COLLEGE STATION, Texas- The third-ranked Texas A&M softball team (16-2) made a clean sweep of the Texas A&M Invitational defeating North Texas, 9-1, on a breezy Sunday afternoon at the Aggie Softball Complex.
“It’s nice to play at home and I thought our kids really stepped up and did a good job and swung the bats well,” A&M head coach Jo Evans said. “I thought our pitching really gave us a chance to win every game and that’s all you can ask of those kids. I also think our outfielders in general looked pretty good playing the ball off the wall today.”
A&M struck first in the bottom half of the second when junior Holly Ridley drove a two-strike double down the right field line and advanced to third on Macie Morrow’s single to right. Morrow then stole second to move runners into scoring position. Kliesing doubled to centerfield platting two Aggie runs. North Texas second baseman Kadie Platt bobbled Natalie Villarreal’s grounder allowing her to reach first safely and an attentive Kliesing to come around to score, putting the Aggies up by three.
UNT’s lone run came in the fourth inning. Kliesing coaxed the first two batters to pop up and ground out before Mean Green first baseman Kristina Fowler doubled off the wall in center. Third baseman Sarah Jones singled to left center to score Fowler. Kliesing walked the next two batters to load the bases for Platt, who went down swinging to end any kind of rally North Texas was trying to mount.
“We wanted to give Rhi innings and she got that,” Evans said. “She may have been a little tired today, but she probably wouldn’t say that. It’s been a long time since she’s thrown three days in a row like that. She wasn’t quite as sharp as she’s been in the other games. But I like seeing how she handled the situation where they got runners on and had a chance to get right back in the game. She was able to shut them down.”
A&M answered in the bottom half of the frame. Villarreal sent a one-out single to right and stole her third base of the year. Jami Lobpries walked on an eight-pitch at bat, setting up Jamie Hinshaw with runners on first and second. Hinshaw singled to right field as Villarreal came around to score.
The hits kept coming for the Aggies in the fifth as Ridley led off the inning with a single to left center and moved over to second on a wild pitch. Morrow hit a sharp grounder back to UNT pitcher Kayla Lawson who threw out Ridley trying to take third. Morrow swiped her sixth base of the season and moved to third on Kliesing’s single to centerfield. Freshman Andrea Tovar replaced Kliesing at first and stole second to put runners in scoring position for leftfielder Kelsey Spittler. Spittler hit a long fly ball to right giving Morrow plenty of time to score and allowing Tovar to move over to third. Villarreal and Lobpries saw back-to-back walks to load the bases for A&M’s career homerun leader Megan Gibson. The senior sent a stand-up, bases-clearing double down the left field line to chase UNT starting pitcher Lawson from the game.
Fowler relieved Lawson in the circle, moving over from first base. Fowler walked Hinshaw and beamed junior transfer Erin Glasco to fill the bases but enticed Ridley to groundout to end the inning.
North Texas threatened in the top of the sixth when pinch hitter Taylor Johnston struck out swinging but advanced to first on a wild pitch. Back-to-back singles loaded the bases for the Mean Green but Kliesing, buckled down and retired the next two batters, striking out centerfielder Mariza Martinez and cajoling leftfielder Lauren Bergstrom into a groundout.
“I would tip my hat to North Texas,” Evans continued. “I thought they played well. They went out and swung the bat well and hit the ball hard. I thought our outfielders did a nice job to keep their runners at one as opposed to getting a double every time.”
A&M pushed another run across in the bottom of the inning to bring the run rule into effect. Morrow and Kliesing laced consecutive outfield singles to put runners on first and second with no outs for Spittler. Spittler sent a double into the right center gap to plate Morrow and seal the Aggies victory.
“It is nice to see those kids (the freshmen) get comfortable and they are having fun,” Evans said. “They have tremendous leadership from the upperclassmen that gives them the chance to relax and play the game. I am pleased to see that, and to see Kelsey get a couple of RBIs to help us win the game today.”
Lawson dropped to 2-3 on the year allowing eight runs on 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings of work. Fowler was charged with the other Aggie run.
Kliesing improved to 4-0 surrendering her first run in her last 24 2/3 innings of work. She struckout eight through six complete innings in the circle.
A&M returns to action Wednesday as it hosts the No.16 University of Houston in a doubleheader at the Aggie Softball Complex. First pitch of game one is slated for 4 p.m.