Ridling’s Walk-Off Homer Sails Kansas Past UNLV, 7-3
TAMPA – With the bases loaded and the ballgame knotted up three runs each, redshirt sophomore Harli Ridling entered the batter’s box and sent the ball sailing over the left field fence, as the walk-off home run lifted Kansas past UNLV, 7-3, on Saturday night at the USF Softball Stadium.
The Rebels (8-6) rallied in the final inning, but senior right-hander Monique Wesley held off UNLV’s comeback, while Ridling’s third long ball of 2016 gave the Jayhawks (7-7) their third victory of the weekend. Ridling accounted for six of KU’s seven RBIs, two shy of tying Kansas’ single-game record of eight RBIs set by Maddie Stein last season at New Mexico State, after finishing the night 2-for-4 at the plate.
Along with Ridling’s multi-hit effort, outfielders Shannon and Erin McGinley and Briana Evans each recorded a pair of hits each for multi-hit performances. The Jayhawk offense tallied 10 hits to UNLV’s five.
“Offensively, we came out hot and although we didn’t keep up that intensity for the whole game, but I know with the top of our order up I knew were going to something good,” said head coach Megan Smith. “The top of our order has been doing really well. I think they were confident in the last inning and Harli stepped up. The last at-bat she had wasn’t so good and I know she was frustrated with it, but instead of being down, she got up and was determined.”
Wesley entered the game in the fourth inning for junior Sophia Templin and recorded her first victory in the circle. She totaled four strike outs in three and third innings of work, including striking out the side in the sixth frame. The Fontana, California native allowed one earned run and one hit in her second appearance of the year.
“It was an issue we talked about yesterday, the pitchers being able to help each other out and work with each other to be successful,” said Smith. “I thought Sophia and Monique did that today. Sophia got off to a good start and then when we made the change Monique came in a dominated. It’s nice to see them work together and we haven’t really seen that, but it was good to see tonight.”
A pair of doubles plated three Kansas runs in the bottom of the first. Erin McGinley struck first with a RBI double to centerfield, which gave the Jayhawks a one-run lead. Ridling extended KU’s lead, 3-0, by clearing the bases with a double to centerfield with the first two of her six RBIs.
The Rebels answered in the next half inning, scoring their first run on a RBI double through the left side. Kansas ended the second inning UNLV threat with two Rebels stranded in scoring position.
Templin, who go the starting nod in the circle for the first time this year, struck out two batters in three and two-thirds innings pitched. The De Soto, Kansas native left the game with the lead, but recording a no decision in the start. Templin allowed two earned runs and four hits, while walking three.
“Both pitchers had tough pressure situations, but both came through and got outs,” said Smith. “It wasn’t an easy one. The score doesn’t indicate how close that game was. Definitely tough for the pitchers, but they worked really hard and got us out of some tough situations.”
In the top of the fourth, UNLV added a run to cut Kansas’ lead to one run, 3-2. In the next half inning, senior outfielder Briana Evans placed a bunt single perfectly down the right field line, while a ground out moved her into scoring position. However, Evans remained at second base as the inning came to a close. Kansas headed to the fifth frame with a 3-2 lead over the Rebels.
UNLV’s Alyssa Cordova drove in the equalizing run with a RBI single to left field. Wesley stranded the go-ahead runner on base after retiring the side.
In the bottom of the seventh, senior shortstop Chaley Brickey led off the frame with a single up the middle and was bunted into scoring position. Sophomore infielder Daniella Chavez was intentionally walked and Erin McGinley was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Ridling. Ridling sent the ball well over the left field fence for the 7-3 victory over the Rebels. The walk-off home run was the second of the weekend, Chavez launched a game-winning homer in the first game of the weekend against Wisconsin.
Kansas concludes the USF Tournament on Sunday, Feb. 28 with South Florida. First pitch is slated for 11:15 a.m. from the USF Softball Stadium. Every game will be available on the Jayhawk Radio Network.
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