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Aggies earn split, advance to softball regional championship

Published: Sunday, May 20, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 20:07

The 13th ranked Texas A&M softball team managed to earn a split in Saturday’s games, dropping the first game 2-0 to the LSU Tigers and then rallying from behind against the Texas State Bobcats 7-4.

In the first game, the action started right away as LSU’s A.J. Andrews hit a leadoff single to left field, and Simone Heyward drew a walk. After Juliana Santos was hit by a pitch from A&M starting pitcher Mel Dumezich, LSU’s Allison Falcon hit an RBI single to left field but another run scored on an infield error making the score 2-0 in favor of the Tigers.

Dumezich struggled with her command yet kept grinding out the effort to keep the damage to a minimum, especially after the top of the first inning.

“I said, ‘Calm down. Let’s slow the game down here. There’s no need to panic,’” A&M head coach Jo Evans said.

With the Aggie offense putting on a home run display Friday night against Bethune-Cookman, the feeling around the complex was A&M would have an answer against LSU and its ace pitcher Rachele Fico.

As the innings kept going, the Aggies struggled to figure out Fico as she surrendered only two hits, striking out six and walking six in seven shutout innings.

While getting runners on base, the A&M offense could not come up with the timely hit in order to draw closer to the Tigers.

“She really hit her spots,” Aggie third baseman Amber Garza said. “When she would get ahead of us she would throw junk pitches and we chased them. We helped her out a lot. We weren’t hitting the pitches that she was giving us to hit.”

Just as the Aggies appeared to get something going, Fico would stop the flow and get through the inning.

The last hope for A&M came in the seventh as second baseman Natalie Villarreal drew a leadoff walk. The walk would be wasted as Fico induced three straight flyouts to end the ball game 2-0 in favor of LSU.

This was only the fourth time A&M had been shutout with the other three coming in the hands of Pacific (2-0), No. 3 California (3-0), and Oklahoma State (4-0).

“We talked about a few things we could different from that game, but mostly we have to just play one game at a time,” Evans said. “It is absolutely critical that we don’t think, ‘We have to win three games, or we have to win two tomorrow.’ We have to condense it down to we have an opponent who we are going to play, and we need to be on top of our game. Our kids understand you can’t get ahead of yourselves. We are focused on the next game.”

In that next game, the Aggies faced Texas State who won its game against Bethune-Cookman 5-3.

The game began in similar fashion as it did against the Tigers as Dumezich struggled yet again to gain command of her pitches and ran into trouble early in the first inning. Texas State’s Selena Hernandez led off the bottom of the first inning with an infield hit to the shortstop and was later followed with a bunt single by Haley Lemons. Bobcat’s starting pitcher Chandler Hall then roped a double to deep center field allowing the two runs to score and take the lead 2-0 over the Aggies.

“My hands were really dry,” Dumezich said. “I kept trying to use a washcloth in the dugout, but for some reason the ball kept slipping. I had no control over where my ball was going. It was going down the middle and they were hitting it.”

As eerie as this game felt, the crowd simply would not let the Aggies have a repeat of the game earlier. As the Aggies came to bat in the second inning, Texas State’s Hall was able to quickly get two outs until Aggie first baseman Nicole Morgan got a left field single, followed by a center field single by Villarreal. Aggie centerfielder Kelsea Orsak then got an RBI single to straight away single driving home Morgan and cutting the Bobcat lead to 2-1.

The Aggies then tied the game up in the top of the third inning when Dumezich helped her with a solo shot to right center field, igniting the crowd to its feet as it saw A&M battle back to draw even, 2-2.

As the game moved to the bottom half of the fourth inning, Dumezich continued to struggle with command and found herself with Bobcat runners on third and first with no outs. It was here that Evans called in for Lauren Ainsley to pitch in relief for Dumezich. As soon as Ainsley toed the rubber, she went in firing strikes got out of the inning getting two strikeouts and a groundout to end the inning.

“We left nine runners on base within the first four innings,” Texas State head coach Ricci Woodard said. “You put yourself in a bind when you do that, especially against a good hitting ballclub.”

After that inning, the momentum shifted in favor of the Aggies as the offense erupted for four home runs, two sets of back-to-back home runs and putting A&M up over Texas State 7-2.

“Hall made a few mistakes and we made her pay for that,” Evans said. “We had a good eye at the plate.”

The Bobcats cut the lead down to 7-4, but the Aggies pulled out the win, setting up a rematch against the LSU Tigers.

“I thought the crowd was great,” Evans said. “They came to help us win a ballgame, and they did. We know what we are going to get [from LSU]. Obviously, we’d love to only have to play one game, but we will be out here as long as it takes. I told our team to dream about winning tonight. We aren’t going to consider losing tomorrow.”

The Aggies will square off against LSU with the first game slated to start at 1:00 p.m. Sunday. If the Aggies win, the next game will follow 30 minutes after the first game.

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