Kansas softball falls to Baylor, 9-3

Kansas center fielder Julie Jenkins is unable to make the catch during Kansas’ softball game against Baylor Saturday, April 16, 2011 at Arrocha Ballpark. The Bears defeated the Jayhawks, 9-3.

One out away from escaping Saturday’s second inning against No. 15 Baylor having surrendered just one run, Kansas University’s softball team quickly found itself in one heck of a hole after an error led to a big inning for the Bears.

Instead of taking a one-run lead into the bottom of the second, the Bears led by six, a number that wound up being the difference during BU’s 9-3 victory at Arrocha Ballpark.

“The last couple games we’ve struggled with bouncing back,” KU coach Megan Smith said after her team fell to 28-16 overall and 1-12 in Big 12 play. “If something bad happens or a call doesn’t go our way, instead of bearing down and really focusing on getting the next kid, we let it snowball a little bit.”

That was definitely the case Saturday. Starting pitcher Alex Jones, one of the Jayhawks’ top hurlers a season ago, made her second start in three games — a win in KU’s 9-5 victory against Texas Tech last Wednesday was the other — and looked poised to deliver another solid showing. But an error on shortstop Ashley Newman allowed Baylor to touch Jones for six runs on five hits — only one was earned — and that sent the sophomore packing after 1 2?3 innings.

The tone-setting second inning was disastrous for the Jayhawks and huge for Baylor.

“That was important,” BU coach Glenn Moore said. “It gave us an opportunity to relax and put some pressure on them.”

Though the Jayhawks showed some fight in the late innings, it wasn’t until the fifth that they seemed to recover from the early blow.

With BU’s lead up to 7-0, KU received a lift from sophomore outfielder Maggie Hull, who ripped a two-run home run to right field to cut the Bears’ lead to 7-2.

The homer was Hull’s seventh of the season; not bad for a player who was used primarily as a slap-hitter last year.

In the offseason, however, Smith decided to allow the former Free State High standout to swing away, and Hull has been ripping the cover off of the ball ever since. During the fall, she was among the team’s leaders in most power categories. This spring, she leads the team in RBIs (43), is second in batting average (.351) and fourth in home runs.

“She’s stepped up and been phenomenal at the plate hitting,” Smith said of Hull. “She also has become an unbelievable outfielder. The strides she’s made in the outfield are huge. We’re really proud of her. She continues to get up there and attack.”

Hull said her success could be attributed to one thing — having fun.

“The bottom line is I’m gonna do whatever the coaches ask me to do,” she said. “The fact that they’re putting me in that position, where I can score some runs, that’s natural for me, and I love doing it. But at the end of the day it’s all about my team.”

The Jayhawks and Bears will conclude the series at noon today.