COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The Texas A&M softball team begins its hunt for the program’s fourth national championship Friday when the Aggies face Hofstra in the first game of the NCAA Norman Regional. The Aggies and Pride are set to play at 5 p.m. CT. Host school and No. 7 seed Oklahoma will play Bryant in game two of the regional, at 7:30 p.m. CT. Each game of the Norman Regional will be broadcast live from the OU Softball Complex on ESPN3.
Texas A&M (35-20, 9-15 SEC) earned an at-large bid for its 13th-straight and 25th-overall NCAA Tournament appearance. Hofstra (33-13, 11-4 Colonial) earned an at-large bid for its 15th trip to the NCAA Tournament, and is just two years off of the program’s first-ever Super Regional appearance after winning the 2012 Los Angeles Regional title. Bryant (32-20, 13-3 Northeast) is an automatic qualifier after the Bulldogs won their first Northeast Conference title this weekend to appear in the team’s first-ever NCAA Regional. The Sooners (45-10, 16-2 Big 12) are also automatic qualifiers after claiming their 11th Big 12 crown.
The Aggies’ 2013 season ended in Norman last May after the team dropped a pair of run-rule games to the Sooners at the NCAA Super Regional level. Texas A&M looks to make a return trip to the Super Regional level after the double-elimination regional. The winner of the Norman Regional will face the winner of the Knoxville Regional May 23-25.
FOLLOW THE ACTION
In addition to watching the regional on ESPN3, fans can listen to every game this weekend worldwide via RadioAggieland.com, or on mobile through the Radio Aggieland app. Live mobile stats are also available at tamustats.com. For an in-depth look at the team, follow @AggieSoftball on Twitter and like the Aggie Softball Facebook page (facebook.com/TAMUSoftball).
Hofstra is making its 15th NCAA Tournament appearance after earning an at-large big with a 33-13 record. For the first time in 23 seasons, the Pride were unable to capture a share of the Colonial Athletic Conference regular season or tournament title. Despite entering the postseason on a two-game losing streak, Hofstra is 11-2 over its past 13 games. Offensively, the Pride hit at a .307 clip, scoring 256 runs and slugging 34 long balls. The team has stolen 56 bases on 61 attempts. Leading the wave for Hofstra are first team All-Conference selections Chloe Fitzgerald and Maggie Hawkins. Fitzgerald leads the team with a .359 (52-for-145) average. The sophomore has also legged out four triples and is a perfect 18-for-18 when swiping bags. Hawkins leads the team in most slugging categories to go along with a .347 average. The sophomore leads the team with nine home runs and 46 RBI. The pitching staff is allowing just under two earned runs per game with a 1.99 ERA over 299.2 innings. Taylor Pirone and Morgan Lashley have combined to pitch all but 5.1 innings for the Pride. Lashley (17-5, 1.98 ERA, 156 Ks, .215 BAA) and Pirone (16-6, 1.67 ERA, 64 Ks, .220 BAA) have combined to throw 32 complete games. Each pitcher also garnered All-Colonial Conference honors with Pirone placed on the first team and Lashley appearing on the second team.
Bryant (32-30) earned its fifth appearance in an NCAA Regional after winning the Northeast Conference Tournament for the first time in school history. As a team, the Bulldogs are hitting .292 with 244 runs scored and 37 home runs, while the pitching staff holds a 3.45 ERA. Elle Madsen, the NEC Player of the Year, has been a jack-of-all-trades for Bryant. In the circle, she has started 33 games, going 25-10 with a 2.66 ERA. The right-hander has fanned 148 batters over 226.2 innings. The sophomore has been equally effective at the plate, posting a team-high .355 average with 13 home runs and 41 RBI.
