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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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Leading the charge

SSP-23.jpg
Photo by C. Morgan Engel
SSP-23.jpg

The 2018 Texas A&M softball team has just four juniors, but all four have started since they stepped foot on campus. 

Third baseman Riley Sartain, second baseman Kaitlyn Alderink, outfielder Keeli Milligan and pitcher Samantha Show have all been pivotal to the success of a team that saw a regional championship appearance in 2016 and a Women’s College World Series appearance in 2017. 

With A&M losing just two seniors and returned all of its starters from last year’s WCWS squad, the junior class will look to lead the Aggies to back-to-back WCWS appearances and maybe even a national championship.

“Our junior class is huge to us,” head coach Jo Evans said. “All four of those kids start, they’re in our lineup, they’ve been impact players, they’ve played positions that are impactful and their leadership is really good and I’ve seen them mature. To me they’re critical because this senior class has established itself as leaders. For me, a focal point is that our junior class knows how to be leaders, that they learn how to run our team.”

Sartain hails from Aledo, Texas and was a top 40 high school recruit after leading the Aledo Ladycats to back-to-back state championships in 2014 and 2015. Alderink is from Keller, Texas and was a top 20 recruit out of high school after hitting .487 her junior year, placing fourth all-time in Keller softball history. Milligan is originally from Vidor, Texas and committed to A&M after being named district MVP her junior year. Show comes from East Bernard, Texas, and was named the Texas Gatorade Player of the Year her sophomore season in high school.Two years ago, when this junior class were incoming freshmen, the Aggies went 39-20 and nearly won a regional that included former Big 12 rival Texas and the 10th national seed Louisiana-Lafayette. 

All four juniors started and played pivotal roles on the team. Sartain hit .259 with six home runs and 26 RBIs while playing third base, Alderink hit .364 with five home runs and 41 RBIs while playing second base, and Milligan hit .379 while stealing 54 bases, which set the A&M all-time record for steals in a season. Show was the team’s workhorse and ace, tossing 202 innings, going 25-10 with a 3.67 ERA. 

Last year, the junior class and the Aggies improved upon 2016’s successful year by clinching the school’s first Women’s College World Series appearance in nine years. All four juniors played the same positions they played in their freshman seasons.

“It’s hard to think about being a junior,” Show said. “We’re more mature, we’re more knowledgeable, we know how to handle all the situations and we’re leaders now, so we are taking on that role. It’s a little difficult, but we’re excited to get after it.” 

The three junior position players had the three highest averages on the team. Sartain improved drastically, leading the team with a .350 batting average, while adding 13 home runs and 49 RBIs. Milligan finished second on the team with a .319 average, adding 22 steals, while Alderink was third with a .317 average and drove in 24 runs. 

Show was again the team’s workhorse in the circle, throwing a team-high 137 innings and went 19-7 with a 2.20 ERA. 

“Riley, Sam, and Keeli are all very hard workers,” Alderink said. “Sometimes I struggle with making myself work harder and do the extra work outside of practice so they really push me and make me a better player.”

The juniors have grown exponentially since their freshman year and expect to make another run to the WCWS this season. After living with each other and playing two years together, they will help lead the 2018 A&M softball team to new heights with the help of the senior class. 

“They’re everything, they’re like my sisters,” Sartain said. “I’ve lived with all of them, it’s just great to see us grow together. We’ve been together for forever, we’ve been on unofficial visits and official visits, anything you can imagine I’ve been with them, so I’m really thankful to have them.”

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