COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The No. 13 Texas A&M softball team (14-4) run-ruled Connecticut (1-6), 14-4 in five innings and topped Wisconsin (5-6), 6-1, Friday to sweep day one of the Texas A&M Invitational.
With the wins, Texas A&M Head Coach Jo Evans is now just one victory away from her 1,000th career win as an NCAA Division I head coach. The next Aggie win will make Evans the only Southeastern Conference coach with 1,000 wins as a DI coach, and one of just eight coaches nationwide who fit the same description.
Texas A&M senior catcher Nicole Morgan had a dominant night, going 2-for-2 with two home runs, a walk, three runs scored and four RBI against the Huskies, while adding her fifth and sixth pickoffs of the seasons from behind the plate to continue to lead the SEC. Both of Morgan’s home runs cleared the entire complex and landed across the street in the Reed Arena parking lot.
Senior Emily Albus was 4-for-6 on the day overall, with three RBI and two runs as the Aggies’ leadoff hitter. Senior Jenna Stark was 3-for-4 over the course of two games, collecting five RBI, a run and a walk. Sophomore Breanna Dozier added a home run for the Aggies against Wisconsin in game two.
The Aggies came out ready to attack offensively against the Huskies, scoring six runs in the first inning. Four straight one-out walks forced the first run of the game and the floodgates opened. Senior Amber Garza and sophomore Cali Lanphear had RBI walks, and senior Jenna Stark recorded an RBI hit-by-pitch. Senior Taran Tyler’s base hit to left field plated a run and Albus pushed two runs home on another single to left.
Morgan led off in the bottom of the second inning with a solo home run over left field as the Aggies stepped out to a 7-0 lead.
The slugger’s second home run of the game came in her next at-bat when a third-inning shot over the same spot in left field plated three runs for the 11-0 lead. Albus’ line drive with two on base plated the Aggies’ 8-0 run, and the senior scored on Morgan’s blast.
A sacrifice fly out by Lanphear and a two-RBI base hit down the line by Stark stretched the Aggie lead to 14-0 before the end of the third.
The Huskies rallied in the top of the fifth with four runs on a base hit and a home run, but the late effort wasn’t enough and Texas A&M earned its seventh run-rule win of the season.
Aggie starter Rachel Fox (4-3) earned the win after tossing three shutout innings against the Huskies. The redshirt junior allowed just four hits and struck out two. UConn pitcher Katelyn Callahan (0-1) started the game and threw just 1/3 innings, giving up six earned runs on four walks and a hit for the loss.
The Aggies also got a head start in game two, putting up two runs on the Badgers in the first inning. Base hits by Albus and freshman April Ryan put runners on base before a pair of walks, by Morgan and senior Cassie Tysarczyk forced the 1-0 run across the plate. A bases-loaded hit-by-pitch by Garza added a second run before the end of the inning.
Albus saved the day in the top of the second when Wisconsin centerfielder Stephanie Peace stepped up to the plate with bases loaded and two outs, and slugged a ball to the top of the fence in center. Albus’ backhanded leaping catch ended the inning with no damage done after what could have allowed multiple runs for Wisconsin.
The Badgers responded with a third-inning run scored on a base hit to right-centerfield. Though Wisconsin put runners on base in three of the next four innings, the Badgers were unable to add another run before the final out of the game.
Stark picked up her fourth and fifth RBI of the day in the bottom of the third when her single up the middle plated a pair of runs. Tysarczyk – who scored on the play – and Albus also had base hits in the third. Dozier scored the 5-1 run on a passed ball in the third after drawing a walk and getting to third on Stark and Albus’ hits.
The Aggies’ final run of the day came in the fifth inning on the legs of a solo home run hammered deep over left field by Dozier. The blast was a sure thing as Dozier’s ball followed the example of Morgan’s two home runs from game one and sailed well outside the Aggie Softball Complex.
The Badgers had no answer for Texas A&M’s six-run effort, and the Aggies earned their 14th win of the season and the 999th win of Evans’ career.
Sophomore transfer Katie Marks (6-0) earned the sixth win of her young Aggie career after a six-inning effort against the Badgers. She allowed just one earned run on seven hits and two walks while fanning four batters. UW’s Cassandra Darrah (3-4) took the loss after giving up five earned runs on seven hits and five walks through five innings in the circle.
The Aggies rematch with Wisconsin Saturday at 3 p.m., followed by a second game against UConn at 5:15 p.m. All times are central and both games can be heard live via 95.1-3 The Zone HD on AggieAthletics.com. To learn more about Texas A&M softball, log on to AggieAthletics.com and follow @AggieSoftball on Twitter.
HEAD COACH JO EVANS
On the Aggies’ performance overall on the day…
“I was really pleased with us getting some timely hitting. Our ball club is hitting really well and I think coming in to today we were hitting .328, and I can’t complain one bit about that. The one knock was that we were stranding a lot of runners and not getting the timely hits. We stepped up tonight and did a nice job. In both games I thought our kids were very patient at the plate. We took our walks, we took our RBI anywhere we could – some where we got hits, some where we got walked – and stepped up and drove the ball. I’m really pleased with how we handled ourselves offensively and defensively and our pitchers did a nice job.”
On Jenna Stark’s hitting…
“I’ll tell you, the biggest difference in [the game against Wisconsin] was Jenna Stark getting up there with two outs and getting the ground ball up the middle to score a couple of runs and give us a little cushion. She really looked comfortable at the plate all night. She had a great night tonight, and I’m pleased. She’s such a good leader and we want her out there on the field. We want her leadership and the qualities that she brings to our ball club, and it’s nice to see her get up there and produce.”
On the starting pitchers…
“[Rachel Fox and Katie Marks] got themselves in a little bit of a bind. I loved in the first inning when UConn came out swinging the bat, and they were hitting them, and they were hitting the curve ball pretty hard. The fact that Rachel got out of that in the first inning I felt made a big difference in her day. She buckled down there and got it done. Then, Katie got in a couple of jams, but you look at her – she does a good job for herself defensively. She threw us some outs when we really needed it. The ball that Emily Albus runs down in centerfield I thought was a big difference in the game and would have given them a big opening to score a bunch of runs. Defensively I really liked the way we played the game today.”
On Nicole Morgan’s performance behind the plate…
“She’s having fun. I’m loving watching her back there. She has such a great presence, and the more comfortable she is, the more she’s owned being a catcher, the better she is. She’s so quick. She gets a pop-up that nobody else would get to, and that play she made on a wild pitch – she comes right back off the pad and throws a kid out at second and that’s ridiculous. Nicole Morgan is really a special player and it’s fun to see her come into her own. She’s light-hearted, she’s having a good time, she’s letting the game come to her. If you had asked her at the beginning of the year, she would have said, ‘Please play me at first base. I love first base.’ I finally told her, ‘We can’t do that. You’re too good behind the plate. You’re going to have to get used to it.’ And now she’s embraced it and she’s doing a great job.”