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The Battalion

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 starting pitcher/relief pitcher Emiley Kennedy (11) hands the ball to starting pitcher/relief pitcher Brooke Vestal (19) during Texas A&M’s game against Texas at the Austin Super Regional at Red and Charline McCombs Field in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, May 25, 2024. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)

As the fifth inning drew to a close in Texas A&M softball’s Super Regional matchup with No. 1 Texas on Saturday, the Aggies found themselves six outs away from a trip to the Women’s College World Series.

Senior 1B Trinity Cannon’s third home run of the series put A&M ahead by four runs with two innings to play while creating two vastly different scenes in the opposing dugouts. On the first-base side, the Aggies showed smiles and laughter while the Longhorns displayed anxiety and the pressure that comes with a team’s season on the line.

But what a difference a half-inning can make. Texas rallied to take a one-run lead with six runs in the top of the sixth before adding two more in the seventh to make it a three-run advantage. Down to its final strike, A&M countered with freshman DP Mya Perez’s first career long ball, a 3-run shot that evened the score at 8.

Yet, despite the heroics, the Longhorns did just a bit more than the Aggies in capturing a 9-8 victory at McCombs Field in Austin. After Texas eyed the potential end to its season, the teams will compete for a trip to Oklahoma City in the series rubber match on Sunday, May 26 at 6:30 p.m.

“I just love our fight,” A&M coach Trisha Ford said. “Nobody thought we had a chance to get a game here, and you saw us play our brand of softball. Obviously, we didn’t execute a couple of things, and things didn’t go our way. It went Texas’ way, and that’s the way it goes.”

Senior LF Bella Dayton provided the Longhorns with a pair of critical insurance runs on a two-run blast in the top of the seventh in junior LHP Emiley Kennedy’s second appearance of the game. After hurling 118 pitches in Friday’s complete game, she went back to work in Game 2 of the series.

Kennedy lasted four innings to open the contest before taking a break for 1 1/3 frames while graduate RHP Brooke Vestal took over in the circle. The sixth inning saw Kennedy get the call from Ford yet again before finishing out the matchup with six runs allowed on 14 hits in 7 1/3 innings. She totaled 254 pitches over the series’ first two games.

“That kid gutted it out today,” Ford said. “She gave everything to that Aggie uniform today, and [I’m] so proud of her … I asked her, ‘Where are you at?’ and she said, ‘I’m good.’ I said, ‘Well, how many innings do you have in you?’ and she said, ‘As many as it takes.’ So, I’m pretty confident that I’m going to get that response from her tomorrow.”

Dayton’s big fly shifted the scales of momentum squarely in Texas’ favor while taking what seemed to be all of the wind out of A&M’s sails. With a runner on and two outs in the bottom of the seventh, junior RF Allie Enright provided a breeze with a line shot up the middle, her first hit of the series, to put runners on the corners.

Then Perez brought a gust.

In just her 10th start of the season, Perez watched four pitches sail by to set up a 2-2 count. She didn’t let a pitch down the pipe from senior LHP Estelle Czech go by without a response, though, turning on the Aggies’ final strike.

With no previous home runs to her name, Perez sent the pitch to the right-center field bleachers while sending A&M’s dugout into a frenzy before being mobbed at home plate.

“I haven’t been that excited for someone else in a really long time, and I’m super happy that it was for her,” senior 2B Rylen Wiggins said. “She’s a stand-up teammate, [a] great person, and I love that she got to experience that.”

In the ninth, Perez again found herself keeping the Aggies alive after the Longhorns plated the go-ahead run with an RBI fielder’s choice to score freshman CF Kayden Henry. This time, Texas sophomore Reese Atwood aided Perez with a catcher’s interference call that allowed her to advance to first with two outs.

That was all the magic A&M could produce, with junior LF Kramer Eschete sharply grounding into a fielder’s choice that wrapped up a roller coaster of a rivalry game.

“If that’s a No. 16 team, I’m dumbfounded,” Texas coach Mike White said. “I’m not sure how that worked out.”

For the second day in a row, the roller coaster began with the Aggies on top. Graduate CF Jazmine Hill struck first with a two-run shot to left off Big 12 Freshman of the Year RHP Teagan Kavan in the second before sophomore 3B Kennedy Powell added an RBI single for a 3-0 lead.

Senior DP Joley Mitchell cut the Texas deficit to 3-1 with her leadoff solo homer in the fourth, but Cannon’s two-run shot to the housing complex beyond left field reinserted A&M into the driver’s seat. As the Aggies embraced a near-upset of the nation’s top program, the Longhorns grappled with a potential sweep by a No. 16-seed and rival, no less.

Texas countered A&M’s home runs with small ball, notching four singles, a walk and a failed fielder’s choice to put up five runs and grab the lead in the sixth. Even a 10-minute delay due to a slumping panel of the outfield wall didn’t slow the Longhorns down, as Atwood responded by poking a go-ahead RBI single into shallow left field.

Texas came out on the successful side of two replay reviews in the frame, with the first declaring obstruction by senior C Julia Cottrill during a play at the plate. Henry was called safe at the plate for the first run ahead of junior 3B Mia Scott’s RBI single.

Scott and redshirt sophomore RF Ashton Maloney took an extra base on Hill’s overthrown relay to the plate, with Maloney called safe at third after a review. The aggressiveness paid off, as both came home on a game-tying two-run single by sophomore SS Viviana Martinez.

“They were just hitting the ball,” Wiggins said. “Good teams hit the ball and make the defense make mistakes, and that’s what happened. We’ve just got to be better on D and back up our pitcher a little bit better.”

Who could be in the circle for the winner-take-all Game 3 is anyone’s guess with four pitchers in A&M’s arsenal. That includes Kennedy, whose 201.2 innings this year outnumber the next most used pitcher by over 125 frames.

“I think it’s all hands on deck,” Ford said. “Lefty will still have some left in the tank, I know that. I know who she is … We have some capable arms in the bullpen and we just need them to step up tomorrow and get us a win.”

Two hard-fought matchups between the two programs have fostered plenty of familiarity with the opposing lineups and pitching staffs. Who can land the final blow on Sunday will carry not just rivalry ramifications, but a spot in college softball’s promised land as well.

“At the end of the day, it’s just another game,” Hill said. “Obviously, with our offense, we’ve seen all their pitching, so I think that’s an advantage for us … We just have to come out and play like we do.”

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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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    Robert MckayMay 26, 2024 at 9:40 pm

    The A&M girls softball team can field as good as any other university. Their hitting is not worth aflip. They are òf in need of batting practice with a professional batter coaching them.