Big sixth inning lifts Kansas over Texas Tech, 8-5

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LUBBOCK, Texas –  Kansas softball came from behind with a big six-run sixth inning to down Texas Tech, 8-5, in the first game of the series on Friday night at Rocky Johnson Field.
KU won the series opener with the help of a six-run sixth inning to complete the comeback. The sixth inning rally was highlighted by junior Mikayla Warren’s pinch-hit grand slam. Warren’s first career home run gave the Jayhawks (20-17, 2-5 Big 12) a five-run advantage with one and half innings to play.
“Mikayla has played quite a bit this year, but hasn’t been in the lineup the last few weeks,” said head coach Megan Smith. “She has looked really great at practice and working hard. We said if we were going to go to anyone today offensively it would be her and I am sure glad we did.”
The Jayhawks increased their winning streak over the Red Raiders (16-19, 3-4 Big 12) to four-straight victories dating back to 2016’s series sweep in Lawrence. Kansas’ offense recorded 11 hits in the first game of the series, while TTU also tallied 11 hits.
“This was big (for us) because we had a tough weekend at Oklahoma State,” Smith said. “We weren’t happy with our performance, so we regrouped and had a different focus tonight, which you could see in our play.”
With two runners in scoring position, infielder Jessica Hartwell doubled to the gap in left centerfield and gave Texas Tech an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. After the two-RBI double,  Reid quickly recorded the final two outs to get out of the frame without further damage.
“I am proud of Alexis tonight because she came out and wasn’t as sharp and the defense wasn’t sharp for her in the first inning, but she bounced back and gave her offense time to work,” said Smith. “Offensively, we were sluggish early, but we started making adjustments and stringing some things together. Alexis really allowed us the time we needed to get things done.”

Reid improved to 12-10 on the season with her second Big 12 victory of the year. The Blue Springs, Missouri struck out two batters, while recording a walk and giving up five earned runs. Reid tossed four shutout innings in her 25th appearance in the circle in 2017.
Senior shortstop Taylor McElhaney led off the third frame with a single to left field followed by a bunt single by sophomore outfielder Emily Bermel, which gave Kansas a pair of base runners. The duo advanced to second and third before a wild pitch brought the first KU run home. Bermel, the tying run, was stranded at third base as the top of the third came to an end.
After cutting the deficit to a run, Reid threw her second-straight shutout inning and put Kansas’ offense right back in the batter’s box. Junior catcher Harli Ridling opened the fourth with a single, the Jayhawks’ fourth hit of the game, and freshman Brittani Reid entered as a pinch runner for Ridling. A sacrifice bunt moved Reid into scoring position and a ground out advanced the outfielder to third base. For the second inning in a row, the tying run was held up 90 feet from home plate.
McElhaney recorded her second hit of the game to start the fifth frame. Despite getting the tying run on base for the third-straight inning, the Red Raiders were able to end the threat and the inning with a double play to maintain their 2-1 advantage.
For the third inning in a row, Kansas’ leadoff batter reached base after senior outfielder Lily Behrmann walked in the sixth. Behrmann moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by junior infielder Jessie Roane. With the tying run at second base, Ridling singled to left field, advancing Behrmann to third base.
With runners on the corners, freshman infielder Becki Monaghan singled up the middle and drove in the tying run. Senior infielder Taylor Dodson gave Kansas its first lead of the game with a RBI-double to centerfield. Dodson’s double gave Kansas a 3-2 advantage over the Red Raiders. McElhaney extended the inning and loaded the bases with a walk for Warren. Despite being her first at-bat of the game, Warren delivered a long ball over the left centerfield wall, increasing KU’s lead, 7-2, with her first career grand slam.
In the bottom half of the sixth, TTU added a run after leading off the frame with a triple. The Red Raiders’ run ended Reid’s scoreless inning streak at four, but the Jayhawks headed to the final inning with a 7-3 lead.

Ridling added a run on the scoreboard for Kansas in the seventh. Her sixth long ball of the season ties for the most homers by a Jayhawk in 2017 and increased KU’s lead, 8-3. Texas Tech attempted to mount a comeback in the bottom of the seventh after scoring a pair of runs. Although TTU came within three runs, Kansas held on for the 8-5 victory.

Kansas continues its three-game series at Texas Tech on Saturday, April 8, at 4 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the Jayhawk Radio Network.  The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.