AMES, Iowa – Fittingly for the offensively dominant weekend, Kansas softball finished the regular season with a Big 12-record .345 team batting average, while rolling out a 12-3, five-inning victory at Iowa State in the final game of the 2013 regular season, Sunday afternoon at the Cyclone Sports Complex.
Kansas (34-16, 9-8) put up four runs in three-consecutive innings to land at its 12-run, 15-hit total in the series finale at Iowa State (21-34, 4-14). The 2013 squad’s winning percentage of .680 marks the best at KU since 1992 (.818). More importantly, however, the Jayhawks finished the Big 12 slate with a winning record for the first time since the 2005 season, when KU also posted a 9-8 finish. KU’s fourth-place finish is the team’s highest since 2001.
“We’re really proud of that,” head coach Megan Smith said. “We started out in last place four years ago and spent a couple of years there. We’ve been making strides, but haven’t been able to take that step in conference. I think this year we sent that message that we’re competitive and we can compete with everybody. I’m really proud of our girls and the hard work they’ve put in.”
Senior left fielder Maggie Hull went 3-for-4 for the second-straight game and racked up her 49th and 50th career doubles in the process. The Jayhawk senior finished the regular season by crushing her own KU batting average (.409, 2012) with a .456 mark in 2013. Hull also became the program’s career batting average leader as her .368 mark, established over 210-consecutive starts, makes her the best hitter in Kansas softball history as she passed Becky Ascencio’s previous record of .355 (1982-83).
Fellow senior, Mariah Montgomery, also started her 210-consecutive game and collected a hit in the win. Neither she nor Hull collected an RBI, leaving the KU RBI record in Hull’s hands with 140 with Montgomery in close second at 138.
Sophomore designated player Maddie Stein tied her career high with four hits in four at bats against the Cyclones, driving in three RBIs to end the regular season as KU’s RBI leader with 49 in 2013.
Keeping pace with her impressive weekend numbers, sophomore third baseman Chanin Naudin went 2-for-4 with three RBIs. She led the Jayhawks for the series with a .667 average and eight RBIs.
After Iowa State fought back with three home runs over the third and fourth innings, freshman shortstop Chaley Brickey put the Cyclones away for good when her three-run homer in the top of the fifth made the run-rule possible.
Freshman Kelsey Kessler (12-6) made her third appearance of the weekend. The rookie picked up her fourth-straight victory in the circle. She shook off a solo homer in the third and back-to-back solo shots in the fourth to hang on for the win. Kessler walked one and struck out six in her 10th complete game of 2013.
Pitching on her senior day, Iowa State starter Tori Torrescano (11-16) kept the Jayhawks off the board through the first and second innings, while Kessler did the same. During a scoreless game in the top of the third, the Kansas offense caught fire.
Redshirt junior centerfielder Alex Jones kicked off the scoring frenzy in the top of the third with a single to right and Hull quickly joined her with her first double of the game. Naudin broke the scoring silence with a two-run single, while Stein and junior second baseman Ashley Newman each knocked in a run to pull ahead, 4-0.
Iowa State responded with third baseman Maddie Reese’s solo blast to close the gap, 4-1, but Kansas went right back to work in the fourth. For the second-straight inning, the Jayhawks batted around, starting this time with singles from Hull and freshman catcher Alex Hugo. Again Naudin and Stein highlighted the inning with RBI singles and KU surged ahead, 8-1.
Still fighting, Torrescano tied her own single-season record at ISU with her 14th homer in the bottom of the fourth and freshman designated player Aly Cappaert made it back-to-back solo homers to again shorten the KU lead, 8-3.
Kansas would take over from there. Kessler gave up only one more hit for the rest of the game, while her offense ignited for four more runs in the fifth. Hull led off with her 50th career double, while Montgomery drew her 101st walk – both numbers rank second all-time at Kansas. An error scored Hull and the last three runs of the game scored via Brickey’s three-run blast.
Two strikeouts and a pop-up were all Kessler would need in the bottom of the fifth to wrap up the convincing victory.
Kansas will learn its postseason fate when the NCAA Selection Shows airs on ESPNU Sunday at 9 p.m.