No Kansas University softball player was happier Saturday than Amanda Jobe.
“I finally started hitting like I can,” Jobe said with a smile.
Jobe entered this weekend’s KU Invitational with a forgettable .174 batting average, but she tripled and homered as the Jayhawks clipped Eastern Illinois, 4-2, at Arrocha Ballpark.
Jobe, a left-handed-hitting junior first baseman, also had a hit in Saturday’s first game — an 8-5 loss to Northern Iowa.
“She’s been frustrated,” KU coach Tracy Bunge said of Jobe, “but she looked more like herself today. This was a big confidence game for her.”
After the 2008 season ended, Jobe underwent corrective shoulder surgery, then did a nine-month rehab procedure before being declared ready to resume playing softball.
“It’s good now. It’s 100 percent,” Jobe said of the shoulder, “but it’s taken me awhile to get back into things.”
The Shawnee Mission Northwest High product had struggled so badly that Bunge dropped her into the No. 8 slot in the batting order, but she looked more like a clean-up hitter Saturday.
In the second inning, Jobe stroked a line drive over the left-center-field fence. Then in the fourth, her triple into the right-center-field gap keyed a three-run rally that helped the Jayhawks rebound from a 2-1 deficit.
“Our day could have gone in the toilet after we went down 2-1,” Bunge said. “I was proud of the way we responded to that. To come right back and get a lead really showed me a lot.”
In the opener against Northern Iowa, Kansas had blown a 5-1 lead when the Panthers exploded for seven seventh-inning runs, including a decisive three-run homer by Kelly Papesh off freshman right-hander Sarah Blair.
In the second game, Bunge used Blair again, but this time as a pinch-hitter. Blair drove in Jobe with a single to left after Jobe had tripled in Brittany Hile, who had doubled, with the go-ahead run.
“She didn’t let that first game carry over,” Bunge said of Blair, “and that’s impressive for a freshman.”
Val George was impressive enough in the circle, even though the senior right-hander surrendered nine hits and three walks. On the positive side, all of EIU’s hits were singles, and George fanned nine Panthers.
“She gutted it out when we needed a pitcher to gut it out,” Bunge said.
Kansas (8-13) will have an opportunity today to atone for its Friday loss to North Dakota State and Saturday’s swoon against Northern Iowa.
KU will meet the Bison at noon and the Panthers at 4 p.m. to wrap up the three-day meet.