COLLEGE STATION, Texas- Senior All-American Megan Gibson tossed a four-hit gem and blasted back-to-back homers with senior Jamie Hinshaw to power the third-ranked Texas A&M softball team (24-3) to a pair of wins over Louisiana-Lafayette, 1-0 and BYU, 3-1, on a chilly Friday at the Aggie Softball Complex.
“I was really proud of the way our kids came out and battled at the plate,” A&M head coach Jo Evans said. “There were a lot of hard hit balls that died in the wind today. I was very pleased with the way our kids made the necessary adjustments at the plate to be able to come away with both victories.”
Gibson and ULL (12-4) starting pitcher Brittany Cuevas were locked in a pitchers dual until the bottom of the seventh. Junior right fielder Holly Ridley drew a walk to start the inning and was replaced at first base by pinch runner Bailey Schroeder. Freshman Kelsey Spittler laid down a perfectly executed bunt single to advance Schroeder and move runners into scoring position for the Aggies’ leadoff hitter Natalie Villarreal.
Villarreal laced a hard grounder past a diving Brooke Brodhead at shortstop into left-centerfield allowing a hustling Schroeder to race home. The run was the second game-winner Schroeder has scored this season as a pinch runner.
“In the first game we talked about the team that can execute and move runners with this wind is going to be the team that is going to win,” Evans said. “At first, we struggled with moving runners. We finally at the end moved some runners, but we need to do a better job with that. Kelsey was one of those people that stepped up and got her bunts down and moved runners and got herself on base.”
A&M had a chance to score in the bottom of the fifth when shortstop Macie Morrow singled back to the pitcher and advanced to third when Cuevas threw the ball out of the reach of ULL first baseman Gabriele Bridges and down the right field fence-line. Ridley walked and Spittler loaded the bases on a sacrifice bunt when Cuevas opted to hold Morrow at third. But Cuevas was able to coax a ground ball and a fly out to end in inning.
With the win Gibson improved to 13-0, striking out nine and surrendering just one walk en route to tossing her eighth complete game shutout of the season. The Spring, Texas-native boasts a .67 ERA and has not allowed an earned run in 38.1 innings.
The loss drops Cuevas to 1-1 on the year. She allowed one run on six hits, striking out six and giving up four walks through six complete innings of work.
BYU (12-8) struck first in the nightcap, scoring its only run of the game in the bottom half of the opening frame. Monica Gonzales reached on a fielder’s choice and advanced to second on Amanda Vance’s ground ball out to Gibson at first. Right fielder Emi Willing singled up the middle to plate Gonzales and give BYU the early, 1-0 lead before A&M starting pitcher Rhiannon Kliesing enticed Daniela Snow to pop up to short to end the inning.
A&M looked as if it were going to down quietly in the top of the third when Gibson sent the first pitch she saw, a two-out shot, over the wall in right field to tie the game at one-all. Hinshaw followed with her first homerun of the season to roughly the exact same spot bringing the score to 2-1 in favor of A&M.
“Gibson hits the homerun, just a line drive over the fence, and you are kind of wondering whether or not it’s going to get over,” Evans said. “Hinshaw’s (homerun) was a no doubter. Oddly enough it was just her first one of the year. The thing she is doing right now is hitting for average. She is hitting behind Gibson and doing a nice job. I am pleased to see her hit the ball hard like that.”
The Aggies added an insurance run in the fourth when consecutive singles by Kliesing and Spittler and an illegal pitch from BYU reliever Christina Trice set up Villarreal with runners on second and third and one out. The newcomer sent a 2-1 pitch up the middle for the Aggies third-straight single of the inning, allowing Kliesing to score.
“I was excited in the fourth inning, you usually say you’ve got ducks on the pond, but we had fish on the pond,” Evans said. “We had all three of our freshmen out that there that were in the game. They got themselves on base; I thought the freshmen looked good at the plate tonight. Natalie stepped up and got the big RBI we needed to put us another run up. I was really pleased to see the freshmen swing the bat the way they did.”
The three-spot was enough for the freshman Kliesing, who collected her seventh win of the season, improving to 7-1. She allowed just one run on six hits, while striking out three and not allowing a walk through seven complete.
“I thought both our pitchers looked good,” Evans ended. “Rhi especially I thought was so right on. They scattered six hits, but she shut them down. BYU couldn’t get the timely hits, just a couple of bleeders through the infield. BYU did a good job of hitting behind the runner and getting the ground ball to move the runner, but they could never get the real timely hit after that first inning. I thought Rhi looked really sharp on the mound. She didn’t make a lot of mistakes. BYU has a good hitting team. They have some really good hitters in their lineup. To shut them down to just one run is a big deal.”
BYU starting pitcher Christie Zinanti was charged with the loss as she dropped to 3-4 on the year. The sophomore allowed three runs on six hits, striking out four while allowing two walks through 3 1/3 innings.
The Aggies return to action Saturday with games against Illinois and ULL at 3 p.m. and 5:15 p.m., respectively.