Texas A&M Invitational recap

Haley Lee recorded three home runs in the Aggies first game against Central Arkansas.

Opening weekend for Texas A&M’s softball team was postponed due to last week’s inclement weather, but the maroon and white hosted a trio of teams at Davis Diamond to kick off the 2021 season this weekend.

The Aggies concluded an unusually long offseason by facing Colorado State, Central Arkansas and Texas Tech at the Texas A&M Invitational tournament in which A&M finished with a 3-2 record.

A&M coach Jo Evans said the team’s excitement to return to the field forced her to try to calm the team down, rather than give them the usual pre-game pep-talk.

The maroon and white first took the field on Saturday afternoon as they faced their first opponent of the season: Central Arkansas.

“It was really exciting… it was like Christmas day when you’re eight or nine,” junior Haley Lee said. “It’s been almost a year since the last pitcher we faced wasn’t our team so the excitement and the nerves were there, trust me.”

The Aggies dominated Central Arkansas in a 9-0 win with junior Makinzy Herzog in the circle. A&M’s second matchup of the day was against Colorado State in which the maroon and white fell, 7-6.

Graduate transfer Kelsey Broadus and freshman Grace Uribe made their debut in the maroon and white when each were given their first opportunity on the pitching mound on Saturday.

“Uribe, I thought she looked really good,” Evans said. “The thing about her and I think people are gonna learn is she is very, very competitive. That’s a freshman out there with her first opportunity. She gave up a hit to the first batter she threw to but then shut them down.”

Highlights of opening day included Lee’s incredible performance at the plate that included four home runs, three in the first game.

Lee said the nerves and anticipation got to her leading up to the game but once she stepped into the batter’s box, it was like any other game she’s played.

“I’ve been so excited to see how she’s matured as a hitter,” Evans said. “She’s starting to understand what pitchers are going to throw her, she’s starting to understand counts and situations and thinking through a plan – that takes a really intelligent hitter. What Haley did today was so impressive.”

Sunday’s doubleheader included games against Colorado State and Texas Tech which resulted in a 2-0 win and 1-2 loss, respectively. Herzog hit her second home run of the tournament on Sunday against Colorado State, her first being against the Rams the night before.

Uribe took the mound again and recorded six strikeouts, allowing only one hit in the five innings she pitched. Herzog came in as a reliever to close out the game and secured the win over Colorado State.

Herzog resumed her position in the circle for the entirety of game four against Texas Tech in which the Aggies lost 1-2. Despite Herzog’s ability to limit the Red Raiders to only four hits and sophomore Shaylee Ackerman’s first collegiate home run, the maroon and white were unable to come out on top.

Ackerman’s bat also came alive on Monday as the Aggies took on Central Arkansas for the final game of the tournament. Ackerman recorded an RBI double that set up the Aggies for a 2-0 win over the Bears.

Ackerman said she has been working closely with Craig Snider, A&M’s hitting coach, in changing her swing and adjusting her technique after undergoing a recent surgery to repair her UCL that she injured in high school.

“I think we’re just scratching the surface,” Ackerman said. “We’ve got a bunch of potential coming in with a lot of hitters in here and it’s going to be exciting to see us all get out there.”

Senior Kayla Poynter saw some action in the circle on Monday for the first time this season. Poynter’s seven strikeouts contributed to the Aggies’ third and final victory of the weekend, along with Broadus who came in to finish the game in the last inning.

“I’m happy to see our team bounce back from last night and it was nice to see Kayla Poynter on the mound,” Evans said. “I thought she had a really good game for us. Got a big strikeout at her first time back, managed base runners and got us out of a couple of jams, getting ahead of hitters and throwing strikes early.”

After reviewing the team’s opening weekend performance, Evans said not being able to hit for several days leading up to the tournament due to the winter storm hurt their preparation but she’s definitely encouraged by a lot of things as well.

“If you look at our pitching staff and what they did this weekend, we had one bad inning — that’s phenomenal,” Evans said. “Not pitching in a year and for us to do what we did on the mound, I was really pleased with and impressed with the staff, and it’s a staff – we’re not just counting on one pitcher.”

In addition to the pitching performance, Evans said she felt good about how the team processed this weekend’s losses and their dedication to learning to win, hanging on in close matchups and learning how to keep a lead with pressure late in the game.

The maroon and white will be back in Davis Diamond this weekend as they take on Tulsa. First pitch on Friday, Feb. 26 is scheduled for 5 p.m., followed by games on Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m.

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