2013 Season Outlook: Pitchers
Jan. 28, 2013
LAWRENCE, Kan. - As the 2013 Kansas softball season inches closer, KUAthletics.com will break down each position by returners and newcomers as well as successes they each bring back from 2012, beginning with the pitching staff.
Kansas stepped up its pitching production in 2012, holding batters to a .240 batting average while finishing the season with a 3.27 ERA - the team's lowest since the 2009 season. With all but one of the Big 12 teams they faced ranked in the RPI's top-40, including three in the top-10, the Jayhawk pitchers struck out 294 batters to rank fifth in the league.
The Jayhawks' improved strikeout numbers were due in large part to the emergence of Alicia Pille. In her freshman campaign, the Royse City, Texas native ranked fifth in the league with 171 strikeouts. Pille's 17 wins tied her for third-most by a freshman in program history and were the most wins for any Kansas pitcher since the 2008 season. Additionally, she tossed eight shutouts, three of which were one-hitters. The last Jayhawk pitcher to blank that many teams in a season was Kassie Humphreys in 2006.
Although the Jayhawks lose two pitchers from the 2012 staff, they gain back a familiar - and proven - arm in redshirt junior Alex Jones. After tearing her ACL preparing for last year's fall season, Jones was forced to take a medical redshirt in 2012. Fully recovered, Jones is ready to reprise her role as a primary outfielder and secondary pitcher. Prior to the injury, the Enid, Okla., native led the staff with a 2.55 ERA in 46.2 innings during the 2011 season.
According to head coach Megan Smith, senior Morgan Druhan will work both as a starter and a relief pitcher in 2013 after filling both roles a year ago. The Spanish Fort, Ala., native finished second on the team behind Pille with 76 strikeouts in 80 innings of work.
Smith adds only one pitcher to her staff in 2013, but she's expected to make an immediate impact. Freshman right-hander Kelsey Kessler comes to Kansas after a decorated career at Blue Valley High School (Blue Springs, Mo.). The only player in school history to be named All-State all four years, Kessler kicked off her high school career with eight no-hitters and a 30-0 record as a freshman to set the precedent for her career to come.
Kessler wasn't the only addition Smith made over the offseason as she hired experienced pitching coach Abbie Sims to join her coaching staff. Sims perfected her craft at the University of Houston, where she spent five years as the pitching coach for the Conference USA power. While there, Sims trained the 2008 C-USA Pitcher of the Year in Angel Shamblin, the 2011 C-USA Newcomer of the Year in Donna Bourgeois and the 2011 NCAA leader in strikeouts per seven innings in Amanda Crabtree.
HEAD COACH Megan Smith
On Kelsey Kessler's exciting high school career and what she brings to the table:
On if she plans for Pille and Kessler to carry the most innings:
On Alex Jones coming back as strong as she was before the redshirt season:
On Morgan Druhan being used primarily in the reliever role:
On having more depth in the circle:
On seeing a lot of improvements after Abbie Sims' first fall as pitching coach:
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