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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Photo by CJ Smith
Texas A&M infielder Trinity Cannon (6) reacts during Texas A&M’s game against Texas at the Austin Super Regional at Red and Charline McCombs Field in Austin, Texas, on Friday, May 24, 2024. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)

Texas A&M softball experienced every inch of the pendulum of emotions in its NCAA Super Regional matchup with Texas on Friday, May 24, but the end result was one of joy and elation.

And maybe a deep sigh of relief.

The Aggies struck first and held on for a crucial 6-5 victory over the top-ranked Longhorns in Austin, bringing the Maroon and White within one win of the Women’s College World Series. With five runs in the final two innings, Texas kept A&M’s heart pumping until junior LHP Emiley Kennedy’s fifth strikeout of the day locked up the win.

In her 28th start, the workhorse Kennedy notched her 24th complete game of the season while keeping the Longhorns off the scoreboard until a pinch-hit grand slam in the sixth brought them within two runs. Down to two outs in the seventh, sophomore C and Big 12 Player of the Year Reese Atwood’s solo homer kept Texas alive.

Kennedy, though, hammered the nail into the coffin with a swinging strikeout of freshman 1B Katie Stewart on her 118th pitch, letting out an amped-up shout after putting together a birthday to remember.

So, would she be ready to pitch in Game 2 of the best-of-3 series, if needed?

“Absolutely,” Kennedy said. “I just go home, have a good meal for dinner, rehydrate.”

Coach Trisha Ford wouldn’t let up, though.

“I’m not telling you,” Ford said. “She’ll be ready.”

In front of a packed house at McCombs Field, the latest meeting between the state’s two biggest rivals kept the nearly 2,000 in attendance on their toes from start to finish. As senior 1B Trinity Cannon took the plate with two runners in scoring position in the first inning, she found herself with an ample opportunity to give the Aggies an early lead.

The Aggies’ veteran leader with 15 home runs, Cannon turned on a pitch from sophomore RHP Citlaly Gutierrez, deflecting it off her leg and down the third-base line. Believing the ball landed foul, Cannon stood her ground at the plate while both runners took off and junior 3B Mia Scott fielded the grounder.

Scott made the throw home to tag sophomore 3B Kennedy Powell out at the plate before Atwood retired Cannon with a throw to first. Junior SS Koko Wooley attempted to take the uncovered third base, but couldn’t beat the throw, locking up the triple play and ending a golden scoring chance for A&M.

That is until a replay review revealed the ball was indeed hit off Cannon’s leg for a dead ball. With new life at the plate, Cannon turned on a 3-2 offering from Gutierrez, sending it to East 21st Street beyond left field for a blast that put the Aggies ahead early on, 3-0.

“I had no doubt that it hit my foot,” Cannon said. “It hurt really bad. They were yelling to throw it to first, and I was like, ‘go ahead, y’all can throw whoever you want out, but it’s going to get overturned.’”

Kennedy ensured Texas wouldn’t be so opportunistic in the early going after two singles sandwiched a walk in the bottom of the second. With one out, she induced a lightly-hit groundball that turned into a fielder’s choice with a force out at the plate. “Lefty” rode the momentum with a punchout of senior LF Bella Dayton to keep A&M in the driver’s seat.

“I always tell them scoring in the first inning makes it easier for me,” Kennedy said. “I think you can tell I throw differently with the lead.”

A complete game performance while allowing just six hits is impressive in its own right, but doing so against a team batting a collective .383 is simply show-stopping. The Longhorns’ lineup featured three players batting over .400, with senior 2B Alyssa Washington tailing with a mere .358 clip.

“They’re good hitters,” Kennedy said. “They hit pitches they’re supposed to hit, so I think [if I] just keep doing what I was doing today, I think I’ll be okay.”

The Aggies’ defense was right there with Kennedy, making no errors with an array of strong plays on well-struck balls. Senior 2B Rylen Wiggins highlighted the efforts with a diving snag of a screamer deflected off Kennedy’s glove, taking a hit away from Atwood.

The Maroon and White added a pair of critical insurance runs in the fifth behind the second cannonball of the night. Cannon made a splash with her second long ball of the game, this one a two-run blast that carried to the right-center field bleachers. It marked the first runs surrendered by junior RHP Mac Morgan after relieving Gutierrez with one out in the second.

Junior LF Kramer Eschete, though, proved they wouldn’t be the last. A two-out walk kept the top of the sixth inning alive for Eschete to show off her bat with a double off the left-center field wall, and freshman PR Hailey Golden showed off her wheels by scoring from first.

While trailing 6-0 in the middle of the sixth, the Longhorns got a shot in the arm as the game’s emotion spilled into the coaches’ boxes. A&M third-base coach Jeff Harger and Texas associate head coach Steve Singleton exchanged words before the Aggies’ assistant coach Russ Heffley engaged in a shouting match with Singleton.

The conflict appeared to stem from a dispute over the Aggies’ baserunner making contact with the Longhorn first baseman. Heffley and Singleton found themselves ejected, albeit while rejuvenating an otherwise downcast Texas crowd.

The Longhorns’ offense took advantage of the energy with a sixth-inning rally capped by freshman PH Victoria Hunter’s grand slam on the first pitch she saw from Kennedy.

“I just looked at my defense and said, ‘We still have a two-run lead, the game’s not over, we’ve had control of the game the entire day and we’re not going to lose it now,’” Kennedy said.

With momentum in Texas’ favor, senior C Julia Cottrill shared a moment with Kennedy before the pair returned to the field for the bottom of the seventh. Cottrill’s words paid dividends, with her battery partner shaking off Atwood’s big fly to stamp out the Longhorns’ fire.

“[Kennedy’s] grown up so much this year and she’s had a lot of high-stress moments,” Ford said. “She’s learned how to work through those and I thought she did a really good job. I went into the dugout after the sixth inning and got into her a little bit, in a good way, but I said, ‘You are going to finish this dang game, let’s dig deep and win us a game,’ and she looked me straight in the eyes and said, ‘Absolutely.’”

The Aggies will have a chance to return to Oklahoma City for the first time since 2017 in Game 2 of the Super Regional, set for Saturday, May 25 at 4 p.m.

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About the Contributor
Luke White
Luke White, Sports Editor
Luke White is a senior telecommunication media studies major and sport management minor from Round Rock, Texas. He has served as head sports editor since May 2023.
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