Kansas defeats Northern Colorado, Saint Louis
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Kansas softball improved to 21-6 on the season with a pair of wins during the Rock Chalk Challenge on Saturday, defeating Northern Colorado, 4-1, and Saint Louis, 4-0, at Rock Chalk Park.
Freshman Tarin Travieso made her first-career start at first base during both games of the twin bill and drove in five of KU’s eight runs on the day. The San Antonio native began by driving in all of KU’s four runs during the first game against Northern Colorado. Through 27 games, Travieso’s 25 RBIs co-leads the Jayhawks with senior Jessie Roane.
“Tarin has been a huge force for us offensively,” Smith said. “She has stepped up and done some big things as a freshman. She had a great day today and came through in some clutch situations for us. We need to see her continue to do that as we continue into Big 12 play next week.”
Kansas pitchers Sarah Miller (6-2) and Andie Formby (9-2) both threw complete-game victories. Miller powered Kansas to its 20th win of the season after tossing three strikeouts and leaving 10 Northern Colorado runners stranded on base. Formby tossed her second complete-game shutout of the season after holding Saint Louis to five hits while striking out five.
“Our pitchers set the tone for us today and allowed our team to feel confident and get our offense going,” Kansas head coach Megan Smith said. “I’m proud of our team and how we bounced back from Friday’s setback.”
For both games on Saturday, Coach Smith used a different starting lineup with sophomore Madison Sykes at third base, Travieso at first base and Roane as the designated player. In all of the previous 25 games of the season before Saturday, Roane started at third base and sophomore Becki Monaghan started at first base.
“We gave Jessie a break to allow her to focus on her hitting, which gave Madison an opportunity to start at third,” Smith said. “Sykes is an incredible defensive player and is very versatile. Putting her at third base, we felt like she did an outstanding job offensively and defensively. Tarin has been working out at first base for us all year in practice and we wanted to give her a shot to play some defense after starting so many games as the designated player. It’s good to see a lot of new players step in and contribute in different ways.”
The Jayhawks scored a total of eight unanswered runs on Saturday after Northern Colorado (16-15) took an early 1-0 lead on a solo home run by Jordyn Wiatrak.
Kansas responded to the Bears’ homer by scoring three runs in the third inning. Sykes, junior right fielder Emily Bermel and freshman centerfielder Brittany Jackson hit consecutive singles to load the bases for Travieso. Travieso cleared the bases with a stand-up double deep to right-center, giving the Jayhawks a 3-1 lead with one swing of the bat.
In the fourth inning, the trio of Sykes, Bermel and Jackson loaded the bases again for Travieso. This time, she hit into a fielder’s choice, which drove in the lead runner, Jackson, from third base to give KU a 4-1 lead.
Working with a three-run lead, Miller maintained her poise in the circle and KU’s defense bent but didn’t break as the Jayhawks closed in on the 20th victory of the season.
Kansas stranded three Northern Colorado base runners at the end of the fifth and seventh innings, while senior catcher Harli Ridling caught a pop-up in foul territory for the final out of the contest.
As Formby took to the circle for game two of the day against Saint Louis (12-10), KU’s defense was primed and ready. With a runner at first in the top of the second inning, Sykes fielded a grounder at third base and fired it to sophomore Sam Dellinger at second base to turn a double play and end the inning.
Like clockwork, Sykes, Bermel, Jackson and Travieso struck for the third time of the day to produce KU’s first run against Saint Louis.
Sykes reached base on a single, and was advanced to second after a sacrifice bunt by Bermel. Jackson put runners at the corners on an infield single to third base. Travieso drove in Sykes from third on a single through the right side — her fifth RBI of the day. Roane later drove in Jackson on an RBI single to give KU a 2-0 lead over the Billikins after three innings.
Dellinger hit an RBI double in the fourth inning and Roane added another RBI double in the fifth to give KU a 4-0 advantage.
The Jayhawks held on for the shutout victory, leaving three Billikens on base in the top of the sixth inning. Formby concluded her complete-game effort with her fifth strikeout of the day on the final out in the seventh inning.
“Andie threw extremely well — very poised and confident,” Smith concluded. “I felt like our defense was really solid backing her up, too, and I’m sure it gave her confidence to execute her pitches. To know she has that strong of a defense behind her and a phenomenal catcher in Harli is a huge advantage.”
KU’s .979 fielding percentage this season is the second-best in the Big 12.
Kansas concludes the Rock Chalk Challenge with a 2 p.m. first pitch against UMKC on Sunday afternoon at Rock Chalk Park.
CONGRATS TO THE BUTLERS
Kansas assistant coach Abbie Butler and her husband Tye welcomed their first-born child, Saydie, into the world early on Saturday morning.
While Butler is on maternity leave, video coordinator Chris Malveaux assumes assistant coach responsibilities.
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