COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Five home runs helped the No. 8 seed Texas A&M softball team (41-17) to a 7-4 victory over Texas State (39-17) in front of a crowd of 1,424 fans in the Aggies' third game of the NCAA Regional at the Aggie Softball Complex.
A&M will play LSU in the championship round of the College Station Regional tomorrow at 1 p.m., with a final game thirty minutes after the final out if the Aggies win game one.
"I am pleased with our fight," head coach Jo Evans said. We got down a couple of runs, which was disappointing for us. But, we just kept battling. I thought our kids showed a lot of heart tonight at the plate putting runs on the board. Obviously, the long ball was our friend. Mel [Dumezich] did a great job, but struggled with some stuff and couldn't finish it.
"Lauren Ainsley did a great job for us. It was a total team effort. The way we scored runs with two outs was pretty impressive. I am very impressed with the Texas State ballclub. Defensively, they might be one of the best teams we have seen all year. Those kids made so many plays on the infield look easy. Chandler Hall is a terrific pitcher. They had a great season, and I am impressed with them as a ballclub. They are really well-coached."
Each of the Aggies' five home runs were hit with two outs and contributed to six of the team's seven runs. Junior Mel Dumezich led the team on the night with two home runs, both solo shots.
"Talk about breaking a team's back," Evans said. "I asked our team after the game how many home runs we hit with two outs, and they all yelled, 'Five!' Every one of them knew how many we hit. I loved our approach at the plate. When we swing the bat like that we are tough to beat. You can see us get momentum. We are a team that feeds off of each other. For us to do that tonight was critical to our success."
The Aggies' five home runs tonight tie a season high that was also tied in last night's 11-0 romp of Bethune-Cookman.
Texas State, the designated home team, scored two in the bottom of the first for an early 2-0 lead. Pitcher Chandler Hall put a double in center field for the two RBI.
A&M narrowed the gap to a 1-2 deficit in the top of the second on an RBI single by senior Kelsea Orsak. The centerfielder plated sophomore Nicole Morgan, who reached on a single down the left-field line and took second on a single to center by senior Natalie Villarreal.
A two-out solo home run over right field in the bottom of the third by Dumezich was the equalizer and pulled the Aggies back into the game.
Texas State put runners in scoring position in the second, third and fourth innings but the Bobcats couldn't force a run home to keep up with the Aggies.
In the bottom of the fifth with two outs on the board, junior Meagan May slammed a solo bomb over the fence in left-center field to give the Aggies their first lead of the day. In the next at bat, Dumezich found the same spot in the outfield hedges and gave A&M a 4-2 lead with her second homer of the day.
The long balls didn't stop there. Sophomore Cassie Tysarczyk drew a walk and jogged home as sophomore Amber Garza went yard down the right-field line for two RBI. Sophomore Nicole Morgan finished off the rally with another home run over right field as A&M swelled to a 7-2 advantage.
Freshman hurler Lauren Ainsley, who entered to pitch for the Aggies in the fourth inning, shut down 12 of the 16 batters she faced, giving up just two runs on four base hits, all in the sixth inning. The late singles brought Texas State within three runs of A&M but the Bobcats got no closer and the Aggies ended the ballgame with a 7-4 victory and a ticket to Championship Sunday.
Ainsley (6-1) earned the win for the Aggies, striking out three batters and walking none while giving up two earned runs on four hits in four innings of work. Hall (22-8) suffered the loss, allowing six earned runs on eight hits and one walk in 4 2/3 innings in the circle.
"I thought the crowd was great," Evans said. "They came to help us win a ballgame, and they did. We are talking about having home field advantage; that is what it looks like and sounds like. We are privileged to play in this ballpark, and in front of this crowd. What is great for us is they want it just as much as us, and we feel that. The Sugar Daddies, the 12th Man, they were not going to let us get out of here without a win. These kids are lucky to play in front of a crowd like this. I am lucky to coach in front this crowd."
The Aggies will face LSU tomorrow at 1 p.m. on the final day of the NCAA College Station Regional on ESPN3. If A&M wins, a rubber game will take place thirty minutes after the final out of game one.
"No surprises," Evans said. "We know what we are going to get. We have hit on Brittany Mack and [Rachele] Fico. Tomorrow is a great opportunity and a challenge. We know how good LSU is, and we know how we match up with them. What we want is a chance to be playing on Championship Sunday and that's where we are. Obviously, we'd love to only have to play one game, but we will be out here as long as it takes. I told our team to dream about winning tonight. We aren't going to consider losing tomorrow."