The reigning national champion Sooners enter their 20th-consecutive NCAA Regional with a 45-10 mark. The winners of 12 consecutive games are 28-2 over the last 30 contests. Oklahoma claimed its third-straight Big 12 championship with a 16-2 record in conference action. This season the Sooners boast an impressive 27-2 mark at the OU Softball Complex after last year’s national title campaign. Offensively, Oklahoma is hitting .318 as a team, scoring 393 runs including 71 homers. The Sooners are also aggressive on the base paths, swiping 62 bags in 71 attempts. Sophomore Kady Self has the highest average on the team, hitting at a .425 (31-for-73) clip. Junior Shelby Pendley is also hitting above the .400 mark, posting a .410 average with a team-high 13 dingers, 63 RBI and 56 runs scored. Pendley, a first team All-Big 12 selection, has also slugged 17 doubles and two triples to go along with 12 steals. Junior Georgia Casey (.373, 11 HR, 45 RBI), senior Brittany Williams (.356, 10 HR, 43 RBI) and Self also garnered first-team All-Big 12 honors. In the circle, the Sooners hold a 2.56 ERA, allowing 137 runs over 339.2 innings and 15 shutouts. The staff has struck out 303 batters while yielding only 127 walks. First team All-Big 12 pitcher Kelsey Stevens has been the workhorse on the rubber, going 33-7 with a 2.10 ERA over 223.2 innings. The sophomore has started 42 games for Oklahoma and appeared in 48. The right-hander is holding hitters to a .204 average to go along with 229 strikeouts.
VS. THE FIELD
Texas A&M and Hofstra have never met in the history of the two programs, and the Aggies are also strangers to the Bryant Bulldogs. Oklahoma and Texas A&M are former conference foes, and also met in the NCAA Tournament last season when the Sooners swept the Aggies to win the Norman Super Regional on their way to a national title. OU holds a 45-30 all-time record over A&M.
All-session tickets for the 2014 NCAA Softball Norman Regional are on sale online at www.SoonerSports.com and over the phone at (405) 325-2424 or (800) 456-GoOU. Prices are $40 for reserved all-session tickets, $25 for general admission adult all-session tickets and $20 for general admission youth (2-18 years old, OU students & senior citizens 55 years and older) all-session tickets. Each day of the regional is considered one session and a session ticket is good for all games in one day. Children under one year of age are admitted free. OU students will have to purchase an OU student ticket for this event as it is an NCAA sponsored tournament.
Single-session tickets, if availability remains, will not go on sale until the first day of the tournament at the Oklahoma Softball Complex box office beginning at 3:30 p.m. Single session tickets are $15 for reserved tickets, $10 for general admission adult tickets and $8 for general admission youth/OU student/senior citizen tickets. Orders will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis and are subject to availability.
SENIORS TAKE SEC HONORS
Three Aggie seniors took Southeastern Conference honors recently. Cassie Tysarczyk was recognized as the SEC’s All-Defensive Right Fielder, and joined Emily Albus on the All-SEC Second Team. Allison Garrett was named to the league’s Community Service Team for the second-straight season.
ALBUS NAMED HAMMER STRENGTH ALL-AMERICAN
Albus was given the Hammer Strength All-America Award for the second consecutive year last week. The senior was named to the elite list of just 20 athletes nationwide in 2013 after being nominated for her efforts in the weight room. The Hammer Strength All American Athlete Award was created to recognize the most outstanding college athletes who exemplify the best of what it takes, on and off the field, to become an elite athlete. To be considered for this award, athletes are characterized by intensity, consistency of purpose, achievement, and teamwork.
Among conference opponents, the Aggies continue to lead the league with 10 pickoffs. Senior Emily Albus' .420 batting average ranks sixth among SEC hitters and her 81 hits are a league second-best, while her 16 stolen bases are tied at eighth. Senior Nicole Morgan’s nine pickoffs are an SEC high. Morgan also ranks among the top 10 in the SEC with a .741 slugging percentage (6th), a .503 on base percentage (8th), 54 RBI (T-6th), 14 home runs (7th), 42 walks (T-4th), and 5 sacrifice flies (T-1st). Freshman Abby Donnell’s six saves rank second among conference pitchers, and her 23 games finished and 27 games in relief are each league bests.
VS. THE NATION
The Aggies are No. 22 in the latest RPI rankings and are among the nation's best in several statistical categories in the latest standings (through May 11). As a team, Texas A&M ranks 23rd in fielding percentage (.972), 22nd in home runs per game (1.11) and 30th in scoring (5.89). Seniors Nicole Morgan and Cassie Tysarczyk are tied for 13th in the nation in sacrifice flies with five each, and Morgan ranks 19th with 0.78 walks per game. Freshman Abby Donnell's six saves rank third.
RANKING THE AGGIES
Texas A&M started the 2014 season with a No. 11 preseason ranking in both national polls and is currently receiving votes in both the NFCA/USA Today Top 25 Poll and the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 Poll. The Aggies have played eight top-25 opponents this season, including seven in the top 15.
The winner of the Norman Regional will face the winner of the Knoxville Regional, hosted by No. 10 seed Tennessee, at the Super Region level May 23-25 at a to-be-determined site.