Saturday’s senior day was extra special and a little different for Kansas University freshman Alex Jones.
Not only was Jones saying goodbye to five teammates, she also was squaring off against her sister, Sydni, a senior first baseman at Iowa State.
“People always ask me if I was excited to face my sister,” Jones said. “And, no, I did not want to play my sister. I’m actually glad it’s her last year so I don’t ever have to play her again. But it was nice to face her and shut her down a couple times.”
Sydni Jones was 0-for-3 with a strikeout in the opening game, which Kansas won, 3-0, during a doubleheader split with the Cyclones. KU lost Game Two, 4-3. A big reason for the Jayhawks’ victory in the opener was the dominance of the younger Jones sister.
Alex Jones tossed a complete-game three-hitter in the first game, giving the Jayhawks their second Big 12 victory of the season.
“She’s been phenomenal all week,” KU coach Megan Smith said. “That’s two great outings in a row where she just controlled the hitters. She’s hitting her spots, moving the ball, mixing speeds and keeping teams off balance. I was really proud of her today.”
Jones said after the game that her effort, along with that of the rest of the team, was in honor of KU seniors Alicia Irwin, Amanda Jobe, Sara Ramirez, Ally Stanton and Sarah Vertelka, who all played the final game of their careers at Arrocha Ballpark.
“This was their day and everything we put into it was for the seniors,” Jones said.
While Jones was dominant on the mound, junior third baseman Marissa Ingle was equally as dominant at the plate. Ingle was 2-for-2 in Game 1 and had a hand in all three KU runs in the opener, including two RBIs and a run scored. Allie Clark also had two hits in the victory.
In the second game, Kansas fell behind early and saw its furious late-inning rally come up just short. Ramirez was 3-for-3 with two RBIs in the loss. Mariah Montgomery had two hits and Jones, Rosie Hull and Jobe also added hits for Kansas (21-34 overall, 2-16 in Big 12).
Even with all of that, Saturday’s doubleheader was about the seniors, who were honored after the game and spoke briefly about their experience at KU, thanking parents, coaches, teammates and fans while wiping tears from their eyes.
“I just felt so relieved to come out and take it from Iowa State and get a win on senior day,” Ramirez said. “With or without me, that’s the direction we wanted to take this team and I think it ended on a good note.”
Added Smith: “We definitely wanted to do that and play well for them in their last game at home. They’ve had an interesting experience. They’ve had to adjust to a new coach in their last season and they were very welcoming and did everything we asked of them. They worked extremely hard and really helped us lay the foundation for what we need to do here. What we do in the future, they’re a big part of it.”
After Saturday’s twinbill, the Jayhawks held their year-end banquet to hand out awards.
• Freshman Alex Jones, rookie of the year, after hitting .306 and tying for the team lead with 55 hits, four shy of the freshman single-season record. She also made a team-high 23 starts in the pitching circle.
• Freshman Rosie Hull, offensive player of the year, after hitting .359 with 55 hits.
• Freshman Mariah Montgomery, team MVP. Montgomery hit .395 over the last 14 games and was one of two freshmen to start all 55 games.
• Senior Sara Ramirez, Big Jay Award after starting all 55 games and leading the team with six home runs.
• Senior Amanda Jobe, academic award.
• Molly McKinnon and Ryan Busenitz, support staff of the year award. McKinnon is the team’s strength and conditioning coach. Busenitz is athletic trainer.