Williams Leads Jayhawks Past UNLV, 4-2
TAMPA – Freshman right-hander Ania Williams tossed her second-straight complete game, as Kansas swung past UNLV, 4-2, on Saturday morning, at the USF Softball Stadium.
Williams went the distance for the third time this season, and the second game in a row, improving to 4-1 in the circle during her freshman campaign. Williams gave up a solo home run to start the game, but settled down putting zeroes on the board until the sixth frame when the Rebels hit their second solo shot of the game.
“Ania shows a lot of poise under pressure,” said head coach Megan Smith. “That’s a mature freshman to give up a home run and bounce back to shut them down. The batter right after the home run you would’ve never known she had given up a home run. That says a lot about her maturity and fight.”
Along with the pair of home runs, the Rebels (8-6) scattered two other hits, while the Jayhawks’ offense piled on the pressure all seven innings, collecting eight hits. Senior shortstop Chaley Brickey and sophomore outfielder Erin McGinley each finished the game 2-for-3 for multi-hit games.
“I was really proud of how we were able to create opportunities as oppose to hitting home runs,” Smith said. “We got runners on and moved the runners, we were really good with our short game today. And, we were coming through in clutch situations with two outs, which was really nice to see.”
Kansas manufactured a run in the opening frame to take an early lead over the Rebels. Brickey leadoff the game with a five-pitch. A sacrifice bunt and a ground out advanced Brickey to third base, while a perfectly base knock to centerfield from Erin McGinley gave the Jayhawks a one-run advantage, as Williams went to work.
“We didn’t put up big numbers offensively, but each inning we were applying pressure and having good at-bats,” said Smith. “We were creating opportunities, which was nice to see and it happened through the entire game, not just in spurts.”
The Rebels answered in the bottom half of the inning with a solo home run to centerfield to even the score, 1-1. UNLV’s long ball came at the end of senior shortstop Garie Blando’s bat. Following her homer, the Rebels loaded the bases, but Williams worked her way out of the jam by inducing a fly out in foul territory to end the threat.
In the second, Williams gave herself run support after scoring the go-ahead run, as Kansas reclaimed its one-run lead. Williams led off the inning with a single to centerfield, while a sacrifice bunt and ground out advance the KU runner to third base. Junior second baseman Taylor McElhaney plated the run with a single to left field, as Kansas took a 2-1 lead into the bottom half of the frame.
Williams faced three Rebel batters in the bottom of the second and tossed her first scoreless frame of the outing. The Spring, Texas native tossed her third complete game of the year, allowing just two runs and four hits in seven innings of work. Williams struck out three batters in her third start.
Great defense helped Williams through a second-straight 1-2-3 inning to end the third. The outfield assisted with a pair of fly outs in left and right, while McElhaney stole a base hit by leaping to her left and stretching out to snag the line drive.
“Taylor had a great game,” said Smith. “She came through with a big two-out RBI single and stole a hit from them, a huge defensive play. Taylor made a lot of great defensive plays today. We are really spoiled with her in the infield and our pitchers should thank her every day because she does such a great job.”
In the bottom of the fourth, Williams and the KU defense worked around a leadoff single. The Rebel runner, pitcher Kwyn Cooper, moved into scoring position on a wild pitch, but remained at second base as the inning came to a close.
Kansas added to its advantage in the fifth frame. With one out, KU loaded the bases a trio of base hits. Redshirt sophomore catcher Harli Ridling entered the batter’s box with three Jayhawks aboard and reached base via base on balls. Ridling’s at-bat plated Kansas’ third run of the day, as KU took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the inning.
UNLV first baseman Janine Petmecky launched a solo home run to centerfield in the bottom of the sixth. The sophomore’s long ball was the second solo shot for the Rebels and cut Kansas’ advantage to a run, 3-2, heading to the final inning.
Kansas matched UNLV’s efforts in the top of the seventh after Brickey blasted a solo home run to right field. Brickey’s fourth long ball of the season, and second of the weekend, extended the Jayhawks’ advantage, 4-2, heading into the bottom half of the inning.
With the 4-2 victory over UNLV, the Jayhawks handed the Rebels ace, Cooper, her first loss of the season in the circle. She dropped to 4-1 in 2016.
Kansas continues the USF Tournament on Saturday, Feb. 27 with UNLV. First pitch is slated for 4:15 p.m. from the USF Softball Stadium. Every game will be available on the Jayhawk Radio Network.
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