May 22, 2011
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - The 16th-seeded Texas A&M softball team will advance to the program's fourth NCAA Super Regional after defeating Louisiana State (40-18), 3-1, in a nine-inning battle Sunday at the Aggie Softball Complex.
A game-tying solo home run by sophomore Rhi Kliesing sealed the deal in the ninth.
The Aggies swept the College Station Regional in three outings and continue to go undefeated at home this season, posting a 25-game streak in 2011 and a 27-game home streak overall. Both streaks are program bests. A&M softball is also on a season-best 10-game winning streak.
"We just have a lot more depth [this season]," head coach Jo Evans said. "We have a lot more talent. This year, we have that huge roster, and initially it was challenging because we had to have people learn their role and not think so much about playing time. But once we got settled into that and really understood what our lineup was going to be, we really just turned into a real team."
LSU loaded the bases twice in the bottom of the first with two outs, but the Aggies held the Tigers to just one run. Designated player Lauren Houston popped a single into left that scored shortstop Juliana Santos before designated visitor A&M shut down the final batter.
"The first inning, I was a little hyped up," sophomore pitcher Mel Dumezich said. "I think after coach told me to calm down and throw outs I started to pitch better. I did what she told me to do, and obviously it worked, we won."
The Aggies got one runner to second in the first and second innings, but were unable to send a run home. Redshirt junior Natalie Villarreal reached on a walk and took second on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Brittany Walker in the first, and Kliesing singled to left field in the second and was pushed forward on a sacrifice bunt by Dumezich.
Still trailing by one in the top of the seventh, May stepped up to lead off and sent the first pitch out of the park over left field to tie the game and give the Aggies a chance to rally. The bomb was May's 13th of the season.
In the bottom of the inning, right fielder Alex Boulet put a single in shallow right field with two outs. Center fielder Simone Heyward followed with another shallow single, popped into left field, before the pair moved into scoring position on a passed ball. The Aggies sent the final batter back to the dugout, however, holding a 1-1 draw to take the game into extra innings.
With Dumezich in the circle, the A&M defense never allowed another Tiger on base. In the top of the ninth, Walker sent a bunt to third and was safe at first when the second baseman caught the ball at first but dropped it upon collision with Walker.
May drew a walk behind the error and was replaced on the base paths by junior Kelsea Orsak. With two on and two outs, Garza patiently waited for the right pitch and sent the ball sailing over second into center field for a single. Walker took advantage of the opportunity and flew home for the go-ahead run while Orsak sped to third.
"She got ahead of me and I just told myself to not tighten up, just relax, just put the ball in play," Garza said. "Like I said yesterday, all of our teammates are really fast, so I knew if I put the ball in the outfield, they're going to score."
Kliesing followed with a second-consecutive base hit, a pop to short that scored Orsak before Garza was called out at third. A&M efficiently fielded two flies and a ground ball in the bottom of the inning to earn the team's first Super Regional berth since 2008.
Dumezich (30-8) earned the win after fanning seven batters and giving up only one run on four hits in nine complete innings. LSU's Brittany Mack suffered the loss, allowing three runs, one of them earned, on four hits in nine innings in the circle, while striking out seven and walking two.
This is the fourth time in four tries that Aggie softball has advanced to the Super Regional after hosting a regional in College Station. In 2007 and 2008, the Aggies went all the way to the Women's College World Series, where they were the national runners-up in 2008.
"I thought the crowd was a difference maker," Evans said. "The 12th Man was amazing, and they were getting fired up. And it was good to have the LSU fans up there too, because they were getting fired up too. They were really feeding off of each other. It was really a great atmosphere."
The Aggies will face the winner of the Tempe Regional, either No. 1 seed Arizona State or San Diego State, in the Super Regional next weekend. Location and game times are to be determined after the game in Tempe, Ariz., today. To learn more about Texas A&M softball, log on to AggieAthletics.com.