Kansas shuts down Akron in Lead-Off Classic finale
DELAND, Fla. – In Kansas softball’s final game of the Stetson Lead-Off Classic, junior Sarah Miller pitched a complete game shutout, using her defense and the arm of junior catcher Harli Ridling to slow the Akron run game, as the Jayhawks beat the Zips 6-0.
“I think we did a great job of shutting down their running game,” head coach Megan Smith said. “They steal, they’ve got speed, and I have to give credit to Harli behind the plate. She was phenomenal. Picking off runners, throwing out people trying to steal, she single-handedly shut down their running game and that was exciting to see.”
With Akron (1-4) slowed down on the base paths, it gave the Kansas (5-0) bats an opportunity to go to work, as they had done all tournament.
Senior Taylor Dodson had an incredible weekend coming into Sunday’s game, and things continued in her first at bat. With senior Lily Behrmann on second after a leadoff walk and a sacrifice bunt from senior Taylor McElhaney, Dodson smashed her fourth home run of the weekend over the center field wall giving the Jayhawks an early 2-0 lead.
Things continued to go Kansas’ way in the second. Junior Erin McGinley led off with a double ripped down the right field line on an inside pitch. Freshman Becki Monaghan walked in the Jayhawks’ second at bat of the inning, before freshman Brittani Reid stepped to the plate.
With McGinley and Monaghan in waiting, Reid barreled up the second home run of her young career, a three-run shot just past the wall in left center field, increasing the lead to five runs.
Harli Ridling makes a tag on a play at home.Miller and the Kansas defense showed their prowess in the fifth. After giving up a leadoff single and a one-out double, Akron was knocking on the door with two runners in scoring position. A heads-up play by McElhaney kept the Zips off the board, fielding a grounder and sending a perfect throw home for Ridling to tag the runner trying to score for the second out. A failed bunt attempt was wrangled in by junior Jessie Roane to end the Akron threat.
McGinley led off the bottom of the fifth inning with her second hit of the ballgame and quickly found herself at third after Akron’s catcher threw a ball into center trying to gun the Prairie Village, Kansas native on a steal. Monaghan muscled up and drove McGinley in with a sacrifice fly to left to make the score 6-0.
Miller gave up two hits in the final two innings, but Akron was kept off the board thanks to the sound Jayhawk defense, and Kansas finished opening weekend unblemished.
“Results wise, you can’t get any better than what we did this weekend,” Smith said. “I think the thing I was the most pleased with was seeing our team work together. I think every single player on our roster contributed and I think they work well as a group. They are happy for each other’s success and I truly believe this team is out here for Kansas and not for themselves. If they continue to be that way, I think that it’s going to show this season.”
Dodson, who went seven for 14 with four home runs and six RBIs on the weekend, and sophomore pitcher Alexis Reid, who posted a 0.50 ERA in 14.0 innings of work in two starts, each earned all-tournament honors.
The Jayhawks travel to Jacksonville, Florida for the Osprey Invitational hosted by North Florida, February 17-19. Kansas will play five games in that time span, facing Georgia State, North Florida, South Carolina State, Eastern Illinois and South Dakota State.
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