COLLEGE STATION, Texas - The 17th-ranked Texas A&M softball team will start the 2013 season Friday at No. 19 UCLA's Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament in Los Angeles.
The Aggies, hot off of a 23rd overall and 11th consecutive NCAA postseason appearance, enter their first season in the Southeastern Conference after A&M joined the league in July of 2012.
The team will face Long Beach State at 4 p.m. Friday, followed by a 9 p.m. contest against the host Bruins. Saturday's slate includes a 1:30 p.m. game against Cal State Bakersfield and a 4 p.m. match-up with Wright State before the Aggies close out tournament play on Sunday vs. UCLA at 1:30 p.m. All times are CST.
Both of Saturday's games will be featured on Sports Radio 1150 AM, while the remaining contests can be heard worldwide on 95.1-3 The Zone HD. To listen to the pitch-by-pitch, log on to AggieAthletics.com or RadioAggieland.com.
The Aggies will play 53 regular-season games in 2013, 29 of those being in the friendly confines of the Aggie Softball Complex. The team will also host four SEC series. A&M's challenging schedule includes matchups against three conference champions, 11 NCAA Regional teams, five NCAA Super Regional teams and three Women's College World Series (WCWS) teams from the 2012 season, including reigning National Champion Alabama.
Of the 22 different known teams the Aggies will play in 2013, 10 ended the 2012 season in the top 50 in national RPI standings, six are in the top 25 and two are in the top five. The average final RPI for the Aggies' opponents this season is 56, while the average RPI for the SEC teams A&M will play is 27. Only one SEC school on the Aggies' schedule - No. 92 Ole Miss - did not make the final RPI top 50 in 2012.
LAST TIME OUT
The Aggies ended the 2012 season and a 16-season run in the Big 12 with a seventh 40-win season under Head Coach Jo Evans. The team's 41-18 record was highlighted by a 16-8 conference mark that ranked fourth in the Big 12. The season earned A&M a No. 8 national seeding, making the Aggies hosts in the College Station Regional. A hard-fought battle with future SEC foe LSU cut the Aggies' season short.
A&M received attention on the national stage as the Aggies ended the season with several top-25 rankings in various categories. As a team, A&M ranked No. 8 in home runs per game (1.31), No. 17 in slugging percentage (.478) and No. 22 in fielding percentage (.973).
Mel Dumezich shined individually, sitting at 14th in home runs per game (0.34), and 10th with 20 home runs. The right-handed pitcher ranked 15th with 28 victories and was 12th overall in strikeouts thrown (307) to earn Second-Team All-America honors. Catcher Meagan May drew 0.95 walks per game to rank fourth in the nation.
BACK IN ACTION
A&M welcomes 14 letterwinners and nine starters back to the team. All-American seniors Meagan May and Mel Dumezich highlight the returners, along with fellow 2012 All-Central Region selections juniors Cassie Tysarczyk and Emily Albus. The 2012 Aggies led the Big 12 with seven conference honors as Dumezich, junior Nicole Morgan and Tysarczyk were selected to the first team and Albus, May, then-junior Brittany Walker and then-senior Natalie Villarreal took second-team awards.
Five newcomers will also make their SEC debut: Freshmen Alex Masek (Giddings, Texas), Cali Lanphear (Montgomery, Texas), Breanna Dozier (Rowlett, Texas) and Kristen Davenport (Deer Park, Texas), and junior transfer Rachel Fox (Sugar Land, Texas) who will redshirt this season due to SEC rules.
Also new to the team is Director of Softball Operations Terry Schweikert. The former Missouri softball standout joins the team from Corona, Calif., where she was the Director of Teamsmith, a travel softball organization. At Teamsmith, Schweikert oversaw eight youth softball teams in the 10U-18U divisions.
A familiar face who has joined the Aggies in a new capacity is Volunteer Pitching Coach Rhi Kliesing. The former Aggie pitcher and first baseman spent time on the diamond from 2008-11 and was Evans' student assistant last season.
SCOUTING LONG BEACH
The 49ers ended the 2012 season with a Big West Championship and a trip to the NCAA Regionals, falling to Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz. LBSU returns 15 players from last year's squad, including a group of nine starters. Six of the 49ers' returning starters took all-conference honors a year ago, highlighted by first-team honorees second baseman Cya Neal and pitcher Erin Jones-Wesley. Neal batted .319 in 2012, leading the team with 24 runs scored and adding 53 hits. Jones-Wesley (21-13) recorded a 2.02 ERA in 229 innings of work, taking credit for six solo shutouts. Power hitter Hannah De Gaetano returns for her junior season after collecting team bests in doubles (11), hits (57) and RBI (29).
A&M and Long Beach State have met several times previously, splitting a 9-9 record. The teams last played to an 8-0 run-rule victory for the Aggies at the 2011 Cathedral City Classic.
