As soon as the ball left her bat, Kansas junior catcher Harli Ridling began her trot around the bases.
Her teammates welcomed her at home plate following a sixth-inning solo homer, which cleared the left field wall with ease. Unfortunately, for her and the rest of the Kansas softball team, it was the only sign of light during a gloomy, chilly Sunday afternoon at Rock Chalk Park. The Jayhawks recorded just three hits during the team’s eventual 5-1 loss in the rubber match with No. 14 Baylor.
“I think we fought all weekend,” KU coach Megan Smith said. “When you get into conference play, that’s what you have to do. You are going to play quality opponents every weekend and you are going to have to fight, especially against a top-15 team like Baylor.”
KU (19-14, 1-2 Big 12) split Saturday’s doubleheader, including a walk-off homer in the night cap by junior Erin McGinley, while recording a combined seven runs off 15 hits. Entering the conference opener, KU paced the league with 26 homers and had a team batting average of .300.
The offense was stymied in the series finale, however, as Baylor’s starter Kelsee Selman earned the victory, in which she spun seven innings of one-run ball. Selman whiffed 10 batters, while walking just three on the day. She only dealt with multiple base runners during the second inning.
For the weekend series, Selman allowed just four runs (three earned) off nine hits over a total of 17 2/3 innings, as she earned the win in the opener and was handed the loss in the second game.
“That’s one of the best pitchers in our conference,” Smith said. “She bounced back from yesterday’s loss and looked determined out there. Offensively, when we face someone as much as we faced her, I would have liked to see better adjustments.”
Meanwhile, KU sophomore Alexis Reid did her best to counter Selman, in what had all the makings of a pitcher’s duel early on.
Despite putting the leadoff batter on in all but two innings, Reid posted four scoreless frames across her first five innings. The Bears, who came in with nine players batting north of .300 on the year, managed just one run over that stretch via an RBI single by Maddison Kettler in the top of the fourth.
“(Reid) gave us a chance, that’s what we ask from our starting pitcher,” Smith said. “I was impressed with Alexis this weekend. I thought she pitched really well against a really good offensive team.”
Then things took a turn for the worse in the sixth inning.
A fielding error and a base hit put the first two batters on board to open the sixth. Then Reid surrendered her first and only extra-base hit, a double into center by Sydney Christensen, which plated two more runs.
Baylor (28-6, 2-1) tacked on another two runs on consecutive singles by the top of the order for good measure. Reid was charged with two earned runs off 10 hits over six innings. She punched out five batters and walked two.
The Jayhawks responded immediately with Ridling’s solo shot to left, but it was too little and much too late. Taylor Dodson and Becki Monaghan were the only other Kansas players to record a hit.
“That to me shows we are fighting no matter what,” Smith said. “We might not have had the result we wanted, but our team was still fighting until the end.
Kansas will travel to Oklahoma State at 1 p.m. Friday.
Baylor 000 104 0 — 5 11 1
Kansas 000 001 0 — 1 3 2
W — Kelsee Selman (15-3). L — Alexis Reid (11-8).
2B — Lindsey Cargill, Sydney Christensen, Baylor. HR — Harli Ridling, KU.
KU highlights — Reid. 6 IP, 10 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K; Sophia Templin, 1 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 K; Harli Ridling, 1-for-3, run, RBI.