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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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A&M splits doubleheader with Texas, Texas State to face Longhorns on Sunday

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Sophomore LHP Emiley Kennedy (11) winds up to pitch during Texas A&M’s game against Mizzou at Davis Diamond on Sunday, April 30, 2023.

If you told the Texas A&M softball team ahead of its NCAA Regional matchup with Texas that it would hold the Longhorns to just two runs and four hits, the Aggies would likely be feeling pretty good about their chances. After all, Texas entered with a lineup batting .331 and featuring six players hitting over .300.
However, A&M was bitten with the same bug, managing just a run with three hits in a 2-1 loss on Saturday, May 20, at McCombs Field in Austin. The maroon and white received productive outings from senior RHP Madison Preston and sophomore LHP Emiley Kennedy, but the Aggies’ bats couldn’t do their part against the burnt orange.
“Tight ballgame, we had some opportunities we weren’t able to cash in and they were able to cash in,” coach Trisha Ford said. “It was a good ballgame, I think. Pitchers, both threw well, and they were just able to execute a couple more plays than we were.”
Preston allowed one earned run and an unearned run in two innings, but it was all Texas needed to secure the victory. Kennedy, meanwhile, tossed four innings of scoreless relief as she continues to be Ford’s most reliable reliever.
“We’ll come around and get some hits, but you can’t let things going on, whether it be offense, defense, whatever, bother you,” Ford said. “Especially [Kennedy], you’ve seen growth in her this year … She’s going through the roof and I can’t wait to see what she does the next game and really the next two years here.”
The Longhorns wasted little time putting pressure on the Aggies, as sophomore 3B Mia Scott built upon her .389 average to single in the first inning. A wild pitch and stolen base saw her take third, but a groundout ended the frame.
After two 1-2-3 frames, A&M got to freshman RHP Citlaly Gutierrez in the third with a walk and single to put two on with two outs. Freshman 2B Amari Harper then singled to center field as freshman DP Aiyana Coleman — just as sophomore CF Allie Enright did the night before — raced past third base coach Jeff Harger’s “stop” sign and narrowly beat the throw at home.
Texas quickly responded to A&M’s 1-0 lead with a two-spot in the home half of the inning with some help from the Aggies. Two singles and a hit batter loaded the bases with no outs and chased Preston from the game. Ford called in Kennedy from the bullpen, building on her reputation as a reliever that can compete in high-pressure situations.
“When I bring her in — the whole infield’s like ‘Oh yeah, it’s bases loaded, no outs, this is when [Kennedy] comes in,’” Ford said. “I love seeing her rise to these situations. She’s my high-leverage pitcher.”
Kennedy produced a fly out before junior CF Bella Dayton’s grounder to sophomore SS Koko Wooley saw her step on second before attempting to throw out Dayton at first while falling. Wooley’s throw went wide, and a poor recovery of the ball allowed junior LF Alyssa Popelka to dart home and put the Longhorns up 2-1.
“I liked where Koko’s head was at with that,” Ford said. “It was an aggressive play, you’re in a tight ballgame. She knew she had to get a lot on it and she had to just get rid of it quickly. You look great if you make that play, and if it doesn’t go your way it doesn’t go your way. I love the fact that she played free, honestly, and went after that out.”
Texas had a shot to add insurance runs in the next inning with the bases loaded and one out, but a strikeout and groundout ended the threat.
“I’m not new to the situation, I’ve just been here before, nothing new,” Kennedy said. “Just throw what I need to throw and throw great ground balls to get outs.”
A&M found itself a golden opportunity in the top of the fifth after a Coleman walk and pinch hit double from junior Bre Warren put a pair of runners in scoring position with no outs. The scoring chance was quickly squandered as junior PH Grace Uribe ground out and Warren, thinking Coleman would run home, was picked off at second as Coleman stayed put at third. Wooley then grounded out to close the scoreless frame.
“We’re always going to be aggressive, and we got caught being passive on the basepath,” Ford said.
Sophomore RHP Sophia Simpson shut down the Aggies to close out the game, notching two hitless innings with three punchouts.
The loss set up A&M to face the winner of the ensuing Texas State-Seton Hall matchup in a nighttime elimination game. The Bobcats eliminated the Pirates with a 4-3 win and quickly turned around to take on the Aggies.
Wooley, Harper and senior RF Morgan Smith led A&M with at least two hits each as the Aggies bounced back with a 4-2 win over the Bobcats. After scoring four combined runs in the past three games, Saturday night’s game felt like an offensive outburst from the maroon and white.
“I thought we were aggressive early in the counts,” Ford said. “Basically, it’s just getting them to get out of their own heads and play the game, play the game that they dreamt about being here when they were 12 years old.”
That aggressiveness paid off in the fourth inning, as Smith plated junior C Julia Cottrill with an RBI double to left-center that broke the ice. A wild pitch advanced Smith to third, and a Coleman sacrifice fly brought her home for a 2-0 lead.
A&M picked up where it left off in the next inning, as senior LF Star Ferguson walked and Wooley and Harper singled to make the bases juiced with no outs. Junior RHP Jessica Mullins entered to try and limit the damage, but junior 1B Trinity Cannon welcomed her with a 2-RBI single to left field that upped the lead to 4-0. The hit snapped an 0-for-11 skid in the postseason for Cannon.
Sophomore RHP Emily Leavitt aided the offense’s efforts with five solid innings in the circle, surrendering two runs on five hits, a walk and a strikeout. After senior RHP Shaylee Ackerman faced two batters, Kennedy pitched the final 1.2 frames and shut the door on Texas State, but that’s not to say the Bobcats didn’t go down without a fight.
“I feel like they’re scrappy yesterday, the day before, today and probably tomorrow,” Ford said. “I think that’s just who they are, that’s coach [Ricci] Woodard in a nutshell.”
Leavitt was chased from the game in the sixth after a pair of singles to kick off the frame. After facing Texas State the night before, Ackerman took over in the circle but gave up a 2-run double to junior RF Anna Jones that cut the A&M lead in half. Jones tried to stretch the hit into a triple but was thrown out after review on the relay.
The Aggies loaded the bases with one out in the seventh, but the Bobcats’ defense kept further runs off the board. Junior 3B Rylen Wiggins flew out to right field, where Jones showed off her arm with a laser to nail the tagged-up Harper at home.
Texas State used the momentum to their favor as they faced their final three outs in the bottom of the inning. Junior CF Piper Randolph led off with a walk before Wooley couldn’t cleanly field sophomore LF Ciara Trahan’s grounder, putting the tying runs on board with no outs. Not flustered, Kennedy showed why she’s successful in such situations by striking out the next two batters before Jones’ groundout ended the ballgame.
“Emiley Kennedy has been just dynamic,” Ford said. “This whole weekend, we’ve continued to put her in stressful situations, and again and again she’s just proven to be that pitcher that I can rely on and really perform in those big situations.”
A&M looks to keep its season alive in a rematch versus Texas at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 21, at McCombs Field. If the Aggies win, they’ll battle the Longhorns in the Regional Championship immediately after.
“At this point in time, you punch, scratch, bite, whatever the heck you need to do to win two ballgames, and that’s what Texas A&M softball is all about,” Ford said. “We’re going to come out and compete our tails off.”

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