COLLEGE STATION, Texas - The No. 5 (ESPN.com) Texas A&M softball team (22-1) travels to No. 5 (NFCA) Missouri (9-1) tomorrow for a three-game Southeastern Conference-opening series this weekend in Columbia, Mo. Game one is set for 6 p.m. Friday, followed by games two and three at 2 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday. All times are CST.
The fifth-ranked Aggies and the No. 5 Tigers each have just
one loss this season. A&M played to a program-best 19-0 start before
dropping a single contest to No. 14 Michigan last weekend. The
Tigers' sole blemish was a 4-5 decision at Cal State Fullerton on Feb. 23.
Both former Big 12 rivals joined the SEC in the summer of 2012 and are making their conference debut against familiar foes.
Fans wanting to keep up with this weekend's action should tune in to the live audio broadcasts during each game. Friday and Sunday's games will both be aired on Sports Radio 1150 AM in Bryan-College Station, and Saturday's matchup can be heard on 95.1-3 The Zone HD. Internet broadcasts of all games can be found on RadioAggieland.com and AggieAthletics.com.
LAST TIME OUT
The Aggies went 4-1 at the Citrus Classic at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando last weekend. The team battled to a come-from-behind, 6-4 win over No. 13 Louisiana before dropping their first contest of the season to No. 14 Michigan. The loss to Michigan snapped a 19-game winning streak by the Aggies. On day two of the tournament, A&M blanked Illinois State, 5-0 behind a no-hit outing by Dumezich before taking a narrow 6-4 win over College of Charleston. The tournament ended with a run-rule, 12-2 win over Penn State that brought the Aggies' season record to 22-1 entering conference play.
The Tigers (9-1) ended their run in the Big 12 last season after going 17-7 in league play to rank second in the conference and ending the season at the NCAA Super Region level. Missouri has already played one conference game, defeating then-No. 5 Florida 4-3 in a 12-inning nail-biter on Feb. 22. Nicole Hudson is leading the Tigers' offensive effort this season, hitting .500 through 10 games with 11 runs, 14 hits, one double, six home runs and 14 RBI. Princess Krebs has played in just six games this year, but owns an impressive .750 average as she is 3-for-4 from the plate with three runs, a double and two RBI. In the circle, ace Chelsea Thomas (3-0) has made four starts and records a 0.25 ERA. Thomas has already received two Pitcher of the Week nods from the SEC as she has given up just one earned run on 11 hits and has struck out 39 batters through 28 innings of work. The storied past between the former Big 12 rivals dates back to 1981. The Aggies own a 31-25 all-time series advantage. Last year, the teams met in College Station in a three-game Big 12 series. A&M took the series win, 2-1, and each of the games were decided by one run.
Dumezich threw three no-hitters over the span of 11 days for the Aggies, earning USA Softball National Player of the Week and SEC player of the Week honors last week. The senior threw her career-first no-hitter against Stephen F. Austin (Feb. 20) and added a second vs. Southeastern Louisiana (Feb. 24) the same week. Dumezich's third no-hitter in less than two weeks came against Illinois State and was her first seven-inning effort as the Aggies run-ruled SFA and SELU.
The Aggies' early success in their first season in the Southeastern Conference has shown in the SEC rankings as the team tops league members in several areas through last weekend's games. A&M's 38 home runs are an SEC best, as are team total bases (354), wins (22), saves (4) and runners picked off (2). Individually, junior Nicole Morgan leads the SEC in RBI (31) and is first in home runs (9) with freshman Cali Lanphear following with eight long balls. Dumezich paces her peers with 94.2 innings pitched, 121 batters struck out, 15 wins, three saves, 19 appearances and 15 games started.
A&M started the season ranked No. 17 in both national polls and is now sitting at No. 5 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball top 25 and No. 7 in the NFCA/USA Today poll. The team's No. 5 national ranking came last week and is the first since February of 2008 when the reigning national runners-up were tabbed preseason fifth. The Aggies' remaining 2013 opponents in the polls are No. 2/1 Alabama, No. 7/5 Missouri, No. 10/8 Tennessee, No. 12/12 LSU and No. 24 Georgia. In addition, Mississippi State is receiving votes.
The Aggies will play 53 regular-season games in 2013, 32 of those being in the friendly confines of the Aggie Softball Complex. The team will also host four SEC series. A&M's challenging schedule includes matchups against three conference champions, 11 NCAA Regional teams, five NCAA Super Regional teams and three Women's College World Series (WCWS) teams from the 2012 season, including reigning National Champion Alabama.
