Walk-off home run lifts Ospreys over Jayhawks in extras

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Kansas softball fell to the University of North Florida at the UNF Softball Complex in Jacksonville, Florida in the Jayhawks’ second game of the Osprey Invitational on Friday night. It took 10 innings to determine a winner in the contest, but a two-run walk-off home run from the tournament hosts downed Kansas, 8-6.
North Florida (4-3) gifted Kansas (5-2) with the first two runs of the game in the second inning. Junior Jessie Roane doubled to left field to lead off the inning, and moved to third on a ground out by freshman Becki Monaghan. An illegal pitch by the Ospreys’ Logan Green let Roane come home for the 1-0 lead.
Two errors in the inning led to Kansas’ second run of the game, with freshman Brittani Reid reaching on a throwing error by UNF’s second baseman. Reid was able to make it to second because of the error, and after a ground out by junior Mikayla Warren, senior Taylor McElhaney also reached on a throwing error by the Ospreys’ second baseman, allowing Reid to score, moving the lead to two runs.
Kansas tacked on two more runs in the fourth inning with two bases-loaded RBI singles from McElhaney and senior Lily Behrmann. The Jayhawks missed an opportunity for growing the lead even more by leaving the bases loaded to end the top of the fourth inning.
Junior Sarah Miller, who started the game in the circle for Kansas, held the Ospreys scoreless through the first three innings but struggled to find her rhythm in the bottom of the fourth.
Miller registered a ground out to start the inning, but a bunt-single and an error by McElhaney gave UNF two runners before the Ospreys scored their first run of the game on a double down the left field line.
The hit would be all Kansas head coach Megan Smith needed to see and she made a switch to bring in freshman pitcher Alexis Reid to try to get the Jayhawks out of the inning.
Reid, who was the starting pitcher in the Jayhawks’ first game of the night, allowed a two-RBI single to the first batter she faced and another run to let UNF tie the game at four with a big four-run inning.
The Blue Springs, Missouri native continued to try to find her groove in the circle and gave up a run in the bottom of the fifth inning to allow UNF to take the lead. The Ospreys recorded two hits in the inning including a double to left field that broke the 4-4 tie.
After a scoreless half inning by the Jayhawk offense, freshman Mandy Roberts entered to pitch for Kansas in the bottom of the sixth inning and allowed one hit but left the runner stranded to give KU’s bats a chance to go to work.
Needing a run to give the defense a shot at taking things to extras, Roane doubled down the right field line with one out. Smith elected to bring in junior outfielder Annie Mehringer to pinch hit for Monaghan. Mehringer, a transfer from Stephen F. Austin, was hitless in six at bats for the Jayhawks coming into Friday night’s action, but the Jayhawk coaching staff had confidence in the transfer and it paid off.
Mehringer ripped a single to right center, driving in freshman Lily Valeo, who pinch ran for Roane, to tie the ballgame at five. One run was all the Jayhawks could muster and the defense took to the diamond to try to take it to extras.
With the pressure on, Roberts was lights-out from the circle in the seventh, striking out two batters and inducing a pop fly to make quick work of UNF’s four, five and six-hole batters.
With international tiebreaker rules in effect, Warren was placed on second to start the top of the eighth inning. Junior infielder Amanda Organ led off the inning with an infield single and Warren was able to advance to third on the play. After a ground out from Behrmann, junior Erin McGinley drove in Warren with a single up the middle to break open the tie game, 6-5. The Jayhawks couldn’t capitalize more however, and left two runners stranded to end the top half of the inning.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Ospreys quickly drew back even with Kansas, moving their runner placed on second to third with a sacrifice bunt before a bunt single drove in the run to make the score 6-6. The Jayhawk battery eliminated any hopes of walking off in the eighth for the Ospreys as Roberts induced an easy pop up and junior catcher Harli Ridling caught her third runner of the game trying to steal to get out of the jam.
The Jayhawks were unable to get things going in the top of the ninth, and North Florida looked to be headed for a win in the bottom half of the inning with runners at second and third with no outs.
Roberts was able to get a strikeout after a bunt and miscommunication put a UNF runner at second to join the placed runner in scoring position. With one away, a fly ball to right looked to be deep enough to drive in a run, but a play earlier in the game by Warren gunning a runner at the plate made UNF’s third base coach wary of testing her arm again and the runners stayed put.
The Jayhawks escaped the jam in the inning by getting a fly out, but cold bats in the top of the 10th put the Ospreys back in the batter’s box, and this time the home team was able to end things with a two-out, two-run home run to left center, downing KU 8-6.
Kansas is back in action on Saturday, February 18 with a 10:15 a.m. CST matchup against South Carolina State and a 12:30 p.m. CST game against Eastern Illinois. The Jayhawks conclude the Osprey Invitational on Sunday, February 19 against South Dakota State at 8 a.m. CST.
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