The 19th-ranked tournament hosts were the No. 12 national seed in the 2012 NCAA Tournament after a 12-12 Pac-12 outing last season, and ended the year 36-18 overall. UCLA earned four All-American awards in 2012, with then-freshman Stephany LaRosa being the only returner of the group. The offensive powerhouse was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and became the ninth NFCA First-Team All-American in UCLA history. LaRosa led the Bruins with a .436 average, 17 home runs, 61 RBI, 146 total bases and an .807 slugging percentage. Junior Jessica Hall (19-14) led the team from the circle last season with a 3.28 ERA in 213.2 innings pitched. The left hander fanned 213 batters in 47 appearances.
The Bruins hold a 9-8 advantage over the Aggies, who defeated UCLA 5-4 in the last meeting between the two schools in 2007. The decorated programs have met seven times in the NCAA Tournament.
SCOUTING WRIGHT STATE
The Raiders went 23-31 in 2012, including 10-13 in Horizon League Play. Preseason All-Horizon League selections Krystian DeWitt (P), Kristi Boreing (OF) and Jess Gorman (OF) highlight the returning starters. Boreing batted .335 last year, plating 24 runs on a team-high 59 hits. The offensive leader also posted team bests in runs (24), doubles (11), triples (3), and stolen bases (10). DeWitt tossed 29 complete games and collected a 3.16 ERA with three solo shutouts and 210 strikeouts.
A&M and Wright State have only played once in the past, in a 1-0 Aggie victory in College Station in 2010.
SCOUTING CAL STATE
The Roadrunners posted a 13-39 record in 2012 and were fifth in the Coastal Division standings of the Pacific Coast Softball Conference (PCSC). Infielder Adrianna Cardoza was named the league's freshman of the year after hitting .309 on the season with 10 runs scored, seven RBI and three doubles. Returning players Karissa Veiga, Amy Ricciardi and Shay Fryer were also selected to All-PCSC teams. Veiga led CSUB offensively with a .378 average and 15 walks, while Fryer and Ricciardi each had a team-best 29 RBI.
The Aggies and Roadrunners have never met on the softball diamond.
Individual game and season tickets may be purchased over the phone at 1-888-99-AGGIE OR 979-845-2311, online at Tickets.12thManFoundation.com, or in person at The Zone at Kyle Field ticket office.
Season tickets are currently available for just $125, while individual game tickets for softball are $10 for reserved (sections 4-8) and $8 for General Admission (sections 1-3). Youth GA tickets are available for $5 each. Group rates are also available to groups of at least 20, and cost $8 for reserved seats and $3 for GA.
Junior Aggie Club members are admitted free of charge to all Aggie softball games. Membership to the JAC is just $25, and information is available at www.JuniorAggieClub.com.
The "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" promotion returns in 2013, allowing four (4) kids under 12 to be admitted free on Sundays with the purchase of one adult ticket. All seats in this promotion are General Admission. Children must be accompanied by an adult purchasing a ticket to qualify for the promotion. Everyone, regardless of age, is required to have a ticket in the General Admission section, though GA tickets for children under 2 are free of charge.
Parking for all Aggie softball games is available in Reed Arena lot 100G and Olsen Field lot 100J. Visitors may park for free when there is not a conflict with an A&M men's basketball or baseball game. This does not include 24-hour numbered, 12th Man or timed spaces. Visit transportation.tamu.edu for more information.
EVERY GAME ON RADIO
All of the Aggie softball team's games this season will be broadcast by The Zone. Select games will be aired locally on Sports Radio 1150 The Zone, while the remaining contests can be heard on any smartphone or HD radio worldwide via 95.1-3 The Zone HD. Links to the online broadcasts for each game can be found at RadioAggieland.com and AggieAthletics.com.
The Zone's Program Director, Louie Belina (away), and Tim Schnettler (home) will be calling the pitch-by-pitch, with David Batson providing color commentary. Former Texas A&M softball Director of Operations Stephen Grove will add analysis in select games as well.
AGGIES ON THE TUBE
At least three Aggie softball games will be played on national television this season. A&M's April 13 home game vs. LSU will be aired on ESPN at 2:30 p.m., while the Sunday, April 14, game between the two schools will be broadcast live at 12:30 p.m. on FSN. ESPNU will televise the A&M-Tennessee matchup on March 23 in Knoxville, Tenn. In addition to the three regular season games, the ESPN Network will show the entire SEC Tournament nationwide, including the two play-in games. All times are Central.
The Aggies will return to the Lone Star State and continue nonconference action Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Sam Houston State. The first A&M softball home game is Friday, Feb. 15, vs. Pittsburgh at 3 p.m. All home games are played at the Aggie Softball Complex. To learn more about Texas A&M softball, log on to AggieAthletics.com and follow @AggieSoftball on Twitter.