Of the 22 different known teams the Aggies will play in 2013, 10 ended the 2012 season in the top 50 in national RPI standings, six are in the top 25 and two are in the top five. The average final RPI for the Aggies' opponents this season is 56, while the average RPI for the SEC teams A&M will play is 27. Only one SEC school on the Aggies' schedule - No. 92 Ole Miss - did not make the final RPI top 50 in 2012.
BACK IN ACTION
A&M welcomes 14 letterwinners and nine starters back to the team. All-American seniors Meagan May and Mel Dumezich highlight the returners, along with fellow 2012 All-Central Region selections juniors Cassie Tysarczyk and Emily Albus. The 2012 Aggies led the Big 12 with seven conference honors as Dumezich, junior Nicole Morgan and Tysarczyk were selected to the first team and Albus, May, then-junior Brittany Walker and then-senior Natalie Villarreal took second-team awards.
Five newcomers will also make their SEC debut: Freshmen Alex Masek (Giddings, Texas), Cali Lanphear (Montgomery, Texas), Breanna Dozier (Rowlett, Texas) and Kristen Davenport (Deer Park, Texas), and junior transfer Rachel Fox (Sugar Land, Texas) who will redshirt this season due to NCAA rules.
Also new to the team is Director of Softball Operations Terry Schweikert. The former Missouri softball standout joins the team from Corona, Calif., where she was the Director of Teamsmith, a travel softball organization. At Teamsmith, Schweikert oversaw eight youth softball teams in the 10U-18U divisions.
A familiar face who has joined the Aggies in a new capacity is Volunteer Pitching Coach Rhi Kliesing. The former Aggie pitcher and first baseman spent time on the diamond from 2008-11 and was Evans' student assistant last season.
Individual game and season tickets may be purchased over the phone at 1-888-99-AGGIE OR 979-845-2311, online at Tickets.12thManFoundation.com, or in person at The Zone at Kyle Field ticket office.
Season tickets are currently available for just $125, while individual game tickets for softball are $10 for reserved (sections 4-8) and $8 for General Admission (sections 1-3). Youth GA tickets are available for $5 each. Group rates are also available to groups of at least 20, and cost $8 for reserved seats and $3 for GA.
Junior Aggie Club members are admitted free of charge to all Aggie softball games. Membership to the JAC is just $25, and information is available at www.JuniorAggieClub.com.
The "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" promotion returns in 2013, allowing four (4) kids under 12 to be admitted free on Sundays with the purchase of one adult ticket. All seats in this promotion are General Admission. Children must be accompanied by an adult purchasing a ticket to qualify for the promotion. Everyone, regardless of age, is required to have a ticket in the General Admission section, though GA tickets for children under 2 are free of charge.
Parking for all Aggie softball games is available in Reed Arena lot 100G and Olsen Field lot 100J. Visitors may park for free when there is not a conflict with an A&M men's basketball or baseball game. This does not include 24-hour numbered, 12th Man or timed spaces. Visit transportation.tamu.edu for more information.
EVERY GAME ON RADIO
All of the Aggie softball team's games this season will be broadcast by The Zone. Select games will be aired locally on Sports Radio 1150 The Zone, while the remaining contests can be heard on any smartphone or HD radio worldwide via 95.1-3 The Zone HD. Links to the online broadcasts for each game can be found at RadioAggieland.com and AggieAthletics.com.
The Zone's Program Director, Louie Belina (away), and Tim Schnettler (home) will be calling the pitch-by-pitch, with David Batson providing color commentary. Former Texas A&M softball Director of Operations Stephen Grove will add analysis in select games as well.
WATCH THE AGGIES ONLINE
For the 10th straight season, 12th Man TV will bring Aggies around the globe live video of Texas A&M softball. Fans will be able to watch all non-televised Aggie home games, along with select road games, through the all-new 12th Man TV. Subscription packages start at $11.95/month and include exclusive live and on-demand content not found anywhere else. For more information log on to aggieathletics.com.
AGGIES ON THE TUBE
At least three Aggie softball games will be played on national television this season. A&M's April 13 home game vs. LSU will be aired on ESPN at 2:30 p.m., while the Sunday, April 14, game between the two schools will be broadcast live at 12:30 p.m. on FSN. ESPNU will televise the A&M-Tennessee matchup on March 23 in Knoxville, Tenn. In addition to the three regular season games, the ESPN Network will show the entire SEC Tournament nationwide, including the two play-in games. All times are Central.
The Aggies will host their first SEC series next weekend when Arkansas travels to the Aggie Softball Complex. The Aggies and Razorbacks will play at 7 p.m. Friday, 4 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday. All times are Central. To learn more about Texas A&M softball, log on to AggieAthletics.com and follow @AggieSoftball on Twitter.