COLLEGE STATION, Texas- Texas A&M senior All-American Megan Gibson became the Big 12’s career homerun leader with her 48th longball in the nightcap of a two-game series against the 14th-ranked Houston Cougars (14-2) on Wednesday. A&M (18-2) won both of the games played at the Aggie Softball Complex 2-0, 8-7, respectively, as it handed Houston its first two losses of the season.
“I knew coming into tonight it was going to be a real dogfight,” A&M head coach Jo Evans said. “I’m really proud of our kids and the way they fought. I thought all of our players fought hard and wanted to win. I tip my hat to Houston. They have a really good ballclub and they’re going to win a ton of games this season. It was really fun to see us come out on top tonight.”
Gibson pitched herself to a perfect 9-0 record in the circle, working seven complete and keeping UH from plating a run. Gibson struck out six; surrendering just five hits.
After yielding a walk to Katie Bush in the first inning, Gibson retired the next seven batters. The Cougars first hit of the game was a two-out single by Jessica Valis in the third inning. Over the course of the game, Gibson allowed just four Houston runners to reach scoring position.
“I thought Gibson was terrific on the mound again and defensively we really took care of the ball in game one,” Evans noted. “She really shut them down and did a nice job. She didn’t make many mistakes. I think they had a couple hits but she did a great job. She has really great presence on the mound and at the plate. I’ve been coaching her a long time now and it still impresses me.”
Senior third baseman Jamie Hinshaw was responsible for scoring both of the Aggies’ runs. In the second inning she reached on an error by her UH counterpart Christa Raley. A&M shortstop Macie Morrow drove Hinshaw home, her 11th RBI of the season, on a double down the leftfield line.
Hinshaw would touch home again in the sixth, reaching on a walk and burning up the base paths on Erin Glasco’s double in the right-centerfield gap.
The second game of the doubleheader saw six lead changes and four homeruns in seven innings. The Cougars started the game with two runs in the top of the first. With two outs Elaina Nordstrom singled to leftfield and trotted home on the two-run blast by Jennifer Klinkert.
It took the Aggies until the top of the third to counter and take a one-run lead. Freshmen Kelsey Spittler drew a one-out walk on four straight pitches, and was able to advance to second on an infield ground out by Natalie Villarreal. Senior centerfielder Jami Lobpries singled up the middle, plating Spittler. With two-outs, Gibson took the seventh pitch of a full-count opposite field for her fifth homerun of the season and team-leading 21st RBI as broke the Big 12 career record previously held by Jennifer Lizama of Nebraska (1997-2000).
“I’m really excited for Megan,” Evans said. “She really deserves it. She is a tremendous hitter. She knows the strike-zone probably better than anyone I’ve ever coached. She really has a good feel up there. You saw her tonight battle with two strikes and go the opposite way with that homerun. It’s really fun to see her get in the record books.”
A&M and Houston continued to match-up run-for-run over the next three innings; with Houston taking the advantages of a couple of pitching mistakes by freshmen Rhi Kliesing. In the top of the fifth and sixth innings Nordstrom and Haley Valis each tagged Kliesing for a homerun, Nordstrom’s a two-run shot and Valis’ a solo round-tripper.
Heading into the bottom of the seventh the game was tied at seven. A&M designated player Alex Reynolds singled to start the inning. Bailey Schroeder flexed as a pinch runner for Reynolds. Spittler hit a hard grounder towards first that tipped off the glove of Klinkert. Haley Valis tried to recover and throw Spittler out but the ball scooted past Klinkert, allowing Schroeder and Spittler to move into scoring position without any outs. Villarreal reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases. With the patience and experience of a veteran player, Lobpries took four straight pitches to walk home the winning run for the Aggies.
“You know Lobpries is going to get the job done,” said Evans. “She was feeling really comfortable at the plate and I know she was excited to be up there. Jami can be aggressive and want to make something happen but she was patience up there and took her walk. She knew that the pitcher was struggling a bit. Jami took a big RBI walk for us.”
Kliesing continued the perfect start to her career, moving to 5-0 on the season. She worked seven complete giving up seven runs on 12 hits. She did not allow a free pass during the game.
“Rhi learned tonight that you can’t make mistakes against a good-hitting team,” Evans ended. “Houston took advantage of the mistakes that she made. You saw her throw a lot of pitches on the plate and they hit them hard. She’s going to have to learn. The thing I like though is she kept fighting and kept battling. Her teammates were pulling hard for her in that dugout. It was her game to win or lose. I really respect that she didn’t give up.”
Reliever Barbie Love was charged with the loss, her first of the season for Houston. She worked an inning and a third allowing two runs to score on three hits and three walks.
The Aggie batters combined for 14 hits on the day. Lobpries and Gibson each recorded two RBIs on the day with Morrow going 3-for-7 with a run scored and a run driven in.
A&M will continue its trek through its non-conference schedule this weekend in Georgia. The Aggies will take part in the NFCA Leadoff Classic held in Columbus and will face No. 19 DePaul on Friday at 3:00 p.m.
Score by Innings 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
Houston 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 1
Texas A&M 0 1 0 0 0 1 X 2 4 0
E - RALEY. LOB - HOU 6; Texas A&M 5. 2B - WAGNER; Glasco; Morrow. HBP - Hinshaw; Ridley. SH - Glasco. SB -
VALIS J.; RALEY. CS - Lobpries.
Win - Gibson (9-0). Loss - SHAMBLIN (7-1). Save - None.
HBP - by SHAMBLIN (Ridley); by SHAMBLIN (Hinshaw)
Score by Innings 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
Houston 2 0 0 2 2 1 0 7 12 2
Texas A&M 0 0 3 2 0 2 1 8 10 2
Note: 1 out, 3 runners LOB when the game ended.
E - VALIS, H.; WILLOW; Morrow 2. LOB - HOU 5; Texas A&M 11. HR - NORDSTROM; KLINKERT; VALIS, H.; Gibson. SB -
WAGNER; GROTE. CS - Morrow.
Win - Kliesing (5-0). Loss - LOVE (3-1). Save - None.
WP - LOVE. PB - NORDSTROM.