Down a run entering the bottom of the seventh Saturday afternoon at Arrocha Ballpark, Kansas University’s softball team had plenty of reasons to rally for a win.
Hours earlier, Texas Tech had beat the Jayhawks in the conclusion of a game suspended Friday night. Then there was the matter of KU’s five seniors, who were about to be recognized upon the game’s conclusion. Plus, with the end of the regular season rapidly approaching, Kansas was in dire need of another quality win on its resume.
A walk-off single from junior Mariah Montgomery avenged a 4-1 loss to the Red Raiders in the series opener, assured seniors Kelsey Alsdorf, Leah Daiber, Marissa Ingle, Liz Kocon and Ashley Spencer of a bummer-free senior day ceremony and gave the Jayhawks a 5-4 victory over No. 24 Texas Tech.
Kansas (31-17 overall, 6-14 Big 12) couldn’t be denied in the seventh. Elsa Moyer sparked the KU rally with a leadoff infield single, her second hit of the game. Jayhawks coach Megan Smith said that play was as big as any, and anytime Moyer is leading off, her team feels good about its chances.
“I think Elsa’s done an unbelievable job of just making things happen,” Smith said.
With that, junior Maggie Hull tied the game, 4-4, on an RBI double off Tech reliever Cara Custer, who then walked Maddie Stein to set up a potential force play at third or second.
But Montgomery sat on an inside pitch and cranked it to the left-field gap to win the game.
Hull said the rally actually began in the bottom of the sixth, with KU trailing Tech, 4-1. The Jayhawks huddled up and talked about winning the game for the seniors and their postseason livelihood.
“I think that moment was the turning point,” Hull said. “That’s when we all believed.”
Kansas had more energy after that, Hull added, and Chanin Naudin’s two-run single down the left-field line in the bottom of the sixth was “the biggest hit of the game.”
Another key moment in knocking off Tech (38-14, 11-9) came in the top of the seventh. The Red Raiders’ Mikey Kenney had singled to center field, where Moyer momentarily bobbled the ball. Trying to capitalize, Logan Hall went to third, and an errant Moyer throw coaxed Hall to head home. However, KU relief pitcher Kristin Martinez was backing up third and threw to catcher Lexi Bryant, who tagged Hall out at the plate.
Said Smith: “That play sparked it (the win).”
Montgomery agreed, and called Martinez “unbelievable” in her 4 1/3 innings of relief.
“That play at the end there, great throw to Lexi,” said Montgomery, who hit a solo home run in the second. “That’s why you’re supposed to back up that play. Unbelievable play.”
Hull said it gave the Jayhawks even more confidence.
“We knew we had the top of our lineup coming up and there was no other place we would rather be,” Hull said. “It took a lot of heart and it took a lot of passion, but that’s exactly what we had. We believed it the whole time.”
The Jayhawks wrap up their final home series of the season at noon today against Texas Tech.