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Archive for Wednesday, April 27, 2005

KU softball’s power surge sparks twinbill sweep

April 27, 2005

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Heather Stanley isn't fast, she rarely walks and she isn't a left-handed slap hitter.

In other words, Stanley is everything you don't want in a softball leadoff hitter, yet Kansas University coach Tracy Bunge isn't about to move the junior outfielder from the top of the lineup.

"What she does is give our other players confidence," Bunge said, "because she makes solid contact."

Stanley made that solid contact in a hurry Tuesday in the Jayhawks' 7-2 and 6-5 doubleheader sweep of Arkansas at Arrocha Ballpark.

Stanley slugged leadoff home runs in both games. Overall, she had four hits in six at-bats, scored four runs and drove in two. Not bad for a non-traditional leadoff hitter.

"We spent half of last season searching for a leadoff hitter," Bunge said, "and half of this year doing the same thing. Both years we came back to the same solution."

Stanley, who hails from Baytown, Texas, always has been slow out of the starting gate.

"I don't know why," she said.

"I don't, either," Bunge said. "She's just been a slow starter."

During all of February and most of March, Stanley barely was hitting her weight and she's just 5-foot-6. Finally, though, she has cracked the .300 plateau. Her four hits Tuesday inflated her batting average to .303.

Coming into this season, Stanley had hit a total of two home runs -- one during her freshman year and one last year. Tuesday's blasts were her fifth and sixth of the spring.

Kansas University's Nettie Fierros slides past Arkansas shortstop
Dayne Huckabee for a stolen base. The Jayhawks swept the
Razorbacks, 7-2 and 6-5, Tuesday at Arrocha Ballpark.

Kansas University's Nettie Fierros slides past Arkansas shortstop Dayne Huckabee for a stolen base. The Jayhawks swept the Razorbacks, 7-2 and 6-5, Tuesday at Arrocha Ballpark.

Still, Stanley only is part of the Kansas power package. In the second game, for instance, she wasn't the only Jayhawk to homer in the first inning. Destiny Frankenstein followed with a two-run shot, and Nettie Fierros added a solo round-tripper.

KU's four home runs Tuesday boosted the team total to 41 -- five more than last year when the Jayhawks set a school home-run record.

In other words, KU has hit more home runs in the last two years than in any seasons in history. Both of those seasons have been in 2-year-old Arrocha Ballpark.

"We did flip the ballpark around to make it a better hitters' park," Bunge said, "but I'm not sure it's the ballpark. It's more because Serena (Settlemier) and (Jessica) Moppin are more consistent, and Destiny and Heather are having great years."

Junior shortstop Frankenstein leads the Jayhawks with 10 home runs, three more than she hit during her first two seasons combined. Moppin has hit eight and is one away from tying the school record for career homers. Settlemier and Stanley both have six round-trippers. Fierros has five.

Last year's team hit a lot of home runs, but it batted only .205, the worst team BA in school history. In contrast, this year's team is hitting more than home runs. After pounding four Arkansas hurlers for 24 hits, KU's team BA climbed to .280.

"We're relaxed," Stanley said about the improved offense. "We're not thinking that we need to keep our hands in or our shoulders up. We're just swinging."

Kansas (24-19) boosted its win streak to four while pitching-poor Arkansas fell to 19-38.

The Jayhawks will be back at Arrocha Thursday for a 3 p.m. doubleheader against North Dakota State before resuming Big 12 Conference play Saturday and Sunday at Texas Tech.

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