COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The No. 15 Texas A&M softball team (22-7) topped Northwestern State (12-12), 6-3 in a midweek matchup on Tuesday night at the Aggie Softball Complex.
The Lady Demons struck first and stayed close to the Aggies throughout the ballgame, but Texas A&M held on to the lead to take the win.
Senior Emily Albus was 2-for-3 on the night with a pair of bunt singles, a walk and two runs scored. Freshman Abby Donnell went 2-for-4 with an RBI at the plate, and picked up her third save of the season in the circle.
A solo home run over left field in the top of the first gave the Lady Demons an early 1-0 lead, but the Aggies responded quickly with a run of their own in the bottom of the inning. Three straight free passes on a pair of walks and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases before senior Amber Garza drew a walk that forced Albus home to tie the game.
The Aggies picked up their first lead of the game in the second inning when senior Nicole Morgan sent a pair of runners home on a double to left field. Albus and sophomore Cali Lanphear scored on the play, reaching on a bunt hit and a fielder’s choice, respectively.
Senior Jenna Stark’s second home run of the season pushed the Texas A&M lead to 3-1 in the bottom of the third. The laser flew just inches over the wall in left-centerfield as it left the stadium at top speed.
A two-run fifth inning by the Lady Demons narrowed the Aggies’ advantage to just one run. Both runs were scored on a double to left field.
Texas A&M answered with two runs of its own in the bottom of the sixth. Both runs were unearned after a fielding error put Garza on first. Morgan led off in the half-inning with a walk and was replaced on the base paths by sophomore Alex Masek. A sacrifice bunt moved Masek to second before Garza reached.
With one out, senior Taran Tyler singled to centerfield to score Masek, and a hit-by-pitch by Stark loaded the bases. Donnell hit to the second baseman, who tagged second to take Stark out of the play. The tag at second eliminated the force-out for Tyler, who was caught in a rundown as she decided whether to advance to third or retreat to second. All the while, Garza scored the 6-3 run well before Tyler was finally thrown out by the third baseman.
Northwestern State Head Coach Donald Pickett was ejected from the game, arguing that Garza’s run should not have counted. It didn’t matter, however, as the Lady Demons went three-up, three-down in the top of the seventh to surrender a 6-3 game to the Aggies.
Texas A&M hurler Rachel Fox (7-5) earned the win, allowing three earned runs on five hits and two walks while fanning a career-high six batters. Donnell pitched the final inning for a save. NSU’s Shelby Sells (3-5) drew the loss after giving up four earned runs on 10 hits and five walks while striking out one.
Up next, the Aggies host No. 14 Georgia in a three-game Southeastern Conference series this weekend at the Aggie Softball Complex. Game one of the series with the Bulldogs is slated for a 7 p.m. first pitch Friday. To learn more about Texas A&M softball, log on to AggieAthletics.com and follow @AggieSoftball on Twitter.
HEAD COACH JO EVANS
On the game overall…
“[Northwestern State] did a good job of fighting back. The difference between our two teams was they got timely hits and we didn’t. At one point in time, we had nine hits and they had three, and the score was 4-3. It was a tight game where we had lots of opportunities and didn’t step up. Early-on we felt like one hit is going to break this thing right open, and it’s going to be an easy night for us, but there aren’t a lot of easy nights so that didn’t happen. I thought their team did a good job to keep fighting back. But also, what a great job by our kids to figure out a way to score there in the sixth inning to give us some insurance going into that last inning.”
On Rachel Fox’s outing in the circle…
“They got one flare into left field to get the two runs. They didn’t hit that ball hard, and sometimes the ball just has eyes on it and finds a hole. The home run in the first inning was a routine fly ball, except we’re playing in 25-mile-an-hour wind. She made some pretty good pitches tonight. I feel good about her. It’s good for her to get a win. That kid’s been snake bit a little bit and we haven’t always played our best with her on the mound. It’s nice for us to go out there when she gets a W and feels good about herself.”
On Abby Donnell’s performance…
“She’s going out there looking to hit. She’s getting something in her wheelhouse and hitting the ball pretty hard. Even her outs are hard hits. I’m happy to see her get out there. We’re always talking about opportunities and making the most of them, and that kid has made the most of her at bats and also her appearances on the mound. She gets out there tonight and gets a save for Rachel and feels really comfortable. She’s seeing the ball well at the plate and it’s nice to have her get a good look up there.”
On Jenna Stark’s success in the bottom of the lineup…
”We need those kids down there to contribute and produce. She had a bad at bat in her first at bat. She swung at some pitches out of the zone, and the next time up, boy she just got all of it. It was nice to see her settle in to the strike zone. She’ll take a hit by pitch, she doesn’t care as long as she’s on base. She’s doing a nice job up there and I think she’s definitely turned a corner.”
On the importance of picking up another win before facing Georgia…
“We definitely needed a win, no question about it. You want to go into a series against a great team like Georgia feeling good about yourself at home. Georgia’s on a roll, and they obviously are feeling really good about themselves. They’ve got a lot of power in the lineup. Their pitchers are doing a good job. It’s going to be a dog fight, for sure, and it’s going to be fun to get out there and play it.”