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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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Texas A&M outfielder Jace Laviolette (17) reacts in the dugout after Texas A&M’s game against Tennessee at the NCAA Men’s College World Series finals at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Monday, June 24, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
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Missed opportunities prove costly for A&M in WCWS opener

Texas+A%26amp%3BM+head+coach+Jo+Evans+spoke+with+pitcher+Samantha+Show+and+catcher+Ashley+Walters+during+a+tough+inning+against+Florida+at+the+2017+Womens+College+World+Series.
Photo by By Angel Franco

Texas A&M head coach Jo Evans spoke with pitcher Samantha Show and catcher Ashley Walters during a tough inning against Florida at the 2017 Women’s College World Series.

OKLAHOMA CITY – When Keeli Milligan battled back from a 0-2 count and drew a nine-pitch walk off Kelly Barnhill to start Thursday’s game against Florida, it was an early sign that maybe Texas A&M could push past the perilous pitcher.
Three batters later, Barnhill botched a soft-hit grounder off the end of Kristen Cuyos’ bat down the first base line, giving the Aggies runners on the corners in the top of the first.
But as the good ones do, Barnhill bounced back and blew strike three past Ashley Walters to escape the opening frame unscratched.
Had the Aggies gotten a run across in the first, they could have put pressure on the Gators from the get-go, showing them the top-ranked team was in for a fight.
Still, A&M head coach Jo Evans saw positive signs from the aggressive first.
“In the first inning really setting the tone of Barnhill is not going to be someone that’s just going to throw it by us and we’re going to take a bunch of strikeouts,” Evans said after the game. “I thought Keeli Milligan did a great job to set the tone and work her way into a walk. Tori Vidales just hit the ball on the screws in that first inning, goes right to their left fielder. So I saw some positive things about our offense.”
Instead, A&M missed a golden opportunity and Florida put up two runs in the bottom half of the first, giving the Gators an early cushion, allowing Barnhill to go to work with less pressure.
“Whenever you get a lead, it really does take a lot of pressure off a pitcher,” Barnhill said. “You don’t have to be pinpoint perfect…  Of course you always still try to, but having that leeway and having those runs does really affect a pitcher’s mentality up there on the mound.
In the second, the Aggies recorded two quick groundouts, showing they could potentially head to the third in a tight game with the top of their order coming up. Instead, Justine McClean blooped a single over third baseman Riley Sartain to keep the inning alive.
Starting pitcher Trinity Harrington then walked Amanda Lorenz and Kayli Kvistad to load the bases before Nicole DeWitt sent a two-RBI single up the middle, doubling the Gators’ lead.
In the third, A&M allowed yet another RBI-single to left field. It appeared the Aggies would have a chance to throw pinch-runner Katie Chronister out at the plate, but Milligan was unable to make a clean field on the ball, allowing Chronister to score with ease.
The inability to close innings and allow the Gators to extend them and produce scoring plays proved costly for the Aggies.
“I know from when I was pitching I was leaving balls over the plate when I shouldn’t have been, and with two strikes I was adjusting to the umpire’s strike zone, and so I was leaving balls over the plate,” reliever Samantha Show said. “They just attacked my mistakes and made us pay for it.”
Florida’s offensive success was contagious to its defense, as Barnhill settled into a groove only allowing one base runner in the next three innings. Evans noted the Aggies got away from their early success at the plate.
“The one thing we just did not do well at the plate today was… attack the strike zone early,” Evans said. “We did that some in the first inning or so, and then we got away from that, and I thought that really hurt us.”
In a must-score situation in the fifth, signs of hope appeared for A&M after Sarah Hudek and Show recorded back-to-back singles to start the frame. With one out, the Aggies brought Milligan to the plate, their only hitter who had reached base multiple times.
Milligan, however, lined a sharp-hit ball to third baseman Aleshia Ocasio and Hudek was caught far from second, giving Ocasio the easy double play to end the game.
Yet again, another missed opportunity for the Aggies to score. On the day, A&M went 0-for-3 with RISP.
Despite falling into the loser’s bracket, the Aggies now have the opportunity to take Friday off and figure things out before coming back for Saturday’s elimination game against UCLA. Evans said the chance to calm her team and collect themselves again will be beneficial before playing the Bruins.
“In this situation I think it’s good for us to be able to take a step back, sort of calm ourselves down, and look at our game and understand, you know what, we made that a lot harder than we needed to,” Evans said. “We made that more difficult on ourselves… We’ll take a day [off.]  We’ll kind of regroup.  We’ll go hit tomorrow, and we’ll rally around each other.”
A&M will face UCLA in an elimination game Saturday morning at 11:00 a.m. The game will be televised on ESPN.

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