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Softball compete in Mary Nutter Classic

Tournament to prepare A&M for SEC slate

Published: Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Updated: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 23:02

The Texas A&M softball team will head to Cathedral City, Calif., this weekend to compete in the Mary Nutter Classic. 

Schools from around the nation will compete, including last year’s national champion Oklahoma and the University of Texas, which played in Women’s College World Series last year.

The Aggies will start with a Thursday doubleheader at 5:30 p.m. against the No. 24 Arizona Wildcats followed by a 10 p.m. game against the San Diego State Aztecs. The Aggies will follow with Friday’s doubleheader against No. 23 California and No. 9 Nebraska. The Aggies will cap off the tournament with a noon date on the diamond Saturday with Cal State Northridge. 

A&M head coach Jo Evans said the tournament promises a welcome challenge to her club and some much-needed experience for her pitching staff.

“I want to see how we respond after dropping a couple of games we didn’t expect to lose, so I really want to see our maturity and leadership in how we handle those setbacks and knowing that we’re going to play the best competition of the year so far,” Evans said. “I also want to see our pitchers continue to be consistent. But all of that is just a matter of getting some good games under our belt.”

A&M senior third baseman Amber Garza said the key to playing against historically great programs is to treat them like every
other team.

“[Arizona] is just another team,” Garza said. “Yeah, [Arizona] has a great history, but so do we. I think it’s going to be a great game and we’re going to go out there and fight just like we would any other game. [This tournament] will show [the inexperienced players] that you have to play good no matter who you’re playing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a ranked team or not, everybody’s good at the collegiate level.”

Nebraska holds the No. 9 ranking in the nation, just behind the No. 8 Aggies. With the strong arm of pitcher Emily Lockman, the Huskers will be a test for A&M to see where the club stands. 

A&M senior infielder Jenna Stark said she understands how important these types of tournaments are for preparation in the SEC.

“I think it’s really going to challenge us as a team,” Stark said. “That’s what preseason’s for, to play really good competition to get [us] ready for the SEC. We don’t, by any means, want to have a light schedule going into the SEC. We want to be challenged and that’s exactly what this tournament is going to do and I think it’s going to be great for us.”

With eight seniors returning, Stark said their leadership is what will help push A&M over the hump this year and accomplish its goal of reaching the College World Series.

“[Our goal] is World Series, no doubt,” Stark said.  “What this team brings in leadership is invaluable. All these [seniors] have been to regionals, been to super regionals, [the postseason] is going to be comfortable for us. We’re going to act like we’ve been there before because we have and that’s something that’s going to allow us to play at our very best once we get to that point. I think this team has the potential to make the World Series, we just have to stay in the process and take it game by game and know that is our end goal. If we focus on every out, every inning and every pitch, we’re going to be alright.”

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