When Kansas University wins a softball game, chances are Alex Jones will have been involved.
Jones drove in the tying run, scored the winning run and went the distance on the mound as the Jayhawks nipped Missouri State, 4-3, and salvaged a split of a Sunday twinbill at Arrocha Ballpark.
“She’s my kind of player,” KU coach Megan Smith said of Jones, a freshman pitcher-outfielder. “She’s a sparkplug. She’s phenomenal at the plate and in the circle.”
The Bears won the opener, 8-7.
Jones, a former Enid, Okla., prep standout, leads the Jayhawks in batting average (.388), pitching victories (four) and stolen bases (four).
“She’s a fighter,” Smith said, continuing to heap praise on Jones. “She’s got heart. She believes.”
When she came to Mount Oread, Jones was projected as the Jayhawks’ regular centerfielder, but a thin pitching staff has necessitated using her in the circle, too.
In Sunday’s nightcap, Jones was sitting on a 3-1 lead going into the seventh inning, but the Bears plated two runs on a hit, an error and a botched call by the umpires who didn’t see a bunted ball clip a Missouri State player’s foot.
“That got us pumped up,” Jones said of the umpires’ gaffe.
Jones led off the bottom of the seventh by reaching first on a passed ball after striking out. Moments later, she was on second base after Maggie Hull’s sacrifice bunt.
Then, after Rosie Hull flied to center, Mariah Montgomery, the fourth straight freshman to bat in the frame, drilled a single up the middle, and Jones raced in with the winning run.
“Alex is the fastest player on the team,” Montgomery said, “so I knew all I had to do was hit the ball through the infield.”
In the opener, the Jayhawks wasted a two-run home run by Marissa Ingle and a solo shot by Allie Clark. Also wasted were four singles by Free State High product Rosie Hull, who went 5-for-8 in the doubleheader and elevated her batting average from .314 to .360.
Next for Kansas (11-12) is a trip to San Diego for a three-day, five-game tournament starting Thursday. Missouri State’s record is 3-12.