Kansas and Iowa State to Square Off in Key Big 12 Matchup
April 18, 2012
LAWRENCE, Kan. -When this week's national polls were released, the USA Today/NFCA poll revealed that all but three of the Big 12 Conference softball teams rank in the country's top-25. This weekend will pit two of the rare unranked Big 12 teams against one another as Kansas will host Iowa State in a pivotal three-game series, April 20-22.
AROUND THE BALLPARK
FOLLOW THE HAWKS
Always a tight matchup, KU has a 4-6 record against the Cyclones in the last 10 meetings. Three of those were one-run losses, and only one loss was by more than two runs.
• Weather only disrupted game two, however. Kansas' never-say-die attitude took charge for the lengthy contests. In game one, KU scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh before Texas claimed the win. Game two saw KU take a 5-4 lead into the fifth inning before Texas scratched three across to win. In the finale, KU entered a run-rule situation, down 10-1 in the fifth, but roared back with five runs in the frame to keep the game alive.
• The Jayhawks remain at No. 35 in the NCAA RPI projections this week (4/16). Four of the Big 12's nine softball schools check-in in the top 20 and all but one school (ISU, 119) are in the top 40. KU is 8-13 this year against top-100 RPI opponents, and 16-15 facing schools in the top half of the RPI list (No. 1-144).
• Junior left fielder Maggie Hull has been the face of consistency in the Jayhawk lineup. After three-straight 2-for-4 performances, including two doubles, against No. 5 Texas Hull is third in the Big 12 with a .398 average. With 11 games remaining in the regular season, Hull sits three hits shy of her hit total from last season (53), which leads the Big 12. Hull's 39 runs already tie her 2011 season total, and average out to 0.95 runs per game (44th in NCAA).
• As a team, Kansas' .286 batting average ranks fourth in the league. Only Texas (.349), Oklahoma (.328) and Texas Tech (.295) are hitting better as a team. All three are ranked in the top 25 in at least one major poll.
• On the other side of the plate, the Jayhawk pitching staff is holding its opponents to a .232 batting average. Freshman Alicia Pille is keeping hitters at a .207 mark and recorded her 13th complete game in a close 7-5 loss to No. 5 Texas. In the latest NCAA statistics release (4/15), the rookie's seven shutouts are tied for 22nd in the country, while her four saves are tied for seventh.
ABOUT KANSAS (26-15, 3-12 Big 12 Conference)
Heading into the sixth inning in game one, KU trailed just 4-1 until back-to-back four-run sixth and seventh innings brought on the lopsided score. Pille allowed six hits and four earned runs in her complete game start in game two, giving KU the 5-4 lead until UT scored three in the sixth. The Jayhawks could've folded in the series finale, facing a 10-1 deficit in the fifth. Rather, the Jayhawks scored five runs off of Texas' All-American Blaire Luna in the fifth to drive her from the game and cut into the big lead, 10-6.
KU and UT each posted a .267 average as a team over the weekend, but the difference came on the defensive end. KU surrendered 32 runs, only 18 of which were earned.
As a team, KU is hitting at a .286 pace with 25 homers and have struck out 184 times compared to the opponents' 260. The Jayhawks have now doubled their opponents' doubles numbers (52-26), with Maggie Hull leading the way. Her 12 doubles lead the team and tie for first in the league. Junior shortstop Mariah Montgomery drilled her team-best seventh homer against Texas and leads the team with 37 RBIs.
No one's hotter heading into the weekend, however, than freshman third baseman Chanin Naudin. On a 10-game hit streak, Naudin is hitting .600 (18-for-30) in that span with five doubles, two home runs and 12 RBIs.
In the circle, KU is throwing for a 3.10 team ERA. Pille (13-8) leads the staff with a 2.31 ERA and 147 strikeouts. Her strikeout count ranks fifth in the Big 12 and is nine shy of doubling KU's K leader last season. One more win will tie her for fourth all-time among Kansas freshmen.
ABOUT IOWA STATE (12-28, 1-11 Big 12 Conference)
At the plate, Iowa State's .252 team average is ranked eighth in the Big 12. The Cyclones' extra-base hit numbers are similar to the Jayhawks', hitting 29 out of the park compared to KU's 25, while Kansas holds the slight lead in team doubles (52-51). The Jayhawks do have the speed advantage, heading into the matchup with 37 stolen bases to ISU's nine.
Junior Erica Miller leads the club with a .381 average and nine doubles, while fellow junior Tori Torrescano has a team-high 36 RBIs and 11 home runs with a .324 average. The two Cyclones are the only on the roster hitting above .300.
In the circle, ISU has six different pitchers that have seen time in the circle this season and the Cyclones hold a 7.19 team ERA. Sophomore right-hander Taylor Smith (3-3) leads the staff with a 4.95 ERA in 41 innings of work. Torrescano (7-19) takes on the bulk of the workload, tossing 121.2 innings in 30 appearances. The junior leads the team in strikeouts (64) and opponent batting average (.313).
HEAD COACH Megan Smith
On the balance in Iowa State's lineup being similar to KU's:
On reaping the benefits of the long-awaited string of home games: