COURTESY: KU Sports Information
AMES, Iowa – Seniors Mariah Montgomery and Maggie Hull highlighted their season-long race to the Kansas career RBI crown when one tied and the other broke the KU record en route to a convincing 8-0, five-inning victory over Iowa State, Friday afternoon at the Cyclone Sports Complex.
Hull tied the KU record, previously held by Liz Kocon (135, 2008-12), on April 24. During the six-game span since Hull knotted Kocon, Montgomery had moved her way to second place, entering the weekend with 132 career RBIs.
Tied 0-0 with two down and the bases loaded in the top of the third, Montgomery was the first to strike. The double that she drilled to right center scored all three runners and tied both Hull and Kocon for the record.
In the next inning, Hull claimed the record as her own when she drilled a two-run homer to right field to bring her career total to 137 RBIs – the most in KU history.
“We joke about it,” Hull said of her and Montgomery. “We knew we were pretty close at the start of the season, then I kind of jumped ahead and then she caught up to me. We were roommates freshman year, we both have started every game together and we’ve been through a lot together. So we just hugged each other afterward and said congratulations. It means a lot to both of us. I think either one of us could care less who ends up on top, but it is fun to have us both up there.”
Thanks to the dueling duo and an offensive showcase by the Jayhawks, Kansas (32-16, 7-8) posted its 32nd win of the year, the most wins in a season since 2008. KU posted 11 hits compared to four from Iowa State (21-32, 4-12) to set the tone for a crucial weekend.
“It’s a big series for us,” head coach Megan Smith said. “We talked to the girls before the game about finishing strong. We started the season strong and we want to finish the season just as strong. I think today was a good indication that we’re ready to do that.”
With the win, KU moves closer to a fourth-place finish in the Big 12 standings, which would be the highest since the 2001 season. Additionally, the Jayhawks’ seven wins in conference play ties the most Big 12 wins for KU since 2008.
Freshman starter Kelsey Kessler (10-6) threw her second-consecutive shutout and the sixth of the season, moving her to a tie for fifth all-time for shutouts by a KU freshman. It was also her fourth in conference play – passing Oklahoma All-American Keilani Ricketts for the most by a Big 12 pitcher this season.
Kessler allowed four hits over five innings, walked none and struck out four. When Iowa State threatened with runners on second and third with one out in the bottom of the third inning, the Jayhawk rookie collected a strikeout and a groundout to calmly keep the shutout intact.
Opposite Kessler in the circle was ISU senior starter Tori Torrescano (11-14), who also tossed a complete game. She surrendered eight runs on 11 hits, walked three and struck out three.
Through the first two innings, however, both pitchers were in control of a scoreless game until the Jayhawks broke loose for a six-run inning in the top of the third.
Back-to-back infield singles from junior second baseman Ashley Newman and redshirt junior centerfielder Alex Jones kicked off the Jayhawks’ big inning. After freshman catcher Alex Hugo drew a one out walk to load the bases, Torrescano got the next Jayhawk to pop-out and looked to have contained the threat.
But the Kansas threat was imminent.
Montgomery’s milestone three-run double with two outs and two strikes against her put KU in front, 3-0. Sophomore Cassen Salamone slapped a single to give fellow sophomore Chanin Naudin an opportunity to blow the game open. Naudin responded with a three-run blast to left and Kansas took a commanding 6-0 lead.
Naudin and Montgomery tied for the team lead with three RBIs apiece, while Hull trailed them with two thanks to her two-run homer in the top of the fourth. Hugo, Montgomery and Salamone each chalked up two hits and Jones led the team with two runs scored.
Kansas and Iowa State will square off in game two on Saturday at noon.