NORMAN, Okla. – A three-RBI home run from senior Amber Garza and a grand slam by sophomore Cali Lanphear weren’t enough for the Aggies as No. 7 seed Oklahoma took a walk-off, 9-8 win over the Texas A&M softball team, Saturday in the winners bracket of the NCAA Norman Regional at the OU Softball Complex. Texas A&M drops to 36-21 on the year while Oklahoma improves to 47-10. Despite the loss, the Aggies’ eight runs were the most allowed by the Sooners in an NCAA Regional since 2004.
With the loss, the Aggies will face the winner of the Bryant-Hofstra game this evening on ESPN3. The game is slated for a 6 p.m. first pitch, but could start later due to the Texas A&M-OU game taking longer than scheduled.
After four fruitless frames, a three-run fifth-inning home run from Garza brought the Aggies back into the game before Lanphear’s second grand slam of the season gave Texas A&M its first lead of the day in the top of the sixth. Texas A&M picked up a seventh-inning insurance run on an RBI single from senior Jenna Stark, but a two-run error in the bottom of the inning allowed the Sooners to take a walk-off victory and enter Sunday’s championship series.
Oklahoma took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on a no-out fielder’s choice, but Texas A&M held two at bay to end the inning trailing by just one run.
Aggie freshmen were the first on base for the designated visitors. April Ryan had Texas A&M’s first hit of the game with two outs in the top of the second, a single chipped into right field. Battling through a long at-bat that started with an 0-2 count, Reagan Boenker joined Ryan on base after getting hit by a pitch, but the rookies were left on base on the third out.
A pair of home runs and three base hits by the Sooners in the bottom of the third stretched the Aggies’ deficit to four runs as Oklahoma exited the inning with a 4-0 lead.
Ryan contributed her second base hit of the day in the top of the fourth, again getting on base with two outs. Senior Jenna Stark moved to second on the play after reaching on a hit-by-pitch. Stark originally popped out to the shortstop, but an illegal pitch was called, giving her a chance to reach base. Both runners were marooned as Texas A&M struggled to produce a run until the top of the fifth inning.
Junior Brittany Clopton led off in the fifth with a base hit lined up the middle and was joined on base by senior Taran Tyler, who reached on a walk. A sacrifice bunt from senior Emily Albus moved both runners into scoring position before Garza’s three-run blast over dead-centerfield cut the Sooners’ lead to just one run at 4-3.
The Sooners got two runners aboard in the bottom of the inning, but freshman hurler Abby Donnell fanned two straight to escape the inning unscathed.
Texas A&M loaded the bases on one out in the top of the sixth, looking for the team’s first lead of the day. Stark led off with a base hit through the left side and was joined on base by Boenker and Clopton, who each drew walks.
A pinch-hit offering from Lanphear gave the Aggies exactly what they were looking for. The sophomore looked no further than the first pitch of the at-bat and sent it sailing over the wall in left-centerfield for the second grand slam of her career. Both of Lanphear’s grand slams came this season on pinch-hit appearances.
Oklahoma quickly answered with a pair of solo home runs in the bottom of the inning to narrow the Aggies’ lead to one run, but Texas A&M escaped the inning with a 7-6 advantage.
The Aggies got a needed insurance run in the top of the seventh off the bat of Stark, who singled through the left side to send Cassie Tysarczyk home from second. The senior right fielder had reached on a leadoff hit to right field before moving into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt from senior Nicole Morgan.
Texas A&M needed just three outs for the win, entering the bottom of the seventh with an 8-6 lead over the Sooners. Two base hits and a walk by the home team loaded the bases with one out on the board before an RBI walk sent the 8-7 run home.
With bases again loaded, Oklahoma slugger Lauren Chamberlain stepped up to the plate and pounded a laser just foul down the right-field line, but Stark reached out and snagged the shot for the second out of the inning. The Aggies’ dreams were dashed, however, as a fielding error at first base allowed two unearned runs to score and gave the Sooners a walk-off win in the seventh.
Texas A&M closer Katie Marks (15-6) suffered the loss, giving up one earned run on two walks in 1/3 innings of work. Donnell tossed the bulk of the game, allowing three earned runs on five hits and two walks, while fanning five batters. Rachel Fox started the game and issued two strikeouts while allowing four earned runs on seven hits through 2 1/3 innings.
OU reliever Shelby Pendley (2-0) earned just her second win of the season, giving up two earned runs on four hits in 1 2/3 innings in the circle.
Up next, the Aggies will face the winner of the Bryant-Hofstra game this evening on ESPN3. The game is slated for a 6 p.m. first pitch, but could start later due to the Texas A&M-OU game taking longer than scheduled. To follow the weekend’s action, visit the NCAA Norman Regional site here. To learn more about Texas A&M softball, go to AggieAthletics.com and follow @AggieSoftball on Twitter.