LUBBOCK, Texas – A long fly ball sailed into right field in the bottom of the seventh and senior Rosie Hull tracked it down, sealing the final out of Kansas’ sweep at Texas Tech and - more historically - Kelsey Kessler’s first career no-hitter, Sunday afternoon at Rocky Johnson Field.
Milestones surrounded Kansas’ (24-10, 3-3) third-straight win at Texas Tech (27-17, 1-5), as the Jayhawks chalked up their first conference road sweep since taking both games from Texas Tech in Lubbock on April 21-22, 2007. The 2012 season marked the first year that Big 12 series consisted of three games.
Even more notably, however, was the way in which it happened as Kessler, the freshman from Blue Springs, Mo., became the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter at Kansas since Kassie Humphreys did so against New Mexico on March 11, 2007.
“I don’t know if I feel anything right now,” Kessler laughed. “I feel like I’m going to wake up in 30 minutes. But no, it was incredible. A no-hitter is as much as a team accomplishment as it was mine.”
The no-hitter put a bow on top of Kessler’s (7-3) already fantastic weekend. In two starts and three appearances, Kessler went 2-0 with a save and threw 15.2 innings of shutout softball. She struck out 13 and gave up just five hits for a .096 opposing batting average.
A walk and a fielder’s choice that came in back-to-back at bats in the bottom of the fourth were all that separated the freshman from a perfect game. Before heading back out for the seventh, fellow starting pitcher Alicia Pille told Kessler to stop watching the scoreboard and just pitch.
She listened, throwing a 1-2-3 seventh to cement herself in the Kansas record books.
“A no-hitter is always special, but if you count all the things about this one it’s almost hard to believe,” head coach Megan Smith said. “Away at Texas Tech, against one of the best offenses in our conference and from a freshman. How impressive is that? We’re really proud of Kelsey. She threw really well all weekend.”
Adding to the list of Sunday’s accomplishments, sophomore third baseman Chanin Naudin drilled a home run for her third-straight game, while senior left fielder Maggie Hull extended her hit streak to 20 games in her first at bat, the best in the Big 12 this season and KU’s longest in the Big 12 era.
Freshman catcher Alex Hugo added her second two-hit game of the weekend, and sophomore designated player Maddie Stein drove in three runs with a hard-hit fly ball to left that was ruled an error, but still handed KU an insurmountable 4-0 lead.
After Naudin connected on a homer to centerfield of off Cara Custer (12-8), which gave her a bomb off of each of the Red Raiders’ starting pitchers this weekend, Kessler ran with the 1-0 lead.
Reaching back to her 10-consecutive outs to finish game two, Kessler came out and retired nine-straight to start Sunday’s contest. A walk to lead off the fourth broke up her streak, but hardly affected the freshman starter as a fielder’s choice kept the Red Raider runner from reaching second.
That was the last time Tech would see a base runner as Kessler made the 1-0 lead stand through six innings before her offense contributed three more insurance runs in its final at bat. Freshman Chaley Brickey led off the top of the seventh with a single to left, although a fielder’s choice took her off the bases, a single from redshirt junior centerfielder Alex Jones and a walk to Maggie Hull loaded the bases with two outs.
Stein came through. Her rocket to left was in-and-out of the glove of the Texas Tech left fielder, clearing the bases and handing the Jayhawks a 4-0 lead.
After Kessler recorded her eighth strikeout of the game for the first out in the bottom of the seventh, her defense teamed up for their pitcher. Junior second baseman Ashley Newman got under a pop-up to second and Rosie Hull tracked down the last out in right field, sealing the no-hitter - Texas Tech's first since May 20, 2011 against New Mexico State.
Kansas will travel to Greenville, S.C. for a non-conference series at Furman University, April 13-14. The Jayhawks will play a doubleheader on Saturday, April 13, beginning at noon (CT) and will wrap up on Sunday, April 14 at 10 a.m. CT.