COLUMBIA, S.C. – The No. 13 Texas A&M softball team used a five-run fourth inning to earn a 5-2 win at South Carolina, Friday in the first game of a three-game Southeastern Conference series between the Aggies and the Gamecocks. With the win the Texas A&M (21-5, 3-1 SEC) takes a 1-0 series lead over USC (15-8, 0-4 SEC).
The Aggies were led by seniors Taran Tyler and Jenna Stark at the plate, each going 2-for-3 with a run scored. Stark’s one-out home run in the fourth started the rally for the Aggies after it tied the ballgame. Senior Emily Albus also had two hits on the day, reaching twice on a pair of bunt singles.
“[The Gamecocks] come out and get a solo home run, and then another run and what I love about our kids is that they didn’t panic at all,” Head Coach Jo Evans said. “South Carolina had been dominating the game up until that point, I felt. They were laying down some bunts, we don’t catch a popup and it ends up costing us a run, silly stuff like that. The one the kid got a hold of, that’s the way it goes. We just turned it right back around. I thought we made some good adjustments to get ourselves on the board.”
A two-out, solo home run over left field in the bottom of the first gave the Gamecocks an early 1-0 lead.
The Aggies put together a pair of two-out base hits in the top of the second, but were unable to send a run home, and USC held on to its one-run lead. Tyler and Stark each reached base in the half-inning with the Aggies’ first hits of the day.
USC also put two on base in the second, and had runners on the corners with just one out when Texas A&M pitcher Katie Marks turned a double play on her former teammates to get the Aggies out of the jam. The sophomore right-hander transferred to Texas A&M from South Carolina in the fall and earned the start in the circle in the first game between A&M and USC.
Texas A&M stranded another pair of runners, both in scoring position, in the third. Sophomore Breanna Dozier led off with a base hit down the line in left, and took second on a passed ball. Albus narrowly reached first on a bunt hit that sent Dozier to third. Albus stole second to put the duo in scoring position with no outs, but the Aggies were unable to produce a run.
South Carolina took a 2-0 lead in the third on a double and two base hits. Miscommunication in the outfield allowed the first runner on base on a double and two singles hit up the middle sent the runner home with just one out on the board. Senior third baseman Amber Garza turned the Aggies’ second double play of the game, however, to end the inning.
The Aggies took the lead for the first time in the top of the fourth with five runs scored. A two-run home run in the top of the fourth inning by senior Jenna Stark tied the ballgame. Tyler reached on her second base hit of the day, sent to the gap in left field, before Stark cleared the wall in left-centerfield to make it a 2-2 ballgame.
The action didn’t stop there. Sophomore Cali Lanphear drew a walk and stole second before she was joined on base by Albus with her second bunt single. Freshman April Ryan hit a line drive to left to score Lanphear for the 3-2 lead. In the next at bat, Albus and Ryan advanced on a wild pitch before senior Nicole Morgan found the gap in right field to send both runners home for the 5-2 lead.
A stingy Aggie defense held two Gamecock runners at bay in the bottom of the fourth through three straight outs to hold on to the new three-run lead. South Carolina went three-up, three down through the final three innings as the Aggies earned their third conference win of the season.
Amber Garza was the Aggies’ final base runner of the day, reaching on a base hit in the top of the fifth and taking second on a stolen base. The senior was left on base, however, as the only runs of the day for Texas A&M were scored in the fourth inning.
Marks (11-0) added to her perfect record in the circle with the win, allowing two earned runs on eight hits in four innings. Freshman Abby Donnell (2) ended the game for her second career save, tossing three perfect innings that included one strikeout.
The Aggies and the Gamecocks will finish the series in a doubleheader Saturday at Beckham Field, instead of single games Saturday and Sunday due to rain. The first game of the doubleheader will begin at 1 p.m. CT/2 ET, with the final game of the series following 30 minutes after the last out.
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