The Texas A&M-Texas rivalry was briefly renewed on Saturday as the schools’ softball teams met in the NCAA Austin Regional.
Trailing No. 9 Texas 2-1 through much of the game, the Aggies made several unsuccessful rally attempts in an effort to save their postseason run.
Only the final attempt resulted in points for A&M, though. It came as a last-ditch effort in the seventh inning and started with a double by junior outfielder Blake-Ann Fritsch.
Two outs followed A&M’s fifth hit of the night, and it looked as though the Aggies’ season was over.
In prime position to take the win in their home stadium, the Longhorns then allowed a miscue to almost rip the game from their grasp. A throwing error by the third baseman allowed Fritsch to score and tie the game 2-2.
The Texas defense then came up with a much-needed strikeout to effectively end the inning and keep the game within reach.
The Longhorns utilized their final inning to save their season. A double put sophomore infielder Janae Jefferson in scoring position. An A&M throwing error on the next at-bat — a single — allowed Jefferson to score and gave the Longhorns the 3-2 win, ending the Aggies’ comeback.
It was a battle of the pitching staffs at McCombs Field as both team struggled to earn runs. Ultimately, Texas edged A&M as junior pitcher Miranda Elish pulled off a clutch performance on the mound. Striking out 10 batters, Elish allowed only two runs on six hits over the eight innings.
On the mound for A&M, junior Payton McBride pitched eight innings, allowing three runs on nine hits.
McBride said she credits her performance on the mound with the confidence she has in her team, and in herself.
“Trusting in my pitches, trusting in my defense and trusting in my hitters to be able to put up the runs and be able to make the plays that we made,” McBride said. “I just allowed myself to let that happen instead of putting too much pressure on myself.”
Opposite McBride was freshman catcher Haley Lee, who came up with two timely outs in the fifth inning, catching two walked runners as A&M attempted to steal second.
Both of A&M’s points in the game came on errors by Texas. Junior outfielder Kelbi Fortenberry was walked in the first at-bat of the game, then stole second to put herself in scoring position.
A fielding error allowed freshman infielder Baylee Klingler to reach first base, pushing Fortenberry to third. Texas catcher Mary Iakopo then committed a second error, flubbing the toss to third that allowed Fortenberry to reach home plate and put the Aggies up 1-0.
However, Texas wouldn’t go down without a fight. Junior outfielder Shannon Rhodes smacked a two RBI home run over the left field wall to give Texas the 2-1 lead, which they maintained through much of the game.
A&M head coach Jo Evans said the Longhorns’ ability to answer each A&M score with points of their own wore down her team.
“The name of the game is momentum,” Evans said. “If you get a run, that’s momentum, and the way you keep that is to get your team off the field and move your opponent [onto it].”
The Aggies were unable to catch a break until their seventh inning rally, finishing their season 28-27 with a 6-18 conference record.
Evans said despite the final record, she has hope for the future of her young team, which features only one senior and 14 underclassmen.
“You see where we started, where we are right now, all that talent we have in the young class, all the talent we have in the junior class that will now be seniors, and then the talent we have coming in and all of this experience,” Evans said. “You take those freshmen, who started almost every single game. There's no replacement for experience. You just have to have it. You have to go out there and actually do it. I feel it's been a mission accomplished in terms of, can we stay in the fight and get better, and I think we've gotten a lot better.”