The moment the ball cleared the left field fence, Kansas softball coach Megan Smith told her team that everything was going to be just fine.
Even though Harli Ridling’s solo shot in the second merely trimmed the deficit in half, it was as if it provided a wakeup call to a vigorous Jayhawks lineup. KU went on to score a dozen more runs, including eight over the fourth and fifth innings, to take the series-deciding finale over Nevada, 13-5, on Sunday at Free State High.
“When Harli hit that solo shot in the second, offensively I knew we were going to be OK,” Smith said. “I felt like everybody came together and we were strong one through nine, which was great to see.”
KU (24-23) recorded a season-high 17 hits. Seven different players notched a hit, while five Kansas players posted multi-hit efforts. Ridling, the cleanup hitter, finished a triple shy of the cycle, as she went 3-for-4 with four runs driven in.
Ridling wasn’t alone, though, as the top four batters went a combined 10-for-15, with nine RBIs and six runs scored. Center fielder Erin McGinley drove in five to go along with her 4-for-5 clip from the No. 2 spot in the lineup.
But it was the bottom of the order which made the Jayhawks lineup impossible to maintain in the rubber match.
The bottom three — Mikayla Warren, Taylor McElhaney, and Emily Bermel — scored a total of seven runs and went 7-for-11. Bermel went 4-for-4.
“She’s a good weapon for us and on this turf field, bunting is key,” Smith said. “It’s really difficult to defend them, you saw that from both teams. Her ability to put the ball on the ground and use the turf was huge for us.”
Before it became an offensive onslaught, Nevada took an early advantage. The Wolf Pack (23-19) scored a pair of runs in the first two innings, which was enough to chase starter Alexis Reid.
Kansas used four different pitchers in the lopsided victory. Mandy Roberts (4-3), who earned the victory, tossed 2 1/3 innings of two-run ball after Reid’s early exit.
As a result, it was up to the offense to complete the come-from-behind victory. Ridling was able to jumpstart the action by depositing an 0-1 offering over the wall in left. It marked her third homer of the weekend and fifth in the last six games.
The rest of the offense followed suit, plating two runs in the third and four more in both the fourth and fifth frames. Kansas completed the mercy-ruled victory with two more runs in the sixth, including a hit-by-pitch to Ridling to end the contest.
“I think Harli is starting to relax,” Smith said. “I think she was pressing and doing too much. I think she is just trusting the process and trusting herself. You can see her more relaxed in the box and even when she’s not hitting home runs, she is hitting the ball hard.”
Kansas will welcome Texas for a three-game set beginning at 5 p.m. Friday.
Nevada 110 021 x — 5 4 1
Kansas 012 442 x — 13 17 1
W — Mandy Roberts (4-3). L – McKenna Isenberg, M. (14-10). S – None.
2B — Harli Ridling, KU. HR – Ridling, KU; Nikki Orozco, Nevada.
KU highlights — Erin McGinley, 4-for-5, 5 RBIs, 2 runs scored; Ridling, 3-for-4, 4 RBIs, 1 run; Emily Bermel, 4-for-4, 1 RBI, 3 runs; Sophia Templin, 0.2 IP, OH, 0R, 1K, 2BB.