Coming away with four straight wins, the Jayhawks (15-7) slugged their way through the Under Armour Classic in Tampa, Fla.
The first game of the tournament was the only loss of the weekend for Kansas. Kansas faced Northwestern (15-5) and was up with an early lead in the bottom of the first inning. The Wildcats came back swinging in the fourth inning, taking a 3-2 lead over the Jayhawks.
Kansas tried for a comeback in the seventh, but couldn't cross the last runner to force extra innings. Kansas lost 4-3. The only Kansas batter to have multiple hits was junior utility player Maddie Stein.
“I like the fight [from our team],” coach Megan Smith said. “Northwestern punched us with four runs, but we kept fighting back and just kind of ran out of time.”
After the loss to Northwestern, Kansas didn't look back. In the second game of the day, Kansas faced off against University of South Florida (16-7), a team that has played many ranked opponents. Kansas didn't let that phase them as they delivered a 9-3 rout of the Bulls. Leading the Jayhawks were sophomore infielder Chaley Brickey and freshman catcher Harli Ridling. Both Brickey and Ridling hammered a home run, having three RBIs each. The home runs were the third of the season for both Jayhawks.
“Offensively, we were locked in at the beginning and had a lot of intensity at the plate and got really good at bats,” Smith said. “The difference in this game was that we kept putting pressure on them which was good to see our offense do.”
Letting the momentum from Friday carry them into Saturday morning, Kansas took on St. John's (7-11). Sophomore pitcher Kelsey Kessler (8-5) allowed only four hits while striking out 10.
“[Kelsey] looked great,” said Smith. “She gave up two big hits [on Friday] and then bounced back and just dominated. She threw the ball really well. She moved the ball and kept them off balance.”
Leading the way for Kansas batters were Brickey and Ridling, as they both posted individual home runs.- Ridling had two RBIs, with Brickey accounting for one.
“Those two and Maddie Stein are going to lead our offense and they are doing a great job for us,” Smith said.
In the second game of the day, Kansas faced Utah (9-7). Junior pitcher Alicia Pille (5-2) allowed just four hits, one run, and committed one error on the day. Pille also accounted for six strikeouts in the contest.
“Pille came out determined,” Smith said. “She threw extremely well and had that mental lapse in the last inning. Today she came out in the last inning and was ready to go, mentally tough and went right at them.”
Brickey recorded her third consecutive game with a home run, giving her two RBIs that evening. Junior infielder Chanin Naudin added a hit and two RBI for the Jayhawks for the 4-1 win over the Utes.
“Chanin is very poised up at the plate and battles,” Smith said. “She's really good at not taking one at bat to the next. She was locked in and came through for us.”
In the final game of the tournament, Kansas took on LIU Brooklyn, a game that was long overdue. Earlier in the season, the Jayhawks were to take on the Blackbirds, but the contest was rained out.
The game against LIU Brooklyn was the second shutout of the tournament for Kansas, winning 6-0. Kessler pitched in both shutout games, recording two straight, her fifth of the season, and 12th of her career.
“Our pitchers have been dominant the last two days to only give up one run,” Smith said. “Kelsey kept them off-balance and just went right at them.”
Brickey's home run streak came to an end, but she still recorded two hits on two runs and a base on balls.- Stein also had two hits and added two RBIs.
“[Maddie] is just a poised hitter,” Smith said. “She is really good at doing her job and her job is to drive in runs. She gets up there and she is confident, has good at bats and she executes for us.”
Kansas will return to action on Tuesday when they host the 2014 season opener with a double header against South Dakota State at Arrocha Ballpark. The opening pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.