COLLEGE STATION, Texas - A seventh-inning RBI wasn't enough as the No. 8 seed Texas A&M softball team (41-18) ended the 2012 season with a 2-1 loss to Louisiana State (37-22) in the Sunday championship final of the NCAA College Station Regional.
The Aggies ended their seventh 40-win season under head coach Jo Evans in an 11th-straight and 23rd-overall NCAA Tournament appearance.
A&M graduates three seniors in Kelsea Orsak, Lindsey Sisk and Natalie Villarreal, who left their cleats on home plate after the 2012 season. The team will retain 17 letterwinners.
"It's hard to say any words that are going to be any consolation or consoling in any way, because we really believed in our talent, and in our team," head coach Jo Evans said. "None of us had any plans in the next three weeks except to be in Oklahoma City, so it's hard to be able to say anything to my kids. I talked to them about what we can learn from this, all the little details that we can pay attention to in the offseason. I talked about the legacy that our seniors leave, and what they want their legacy to be, junior class especially. I'm not sad that we aren't playing in the World Series, I'm frustrated, but I'm sad for our seniors. I'm sad to be saying goodbye to them. It is always sad when you watch your kids put their cleats on home plate."
The Aggies jumped into the game against LSU ace Brittany Mack. Sophomore Emily Albus led off in the top of the first and chopped the first pitch to the shortstop, beating the throw to first for an infield single. Junior Brittany Walker bunted and was thrown out at first on the sacrifice as Albus sped to second, where she was left stranded in the half-inning.
A&M also put a runner on base in the top of the second when junior Nicole Morgan reached on a walk.
The Tigers strung together a pair of base hits in the bottom of the second but Aggie pitcher Mel Dumezich threw a strikeout and a groundout to end the inning in a scoreless draw.
An LSU runner got as far as third on a walk, a stolen base and a groundout in the bottom of the fourth, but A&M again shut down the side to hold the Tigers scoreless.
The Tigers got the first two runs of the game in the bottom of the fifth. With one out, Allison Falcon reached first on an error at third. A single by Ashley Applegate sent Falcon to second before a walk loaded the bases. A sacrifice fly out scored Falcon from third before an infield single and a throwing error gave Applegate time to run home for the 2-0 lead.
The Aggies looked ready to rally in the top of the seventh when sophomore Amber Garza led off with a walk. A groundout by Sisk sent Garza to second before she reached third on a wild pitch by Mack.
With two outs and a runner on third, Villarreal pounded a line drive up the middle to score Garza and narrow the deficit to 1-2 in the Tigers' favor. A groundout to second ended the inning and the Aggies' season, however, and LSU advanced to the Super Region to face No. 9 seed Missouri in Columbia.
Dumezich ended the season with a 28-13 record with the loss. The Aggie ace struck out five batters and allowed no earned runs on six hits and two walks in six complete innings. Mack (15-11) fanned seven A&M hitters for the win and gave up one earned run on three hits and three walks.
"I thought Mel [Dumezich] was terrific today," Evans said. "She pitched well enough for us to win. The way she through the first game, you know she was going to be just fine throwing a second game. It is disappointing that we aren't out there playing. We have hung our hat on defense all year. For us to have two defensive miscues in that inning and giving up two runs is really disappointing when Mel came out today and threw like the All-American that she is. That makes this a disappointing result."
The Aggies will face the Tigers again next season in conference play in A&M's first season in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). To learn more about Texas A&M softball, log on to AggieAthletics.com.
"We have all the talent," Evans said. "We can get better in the small leadership roles that people will play to elevate their teammates. We don't have a glaring weakness. There are going to be days where you don't make adjustments and somebody beats you, but I think we have all the pieces in place. I would like to see some leaders rise out of this."