KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The fourth-ranked Texas A&M softball team battled at the plate but came up short with a 6-8 loss at No. 8 Tennessee, Saturday on ESPNU in game two of the Southeastern Conference series at Lee Stadium.
A&M (26-4, 4-3 SEC) produced eight hits on the day and drew six walks, but a 10-hit, six-walk effort by Tennessee (26-6, 5-3 SEC) gave UT its second victory in the series.
The Aggies took advantage of some early errors by the Lady Vols, scoring two runs in the top of the first on a wild pitch and a fielding error. Senior Meagan May reached on a one-out walk and took third as junior Nicole Morgan pounded the wall in dead-centerfield for a double.
With two outs, freshman Cali Lanphear waited on four balls to reach. The fourth ball was a wild pitch that sent Morgan to third and plated May for the 1-0 lead. In the next at-bat, a UT fielding error put junior Jenna Stark at first and gave Morgan time to score, unearned, as A&M secured a two-run lead in the half-inning.
Tennessee took the lead in the bottom of the inning as they scored five earned runs on two home runs and a pair of base hits. Senior Mel Dumezich moved to the circle to pitch with two outs and shut down the final batter to escape the inning.
A&M inched its way back into contention in the top of the second when two runners crossed home on their way back to the dugout. Junior Cassie Tysarczyk earned a leadoff walk and slid into second when junior Amber Garza reached on an error by the UT centerfielder. A single to right by junior Taran Tyler loaded the bases before a passed ball by Tennessee’s Hannah Akamine gave Tysarczyk time to score an unearned run.
Garza scored, also unearned, when a two-out single to left field by Morgan pushed the third baseman home as A&M narrowed the score to 4-5.
A pair of runs in the bottom of the third by UT stretched the Lady Vol lead to 7-4 before A&M shut the inning down with the bases loaded. Two base hits and a stolen base put runners in scoring position before a third single of the half-inning sent the duo home.
Junior Emily Albus hit the first triple of her career to reach base in the top of the fourth. May drew a walk and was replaced to run by sophomore Brittany Clopton before Morgan hit a sacrifice foul fly-out that sent Albus home for the 5-7 run.
Tennessee put two on the bags in the bottom of the half-inning, but the Aggies were quick to shut them down with a pair of fly outs and a strikeout.
The Aggies continued to battle in the top of the fifth, chipping away at the UT lead. Junior Jenna Stark gave A&M the 6-7 run with a leadoff, solo shot over right field. Tysarczyk beat an infield single to reach but was thrown out on a fielder’s choice and A&M left the inning trailing by just one run.
Two more Lady Vols reached in the bottom of the fifth, but the Aggie defense was again deliberate in sending the players back to their dugout without scoring.
Morgan, who was 3-for-3 with two RBI and a run on the day, hit her second single of the day to reach base in the top of the sixth, but the Aggies were unable to use the base runner to even the score.
Tennessee squeezed in another run in the bottom of the frame, sending an unearned run home on an RBI single to lead 8-6 entering the seventh inning.
Looking for a rally in the bottom of the seventh, Tysarczyk waited for a walk and sped to second on a passed ball, but was marooned on second as the Lady Vols caught a fly ball to end the game. Tysarczyk was 2-for-2 on the day with a run scored and two walks.
Sophomore Lauren Ainsley (8-2) started the game for the Aggies and drew the loss after giving up five earned runs on four hits and a walk in 2/3 innings pitched. UT hurler Ivy Renfroe (11-3) tossed a complete game, allowing three earned runs on eight hits and six walks while fanning seven.
Tennessee leads the three-game series 2-0, taking the first game, 8-6, after a Friday slugfest that featured four A&M home runs.
The Aggies and Lady Vols will complete the series tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. CDT. The game can be heard live on 95.1-3 The Zone HD. To learn more about Texas A&M softball, log on to AggieAthletics.com and follow @AggieSoftball on Twitter.