COLLEGE STATION, Texas- Freshman second baseman Natalie Villarreal hit a .750 clip going 6-for-8 on the day, including four doubles and a homerun to lead third-ranked Texas A&M (15-2) to 13-1 and 6-0 wins over North Texas (5-8) and Temple (4-5) on Saturday in day two action at the 2008 Texas A&M Invitational at the Aggie Softball Complex.
“Natalie had a spectacular night,” A&M head coach Jo Evans said. “I don’t know how she could have had a better day than she did. In that first game she did a really nice job in the leadoff spot, getting herself on and setting the table for us.”
A&M scored early and often as senior Jami Lobpries doubled to left field in the top of the first inning and came around to score on senior third baseman Jamie Hinshaw’s two-out single to right.
North Texas answered in the bottom half of the frame when freshman Mallory Cantler homered over the left-center wall.
The Aggies added two more in the top of the second. Kliesing drew a two-out walk and advanced to second on a passed ball. Shortstop Macie Morrow laced a double into the right-center gap to plate Kliesing. UNT pitcher Jennifer Smith was left seeing double when Villarreal sent a two-bagger of her own to left-center to bring Morrow home.
A&M opened the flood gates in the fourth pushing five runs across. Kliesing was hit by a pitch to leadoff the inning. Back-to-back singles by Morrow and Villarreal loaded the bases with no outs for Lobpries. Lobpries hit a sharp grounder to the shortstop who bobbled the ball before throwing it away at third allowing Morrow to reach safely and Kliesing to race home. It proved costly when senior All-American Megan Gibson sent a grand-slam blast over the leftfield wall. The homerun was the 47th of Gibson’s career, tying her for the Big 12 career homerun record.
“Gibson of course had a huge grand slam,” Evans continued. “You kind of knew it was going to happen. You sort of felt like alright bases loaded and Gibson up this is what’s going to happen, a grand slam. She got all of it. I thought she pitched really well in the first game.”
The Ags closed the door on North Texas in the top of the fifth adding five more runs. Sophomore designated hitter Alex Reynolds led off the inning with a single to left. Holly Ridley walked and Kliesing singled to load the bases. Morrow’s patience paid off as she drew a walk to force in Reynolds. Villarreal sent a bases-clearing double into the hole in left-center and reached third on an error by the centerfielder. Lobpries sent a two-bagger down the leftfield line to plate Villarreal and seal the victory for the Aggies.
Gibson improved to a perfect 8-0 on the season allowing one run on one hit and striking out six in five complete inning of work.
Smith (2-2) suffered her second loss of the season giving up 13 runs on 11 hits through four innings.
A&M’s hot bats carried over into the nightcap against Temple. The Aggies scored two-runs in the bottom of the third and four in the sixth to pick up the win over the Owls.
Villarreal drilled her fourth double of the day to lead of the bottom half of the frame for the Aggies in the third and moved to third on Lobpries’ fly out to right. Gibson walked and stole second to put runners in scoring position. Kliesing’s two-out single plated both runners to give A&M the early advantage.
Junior transfer Erin Glasco doubled to left-center to start the bottom half of the sixth, sparking a four-run rally that would stifle any hope Temple had at a comeback. Reynolds walked to put runners on first and second with one out for freshman Kelsey Spittler. Spittler hit a hard grounder to the second baseman Anna Rico who misplayed the ball allowing her to reach safely. Rico then overthrew home plate as Bailey Schroeder came around to score. Schroeder had come in to pinch run for Glasco. Reynolds moved to third on the play and Spittler advanced to second. Villarreal then sent a shot over the right centerfield wall to plate Tovar, who replaced Reynolds as a pinch runner and Spittler for her second homerun of the season.
Before our two games today we talked about dominating, really taking a team out of (the game). Temple hung around a long time in the game,” Evans said. “I thought they did a good job. I loved us putting up a four-spot to give us some distance. I think our defense is playing well. Typically making the plays we need to make. It’s just nice to have our pitchers show up and give us a chance every game. It’s nice to see us come out and take charge of our own tournament.”
Katie Burdeaux dropped to 1-2 on the year, allowing six runs on seven hits and four walks in six complete innings of work.
Kliesing earned the win in the circle, tossing seven complete innings of shutout softball, striking out six and allowing just two hits to improve to 3-0 on the season. The newcomer also hit .500 on the day going 2-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBIs. In her last three starts, Kliesing has only surrendered one free pass in 21 innings.
“Rhi looks really good,” Evans ended. “I thought tonight Temple hit the ball hard. I thought we made some really nice plays; Rhi took one off the shin there where she probably got too much play. I thought Natalie made some really nice plays on some hard hit balls. They were on Rhi a little bit better this game and some of the teams have been on her. The thing I like was when they were hitting her hard; she and Alex started to mix it up.”
Tournament play resumes on Sunday at 9 a.m. with a game between Temple and Sam Houston. A&M will close out tournament play at 12:15 p.m. against North Texas.
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