Texas A&M and OU score opening wins in Norman Regional Written By Bill Plummer
NORMAN, Okla — In two games as different as night and day, Texas A&M and defending national champion Oklahoma scored opening round wins Friday evening in the Normal NCAA Softball Regional at Marita Hynes Field.
As a result of winning, OU and Texas A&M will face each other Saturday afternoon at 1 as the Regional begins its second day of competition. The winner will advance to the Regional championship game Sunday with the loser facing an elimination game Saturday night.
A&M (36-30) edged Hofstra (33-14), 7-6, in the opening game Friday in a see-saw battle that had 21 hits and three home runs.
The game’s lead changed hands five times over seven innings and eventually put Texas A&M in the Region’s winners’ bracket. Seniors Emily Albus and Cassie Tysarczyk contributed three hits and one RBI each. Tysarczyk was a triple away from hitting for the cycle, and scored three runs. Each of the Aggie’s six seniors in the starting lineup aided the effort with at least one RBI.
The Aggie defense looked stiff in the top of the first as Hofstra hit three-straight singles through the gaps to score the 1-0 run, but the Aggies’ 11th pickoff of the season turned the momentum to Texas A&M’s advantage. The throw from senior catcher Nicole Morgan to freshman second baseman April Ryan cut the leadoff runner for the second out of the inning.
Texas A&M tied the ballgame after just three pitches in the bottom of the first when senior Amber Garza’s double to left-centerfield sent senior Emily Albus home for the Aggies’ first run of the day. Albus reached on a bunt. Senior Cassie Tysarczyk also hit a double to left field to put two runners in scoring position in time for a laser up the middle from Jenna Stark that gave Texas A&M a 3-1 lead over the Pride.
Another senior came through in the bottom of the second when a solo home run from Taran Tyler stretched the Aggies’ lead to 4-1. The one-out shot was a sure thing as it left her bat and cleared the wall in left field.
The Pride answered big in the top of the third, taking advantage of two Aggie errors to score four runs and take their second lead of the day at 5-4. Back-to-back base hits and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases with no outs before an errant throw on a fielder’s choice allowed two runs to score. After a double sent the tying run home, another error – on an attempted double play – gave Hofstra its fourth run of the inning.
Texas A&M left the bases loaded in the bottom of the inning as the Pride held onto their one-run lead. After a three-up-three-down top-of-the-fourth by Hofstra, a solo home run from Tysarczyk tied the ballgame again as it flew past the grandstand in right field and into the middle of a tennis match. The first-pitch blast was the senior’s 13th of the season.
The back-and-forth battle continued in the top of the fifth as Hofstra also hit a solo home run to take the 6-5 lead. The line drive was near impossible as it squeezed just fair and just over the fence in the right field corner. The homer was hit by Caryn Bailey, her seventh of the season.
The Aggies responded with another run to tie the game for the fourth time of the day in the bottom of the fifth. Freshman designated player Reagan Boenker was hit by a pitch and replaced on the base paths by senior pinch runner Allison Garrett with one out. A base hit to centerfield from junior Brittany Clopton sent Garrett to third in time for Albus’ third hit of the day – an RBI double to left field.
The lead changed hands for the fifth time in the bottom of the sixth when a double to right-centerfield from Morgan sent Tysarczyk across the plate for the 7-6 Aggie advantage. Tysarczyk reached on a base hit up the middle – her third hit of the night and fourth-straight time to reach base.
For the second time of the game, Texas A&M recorded three straight outs in the top of the seventh to hold the 7-6 lead for the win.
Redshirt junior Rachel Fox (14-10) tossed 3 2/3 innings for the win, giving up just one earned run on two hits while fanning one batter. Hofstra’s Taylor Pirone (16-7) allowed two earned runs on four hits for the loss.
Defending champion Oklahoma took an early 2-0 lead in the second game on a two-run single by Brittany Williams before falling behind 4-2 in the top of the second inning when OU hurler Kelsey Stevens walked the bases loaded with one out in the inning before Bryant lead-off hitter Kendall Corder hit a grand slam homer to left field to give the Bulldogs their only lead of the game. It was Corder's first homer of the season and the 21st allowed by Stevens this season. Stevens allowed three hits, fanned five and walked three.
The Bulldogs, who were making their debut in NCAA post-sesason play, didn't have long to wait for OU to regain the regain the lead in winning its eighth consecutive Regional win. In the bottom of the second, OU tallied eight times on seven hits to take a commanding 10-4 lead. OU added three more runs in the bottom of the third and one run in the fourth to settle for a 14-4 run-rule victory.
“They’ve been doing it all year long and it’s one reason why I enjoy them so much,” OU head coach Patty Gasso said. “It’s just this prideful thing that they have going on and I think it happens early in the game and they’re like, okay this is nothing, to them. They’re thinking we have a few innings to come back and I don’t even know how to explain it. They just know how to respond, and they just make things happen.
“A lot of this is attributed to the experience that they’ve had in the post season. All of these athletes are pretty well versed in what it’s like to play in these kinds of games and what it takes. I think that has a lot to do with it.”
The second inning was highlighted by a three-run homer by third baseman Shelby Pendley, her 14th of the season. OU catcher Whitney Ellis accounted for the three runs in the third inning with her 10th homer of the season as the Sooners increased their season HR total to 73.
Pendley went 4-for-4 for the Sooners and made her 19th appearance on the mound in the top of the fifth to close out the game for Stevens, who won her 34th game of the season against seven losses. Pendley fanned two of the four batters she faced and walked only one.
OU played the game without slugging first baseman Lauren Chamberlain who has a partially torn PCL in her knee and whether she plays will be left up to her, according to Gasso. Chamberlain missed 23 games with a back injury between March and late April before injuring the knee against OSU May 10. She had eight homers and was batting .338.
Bill Plummer A 1973 graduate of Indiana University, Ind. Bill has been involved in softball for more than five decades. For 30 years he was a fixture at the ASA National Office in Oklahoma City as a communications coordinator, manager of the ASA National Softball Hall of Fame and historian.
In addition, he also served as the editor of the ASA official newsletter, The Inside Pitch, and as the Trade Show manager. He has written widely about the sport and has contributed to 14 books. In 2008, he authored “The Game America Plays.” In 2012, he co-authored “Best of the Best-Women’s Fastpitch.” In 2013 he co-authored “A Series Of Their Own”. Visit his website at PlummerSoftball.com.
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