, along with a 2.20 ERA. The Canadian dual-threat also bats .270 and has poked three home runs over the wall. Minnesota head coach Jessica Allister is in her sixth season as the Gophers’ skipper, having tied the program record in 2015 with 49 wins.
Kansas owns an 11-6 lead over Minnesota in the all-time series. The series began in 1978 with a 10-2 win by the Jayhawks. Kansas has won two of the three meetings with the Golden Gophers, including a 1-0 decision in favor of KU in the last meeting during the 2011 campaign. The Jayhawks have a perfect 4-0 record against Minnesota in Lawrence.
Kansas City’s trip to paradise was anything but as the Kangaroos opened the 2016 campaign with five straight losses before leaving Hawaii with a 4-1 win. UMKC has since gone 6-7, including two wins and a three losses at last weekend’s Jayhawk Invitational. ‘Roos’ clean-up batter Kendra Leach takes her position in the order seriously with a team-best .441 average and five extra-base hits, which includes two home runs, two doubles and a triple. Katie Kelley, a 2015 All-Western Athletic Conference Second Team selection who also pitches, has driven in a team-high 22 runs and clubbed a team-best 22 hits, including three home runs. The ‘Roos have just 10 long balls as a team and are batting .256. Senior outfielder Brooke Parker gives Kansas City a threat on the base paths with nine steals on nine attempts thus far. In the circle, Amber Grove is 5-4 and has started more games (11) than any other UMKC pitcher. She has a 5.04 ERA and has allowed opponents to hit .303. At times wild with 12 wild pitches and eight hit batters, she’s fanned a team-high 49 batters in 58.1 innings pitched. Kelley has the second-most appearances (10) and starts (7), and enters the weekend with a 1-7 record and 4.20 ERA. Meredith Smith Neal is in her ninth season as the UMKC head coach and had led the ‘Roos to four-straight postseason appearances before hitting a rough patch last season.
Kansas leads the overall series against Kansas City, 32-2. The Jayhawks have won 22 of the last 23 meetings, including six in a row. KU is 19-1 when playing the Kangaroos in Lawrence. The series began in 1988 with a 10-game winning streak over the ‘Roos.
Saint Louis enters the Rock Chalk Challenge looking for a little relief, having lost five straight – two by run-rule – to drop below .500 at 8-12 on the year. The free swinging Billikens have struck out 126 times, more than twice their opponents, but have some pop in the lineup with 19 home runs. The majority of the long balls have come from Mackenzie Peter, who leads the squad with seven home runs and is batting a team-best .339. The junior outfielder has 14 total extra-base hits, with six doubles and one of the team’s two triples to go with her blasts. As a team, the Billikens are batting .245 and reach base at a .352 clip. Saint Louis’ pitching staff is still looking to hit its stride with a – combined ERA of 5.29 and a .334 opponent batting average. The Billikens have only fanned 62 batters in 129.2 innings. Senior pitcher Brianna Lore has the most starts (10) and has posted a 4-5 record. Sixth-year head coach Christy Connoyer has more than 150 wins as the Billikens’ leader and directed the squad to one of its best seasons ever with a program-record 36 wins in 2015.
Kansas leads the series against Saint Louis 3-1. KU opened the series in 1980 with a 7-0 victory over the Billikens. The Jayhawks won the last meeting in 2015 in a run-rule 10-0 victory. This weekend marks the first matchup between KU and Saint Louis in Lawrence.
Tulsa has won three straight and seven of eight overall, including a midweek win over Minnesota. Pitching has been good to the Golden Hurricanes with a – combined 1.89 ERA through 23 games. Senior hurler Caitlin Sill has finished every game she’s started – 10 total – and leads Tulsa with an 8-1 record and 1.12 ERA. She doesn’t strikeout many, just 29 in 69.0 innings, but has limited opposing batters to a .197 average. As good as Sill has been, the most live arm may belong to powerful sophomore Emily Watson, who has blown away 76 batters in 53.0 innings while posting a 6-4 record and 1.72 ERA. On offense, Tulsa bats .291 as a team and is led in average by Morgan Neal with a .349 average. Neal and Maggie Withee (.347) form a nice tandem at the top of the order while Maddie Withee (.314) and Shelby Estocado (.333) provide pop in the middle of the order. Estocado, the Hurricanes’ sophomore shortstop, has a team-best six home runs, while Maddie Withee leads the squad with 23 runs batted in. Tulsa head coach John Bargfeldt has the highest winning percentage and number of wins in school history, guiding the team to a winning season in each of his previous 10 years.  
After Tulsa’s 3-2 victory over the Jayhawks last season, the all-time series evens out eight games each. Kansas has last the last four meetings against the Golden Hurricanes. The series started in 1994 with an 8-0 KU victory. The Jayhawks are 3-3 when hosting Tulsa in Lawrence.
The Jayhawks blasted 28 home runs in the first 25 games of the 2016 campaign, the second-most long balls by a team in the Big 12 Conference. Eight of those 28 long balls came at the end of sophomore infielder Daniella Chavez’s bat. A year ago, Chavez led the squad with 16 home runs as a rookie. In all, nine different Jayhawks have sent the ball over the outfield fence so far this season. Kansas launched a total of 52 balls over the outfield wall in 2015, which was the third-most home runs among teams in the Big 12 Conference. Seven Jayhawks recorded at least one home run last year. KU also posted 10 grand slams in 2015 by six different members of the roster.
Although graduating both corner infielders at the conclusion of the 2015 season, Kansas’ defense hasn’t skipped a beat committing just 10 errors in 25 games for a .985 fielding percentage, which is the best fielding percentage in the country. KU had a .977 fielding percentage last season after committing only 35 errors in 364 innings, which was the second-best percentage in the conference and 11th in the nation. The Jayhawks’ defense was rarely found making an error during the 2014 season and led the Big 12, finishing second in the country, in fielding percentage after posting a .979 mark.
Up Next
The Jayhawks host Wichita State in midweek action on Tuesday, March 29, at 6 p.m., before opening their Big 12 slate on the road at Oklahoma April 1-3. Kansas’ matchup with in-state foe Wichita State will air on the Jayhawk Radio Network.
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