STILLWATER, Okla. – Back-to-back walks and an infield single from Alex Jones loaded the bases in the top of the seventh, but Oklahoma State found a way to hang on and take the deciding game of the series, 3-1, on Sunday at Cowgirl Stadium.
Kansas (27-13, 4-5) had opportunities to knock off Oklahoma State (26-21, 4-8), outhitting the home team for the third-straight game, but couldn’t find the clutch hit to break the game open in the Jayhawks’ favor. KU left eight runners on in the loss.
“We’re not happy today,” head coach Megan Smith said. “Overall in the series, we had one good game, but in the other two our offense was sub-par to say the least. Offensively, we have to step it up if we’re going to compete in the Big 12.”
Jones, the redshirt junior centerfielder, led the offensive effort, collecting half of KU’s six hits for her second three-hit game of the season. Freshman shortstop Chaley Brickey went 1-for-2 with a walk and drove in KU’s only RBI, while sophomore third baseman Chanin Naudin collected a hit and scored the lone run.
Freshman Kelsey Kessler (7-5) made her first appearance since the second inning of the series opener. Heading into the finale, all 10 runs OSU had scored came via home runs. On Sunday, Kessler kept the Cowgirls in the yard, but a sac fly in the first and two RBI doubles in the fourth proved to be the difference. Kessler finished the day surrendering four hits over six innings and struck out six.
“She pitched well enough for us to win that game,” Smith said. “She gave up a couple of hits, but overall kept us in the game. We had a lot of opportunities offensively and we didn’t capitalize.”
Senior Kat Espinosa (15-14) started the third-straight game of the weekend, earning her second win. Although she surrendered six hits and five walks, including two walks and a single in the seventh alone, the senior pulled out the victory.
An interference call also helped Espinosa’s call in the seventh. Junior second baseman Ashley Newman laid down a sac bunt and was struck with the ball as the OSU defense attempted to throw her out. The ball ricocheted off Newman and into right field, allowing the game-tying runs to score. The call was reversed when Newman was called out on interference, forcing both base runners to return to the bases.
Nevertheless, Jones followed the wild play with a single to load the bases with only one out. Espinosa buckled down through the heart of KU’s order to stop the Jayhawks’ final threat.
Oklahoma State got on the board first due to the sacrifice fly from designated player Samantha Chrisman to take a 1-0 lead out of the opening frame. The advantage stood through the second and third before the Jayhawks tied the game, 1-1, in the top of the fourth.
The fourth started with a one-out single from Naudin. With no one covering first base, Naudin sprinted aboard and later scored when Brickey singled through the right side.
Knotted at 1-1, Oklahoma State used a break to reclaim the lead in its next at bat. Third baseman Tiffany Mikkelson reached on a base hit to deep short, but appeared to be doubled off to end the inning when Newman leapt to snag a line drive and tossed it back over to first.
In an unlucky turn of events, however, the pitch was ruled illegal, which advanced Mikkelson to second and sent right fielder Erika Campbell back to the plate. Campbell capitalized on the opportunity, breaking the tie with an RBI double. Another double from pinch hitter Dre McKee ended the fourth inning with the 3-1 lead Oklahoma State would keep for the remainder of the game.
Despite the loss, Sunday marked a monumental day for two Jayhawk seniors as left fielder Maggie Hull and first baseman Mariah Montgomery made their 200th-consecutive start – the first players in the Megan Smith era to reach the milestone achievement.
Kansas will make its third attempt at a midweek game on Tuesday, April 23, when the Jayhawks travel to Kansas City, Mo., for a doubleheader at UMKC. Game times are set for 5 and 7 p.m.