Kansas cool under pressure in extra-inning wins over Harvard, North Carolina
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Kansas softball notched a pair of extra-inning victories over both Harvard, 4-3, and North Carolina, 8-7, on Saturday at Anderson Stadium to improve to 3-0 at the Carolina Classic at 15-3 on the season.
The Jayhawks have won nine of their last 10 games after three-straight eight-inning victories during the Carolina Classic this week.
“I am so proud of our team and the fight that they showed in both games today,” Kansas head coach Megan Smith said. “We gave up the lead in the UNC game, but our players kept fighting and putting pressure on the Tar Heels. I think Tarin (Travieso) was phenomenal. They were both exciting games, but more importantly it was great to see how hard our team fights.”
During KU’s pair of wins, senior catcher Harli Ridling went 6-for-8 at the plate with two doubles, a home run and three RBIs. Freshman utility player Tarin Travieso hit her first-career grand slam during a 3-for-5 day at the plate, while also earning her first-career win in the circle as the pitcher of record against UNC.
The Jayhawks advance to the Carolina Classic title game on Sunday at 9 a.m. Central time against Elon.
In game one of the day against Harvard, Kansas matched Harvard run-for-run — always answering a Harvard scoring inning with at least one run in the following half-inning.
Harvard struck first, scoring a run in the bottom of the first after back-to-back infield singles. Kansas responded in the second inning as freshman shortstop Shelby Gayre drew a walk, and Travieso hit a two-out RBI double to put the Jayhawks on the board, 1-1.
Kansas would hold Harvard scoreless until the sixth inning thanks in large part to a few spectacular defensive plays in crucial situations and four-straight scoreless inning from senior pitcher Sarah Miller.
Sophomore second baseman Sam Dellinger dove to catch a fouled popup during the second inning.
With runners at the corners in the third inning, Gayre, Dellinger and Ridling turned a rare 6-4-2 double play to end the inning.
In the bottom fourth inning, freshman centerfielder Brittany Jackson caught a fly ball in center field and quickly threw a rope directly to Ridling at home plate, who tagged out a Harvard runner attempting to tag-up and advance to home after the catch.
Kansas went on to take a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning as Ridling hit a two-out RBI single up the middle to drive in Jackson, who led off the inning with a bunted base hit.
Harvard tied the game, 2-2, in the sixth inning on a solo home run by Meagan Lantz.
KU’s response in the seventh inning was déjà vu as Ridling drove in Jackson again on a two-out RBI hit.
Harvard scored an unearned run in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game, 2-2, and force extra inning.
Senior outfielder Erin McGinley led off the eighth inning with a single and — after a sacrifice bunt by Travieso which advanced McGinley — fellow senior outfielder Mikayla Warren drove McGinley home on a single through the left side of the infield.
Junior pitcher Andie Formby (6-1) retired the Crimson in order in the bottom of the eighth inning secure the victory for the Jayhawks. Formby tossed 2.2 innings of relief and allowed just two hits and no earned runs.
Game two of the day featured a matchup between a mentor — North Carolina’s Donna J. Papa — and a mentee — KU’s Coach Smith, who played for Papa at UNC.
“It’s an honor to coach on the same field as her,” Smith said of her former coach. “She’s a hall of famer. She’s my mentor. She’s a part of my family. It’s hard to play her, but I try to make her proud every day by what I do. Even though it was against them today, I tried to make her proud. It’s certainly an honor to play against her team.”
Kansas and North Carolina played a quick three innings before KU’s bats started to heat up.
Ridling led off the fourth inning with a single. Gayre followed with a free base after being hit by a pitch. McGinley added another single to load the bases for Travieso with no outs.
Travieso found the pitch she was waiting for and hit an opposite-field grand slam over the left field fence to give KU a 4-0 lead.
“I didn’t feel good about my first at-bat, so I just said to myself, that’s in the past — you’re only as good as your next hit,” Travieso described. “I told myself to go up there and do what you can. I was looking for an outside pitch, then took an inside pitch for a ball, then got what I wanted and jumped on it.”
Kansas would go on to take a 7-2 lead before North Carolina stormed back by putting up five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Coach Smith called on Travieso’s arm to end UNC’s watershed inning in the sixth, in which five two-out runs were already scored. The San Antonio native entered the pitching circle with two outs and two runners on base. Travieso allowed a walk on her first batter to load the bases, but found her stride by striking out her next batter to end the inning.
“What’s impressive about Tarin is that she says in attack mode and is very calm in every situation,” Smith said of Travieso. “If it’s a pressure situation — whether she is hitting or pitching — she goes out there and does her best. The maturity she is showing as a freshman is really unique and it’s exciting to see.”
Kansas took the go-ahead lead in the eighth inning after Jackson singled and advanced to second on a sac-bunt by Madison Sykes. That put Jackson in scoring position for senior third baseman Jessie Roane. Roane came through in the clutch with a first-pitch single to right field to score Jackson from second to give the Jayahwks the lead, 8-7.
Travieso (1-0) earned her first-career pitching win after 2.1 shutout innings pitched with two strikeouts.
With an unblemished 3-0 record in the Carolina Classic, Kansas will play in the championship game of the event on Sunday at 9 a.m. Central time against Elon.
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