After getting down by three runs, Kansas softball’s comeback efforts on opening day fell just short in the seventh inning. Day one of the Candrea Classic, hosted at the University of Arizona’s field, would end in a 6-5 loss to Long Beach State.
In the top of the first, Kansas’ leadoff hitter, senior centerfielder Shayna Espy, drew a walk on five pitches. After an out, the Jayhawks drew two more walks to load the bases. Sophomore utility player Olivia Bruno reached on a fielder’s choice, gaining her the first RBI of the game. With two outs and runners on the corners, junior catcher Lyric Moore hit an RBI single up the middle to give the Jayhawks a 2-0 lead. Kansas would end its scoring here, stranding two runners with a strikeout.
The Jayhawks took the field to start the bottom of the first with junior left-hander Kasey Hamilton on the mound. Hamilton hit the second batter she faced, and the Dirtbags’ next hitter took this opportunity to tally an RBI and set the score at 2-1.
The Jayhawks went down quietly in the top of the second, with all three outs coming by way of ground outs and Espy reaching on an error by Long Beach State’s pitcher.
Hamilton encountered some traffic early on after walking the first batter, and two batters later, junior outfielder Lilyanna Martinez stole second after her fielder’s choice. A flyout, later on, would end the inning without a change in score.
Starting to get in a groove, sophomore pitcher Shannon Haddad got a quick out and then fought to win an eight-pitch at-bat against senior third baseman Ashlyn Anderson. She limited the damage with another groundout to finish off the top half of the third.
With the heart of the lineup due up, Long Beach State jumped all over Hamilton, recording two home runs and a single. Hamilton was then replaced on the mound by sophomore Katie Brooks then replaced Hamilton after the second home run of the inning, and would give up a single to her first batter faced, putting the Jayhawks in a 2-4 hole. Brooks stranded the final runner, limiting the damage.
Even with early activity on the bases, Kansas could not score in the fourth, recording two strikeouts and stranding a runner.
The Dirtbags’ grabbed a single and then stole second on a throwing error by Moore, Kansas’ catcher. A single from their cleanup hitter then brought the runner around to score. A walk with the bases loaded later in the inning tallied another run for Long Beach.
The Jayhawks scored in the top of the fifth for the first time since the first inning as Anderson blasted a homer to left center, cutting the deficit to three runs in the fifth.
Brooks settled in, walking the first batter but retiring the next three with two strikeouts.
Moore continued Kansas’ momentum, hitting a home run of her own and tallying her second RBI to lead off the sixth. Haddad was able to work around it and ended the inning without any further scoring.
Brooks continued to cruise, forcing three groundouts in a row to keep the Dirtbags at bay.
The Jayhawks’ final chance to tie the game rolled around at the top of the seventh. After two fast groundouts, Anderson, the cleanup hitter for Kansas, hit her second home run of the game, putting Kansas just one run behind the Dirtbags. Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, they could not complete the comeback, as a pop-up ended the inning and the game with a score of 6-5.
Kansas’ next game is a second match in the Candrea Classic on Feb. 10 at 11 a.m. against NC State.