CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. – The No. 12 Texas A&M softball team (9-3) dropped a narrow, 4-2, decision to No. 14 Arizona (9-0) in the Aggies’ first game of the weekend, Thursday on the first day of the Mary Nutter Classic.
The Aggies left 13 runners on base through seven innings against the Wilcats, twice leaving bases loaded. Senior Nicole Morgan led the Texas A&M offensive effort, going 3-for-3 with a run, a walk and an RBI.
“The difference in the game is defense,” Head Coach Jo Evans said. “The difference in the game is defense. [Arizona] played great defense. They made plays. Their left side, I thought, made a lot of nice plays. We didn’t take care of the ball. In the fourth inning we kicked the ball at short and then we let a ball drop in the outfield. Miscommunication really hurt us. Careless, silly mistakes ended up costing us the ballgame, and then they took advantage of every opportunity.”
A two-out base hit by senior Cassie Tysarczyk in the top of the first against the Wildcats put the Aggies on the board. Freshman April Ryan was the first to reach base on an error by the Arizona third baseman. A single through the left side by Morgan sent Ryan to second before Tysarczyk’s line drive allowed for the unearned run.
The Aggies left two on base in the second and stranded three in the third as the team maintained a 1-0 lead on the Wildcats. Sophomore Cali Lanphear, Morgan and senior Amber Garza each had base hits for the Aggies.
The Wildcats loaded the bases in the bottom of the third before a sacrifice fly out evened the score at 1-1. The Aggie defense was able to hold a pair of runners in scoring position to keep the tied ballgame.
Arizona stretched to a two-run lead in the bottom of the fourth. An error on the Aggies allowed a run to score and put a runner at third before a base hit sent the 3-1 run home from third. Both runs were unearned.
Leading off in the top of the fifth, Morgan sent the 0-1 pitch sailing over left field for a solo home run that brought the score to 3-2 in Arizona’s favor. Morgan was 3-for-3 with a pair of base hits and a home run through her first three at bats of the day.
Garza drew a walk behind Morgan and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Tysarczyk and a wild pitch. A four-pitch walk put senior Taran Tyler on first and before she sped into scoring position at second on a fly out. Two straight outs left both runners on base in the end of the half-inning as Arizona held the one-run advantage.
Arizona scored another unearned run in the bottom of the fifth after a runner reached on a fielding error. A one-out fly ball that turned into a double when no play was made in the outfield sent the runner home from second for the 4-2 lead.
The Aggies left the bases loaded for the second time of the day in the top of the sixth. Senior Emily Albus reached on a bunt single, and Morgan drew a walk to get on base for the fourth straight time of the game. Garza took a pitch to the body to load the bags before Tysarczyk chipped a ball into shallow left field. The Wildcat shortstop leapt and made an impressive backhanded catch to end the inning.
Tyler reached base on a walk in the seventh, and took second on a wild pitch, but the senior was left on base as the Wildcats earned the 4-2 win.
Aggie redshirt junior Rachel Fox (3-2) suffered the loss, despite giving up just one earned run on seven hits and three walks, while striking out three. Arizona’s Shelby Babcock (3-0) took the win after allowing an earned run on six hits and two walks through four innings. Arizona reliever Estela Pinon (1) earned the save after three shutout innings of work.
“I thought [Rachel] pitched really well,” Evans said. “I thought she was sharp. The thing she did was get outs when she needed it, even though we didn’t always make the play. If she needed a big out, she would throw that pitch and give us a chance.”
After a 10 p.m. CT/8 p.m. PT game againt San Diego State tonight, the Aggies continue tournament action Friday with a 2:30 p.m. CT/12:30 p.m. PT game vs. California, followed by a 5 p.m. CT/3 p.m. PT contest with No. 11 Nebraska. To learn more about Texas A&M softball, log on to AggieAthletics.com and follow @AggieSoftball on Twitter.