Sacramento State Steals Pitcher's Duel From Jayhawks in Extras, 1-0
March 17, 2013
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Freshman pitcher Kelsey Kessler tied the Kansas record with 14 strikeouts in six innings of shutout softball, but ultimately received no decision as Sacramento State walked off with a 1-0 win against Kansas in the final game of the Capital Classic Sunday afternoon inside Shea Stadium.
Multiple oddities on both sides accounted for Kansas' (21-7) first extra-inning game of the season against Sacramento State (14-8), but what stood out was the performance from both starting pitchers.
Kessler threw a brilliant start, tying the Kansas record of 14 strikeouts last recorded by former KU standout Val George on March 25, 2009 in a 4-3 (10) loss to Creighton. Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, Sunday's record-tying matchup also ended in an extra-inning loss.
"Kessler threw extremely well," head coach Megan Smith said. "She mixed it up well and used the umpire's zone to her advantage. She had a great outing. She gave up a big hit and we thought we needed to make a change, but we're really pleased with what she did."
Opposite her in the circle, Hornet freshman Jennifer Hartman (3-1) pitched all eight innings, scattering seven hits over that span while striking out eight and walking none. Each team left eight runners on, and although each pitcher did what it took to keep their respective offenses from scoring, both teams faced opportunities to win throughout the game.
"The umpires made their presence known," Smith said. "But every call they made was correct - you just usually don't see them all in one game. So that was odd, but they were right. They called a good game; it was just unlucky for us."
Senior left fielder Maggie Hull led the offense, going 2-for-4, but was the center of the most devastating out called during the game for the Jayhawks. Still locked in a scoreless contest, Hull drilled a triple to the right field corner in the top of the fifth. Looking to finally snap the shutout, Hull took off for home on an overthrown ball, but was tagged out when it was ruled she didn't touch the plate.
The list of unorthodox plays that Smith referred to seemed endless. Redshirt junior Alex Jones was called out on a fouled-bunt third strike in the third, Hull was signaled out for being out of the box on a bunt in the eighth and an illegal pitch called against Jones allowed the eventual winning run to advance to third.
Sacramento State also felt the effects as the international tiebreaker runner on second to start the bottom of the eighth was called out on a runner left early call, which would have scored on the double from third baseman Emily McCormack that followed in the next at bat. Second baseman Kayla Papez erased the fluke happenings all afternoon with her walk-off RBI single to end the game in the eighth.
Jones (7-1) suffered her first loss on Sunday after entering the game in the bottom of the seventh. She surrendered three hits, one walk and the only run of the game. At the plate, she went 1-for-3 with a stolen base.
The pitchers set the tone early, working a 1-2-3 inning in the top and bottom of the first, including two strikeouts from Kessler. In the following frame, Kessler rang up three more Hornets to strikeout five of the first seven she faced.
The Jayhawks collected their first hits of the game in the third, but Hartman kept KU off the board with a bases-loaded strikeout. Kessler came right back at her in the bottom of the third as she worked around an error and a bunt single with three more strikeouts and the scoreless contest continued.
When Hartman stranded Jayhawks on second and third in the top of the fourth, the shutout reached a new level due to Hull's infamous triple in KU's next at bat.
Unfazed, Kessler went back to work. After the rare 9-4-5-7-5-2 tag out against Hull, the rookie pitcher came right back out with two strikeouts in the bottom half of the fifth and showed even more poise in the sixth. A pop-up caught in the sun fell in behind third base for a double and a walk put two runners on with only one out as Sacramento State mounted a rally. Kessler locked down, however, getting a pop-out on a foul ball before tying KU's record with her 14th strikeout of the game.
The Blue Springs, Mo., native wouldn't get the chance to break it. A leadoff double in the bottom of the seventh ended her stellar outing, and Jones was called in from centerfield to take the circle. Jones kept the Hornets from scoring in the seventh, but couldn't work out of the home team's last rally as they walked away with the 1-0 win.
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