The Texas A&M softball team’s dominant offensive showing led to the Aggies’ second win over No. 23 South Carolina on Saturday at Davis Diamond.
After clinching the series with a 10-2 win on Saturday, the maroon and white will take the field again Sunday for the series finale in which A&M has the opportunity to record its first conference sweep of the season.
The Aggies got on the board early with a pair of singles from leadoff batter Makinzy Herzog and freshman Bre Warren, who then took advantage of fielding errors made by the Gamecocks and scored. Senior catcher Kelly Martinez extended A&M’s lead to 6-0 with a grand slam to conclude the first inning.
Martinez said having the opportunity to sit behind the plate catching in the top of the first helped her get a feel for the umpire’s strike zone, which gave her a better idea of what to anticipate when she stepped into the batter’s box.
“It was just another day at the ballpark,” Martinez said. “For myself, I expect it because I’m a softball player and I just know that’s my job for the day to go out there and pretend like I play everyday.
I’ve learned not to [put pressure on myself]. In the past, I would have but I’ve learned that this is my role so I take advantage of my role.”
A&M coach Jo Evans said she’s proud of the way the team came out aggressively from the start and was especially proud of Martinez for making the statement she did at the plate.
“I just tip my hat to Kelly in the way she manages her role,” Evans said. “Her attitude and her body language is really good, she just wants to be a part of the team and win games. I’ve been really impressed with what she’s done and offensively she’s really coming into her own.”
South Carolina managed to bring one across in the top of the second, which prompted the Aggies to make a pitching change. Starting pitcher Kelsey Broadus was replaced by senior Kayla Poynter who closed out the game and had an impressive performance on the mound.
“We needed somebody that was going to come out and attack the strike zone, throw strikes early and get our defense ready to make plays. I’m really pleased with how Kayla Poynter threw today,” Evans said. “I thought her accuracy was really impressive today.”
Evans stressed the importance of having a deep bullpen to rely on and said both Friday night and Saturday’s wins can be attributed to the relievers and their ability to come in and take care of business.
“I also think it’s a confidence boost that if and when you have to go to the bullpen, those kids actually step up and do their job,” Evans said. “Last night, Grace Uribe, today Kayla Poynter -- those kids did their job. They were spectacular in relief for us and got us out of two jams and just cruised on through it.”
In addition to relying on a pitching staff rather than one person in particular, Evans said it's a luxury to have options in junior Haley Lee and Martinez at catcher as well. Although Martinez isn’t in the line up every game, Evans said she stays ready for the opportunity.
“Kelly Martinez is a huge part of our team,” Evans said. “She gives Lee a chance to get out of that crouch and give her knees and hips [a break]. Kelly is steady — it’s not very often that you see a ball club with two elite catchers and we have two elite catchers, we’re really fortunate.”
A&M went into the fifth inning with an 8-2 lead, held the Gamecocks scoreless, then wrapped up the game early with a walk-off home run by junior Makinzy Herzog to secure the Aggies’ 10-2 victory.
“I like the way we managed this today,” Evans said. “Getting the walk-off in the fifth was really important because it allowed Poynter to come off the field and not have to throw those last few innings and it made it statement about us being here ready to play.”
Although the Aggies have reaped success so far this weekend, Evans looked ahead to the series finale and said the team can’t get ahead of themselves.
“It obviously feels really good, it feels good to win a series on game two and it feels good knowing you can come in and possibly sweep,” Evans said. “But we never underestimate our opponent -- we know it’s really hard to beat a team three times. South Carolina is a good ball club so we expect them to come out and be even better and we know we’ll have to come out and be really sharp.”
The Aggies will take the field again tomorrow, Sunday, March 28, for an opportunity to sweep South Carolina of the series. First pitch is scheduled for noon at Davis Diamond.