AMES, Iowa- The sixth-ranked Texas A&M softball team combined for 20 total hits and 20 total runs to run-rule the Iowa State Cyclones 11-1 and 9-1 in a Saturday doubleheader at the Southwest Athletic Complex in Ames, Iowa.
With the two victories the Aggies (36-6) remain flawless in Big 12 play with an 8-0 record. Iowa State (23-17) falls to 1-5 in league play.
“I am really pleased with the way our kids played today,” A&M head coach Jo Evans said. “I thought we played really nice defense and our pitchers just gave us a chance to win the ballgame. We came out really swinging the bats. We were aggressive and showed good discipline at the plate for the most part. We put a lot of pressure on their defense.”
The Aggies jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first game of the twinbill, plating Natalie Villarreal in the top of the first. The freshman second baseman reached after being plunked in the head by the first pitch of her at-bat. Megan Gibson drew her 35th walk of the season to put runners at first and second for Jamie Hinshaw. Hinshaw looped a soft liner into rightfield for the RBI.
Gibson, who entered the game with a 21-0 record, started the game by retiring the side with three strikeouts in the first.
The Aggies brought 12 batters to the plate in the second inning, posting a six-spot.
With the bases loaded, Macie Morrow fisted an inside pitch just over the head of Cyclone second baseman Amanda Bradberry to start A&M’s scoring attack. The Aggies drew two walks in the frame and two batters were hit by a pitch. A&M also managed to grind out four hits, including a double to start the inning by designated player Alex Reynolds.
Rachel Zabriskie (11-7) got the nod for the Cyclones and only lasted 1 1/3 innings. She was charged with all seven of the Aggies’ runs after surrendering five hits and three free passes, two of which were drawn by Gibson. Senior Amie Ford came in to relieve Zabriskie.
With two outs in the third inning, Gibson was hit by a pitch and Hinshaw followed up with a double that dropped at the base of the leftfield fence just a few inches inside the foul line, scoring Gibson from first.
A&M managed to chase Ford from the game after 1 1/3 innings of work. Ford allowed three runs on one hit, one walk and drilled six Aggie batters. Charissa Carlin finished the remaining 2 1/3 innings.
Iowa State showed a little life in the bottom of the fourth putting two runners into scoring position after a lead off single, a fielder’s choice and a hit batsman. After striking out Jacquelyn Beatty, Syndi Jones dropped a bloop shot in just behind the circle to score Alex Johnson. Bradberry tried to scratch another run across but was cut down as Gibson picked up the single and fired home to Erin Glasco for the tag-out.
Gibson retired the final three Cyclone batters via the ground out and a strikeout to improve to 22-0 on the season and 6-0 in Big 12 play. She allowed just four hits over five innings, striking out seven.
“We are feeling really comfortable at the plate and Gibson looked great on the mound,” Evans said. “I just like the way we were looking for good pitches to hit. We got hit a bunch of times, I think seven times, and we took our walks. We didn’t have a ton of base hits, but I thought we hit the ball hard and we were patient at the plate.”
In the second game of the doubleheader it was the Cyclones who drew first-blood plating a single run in the bottom of the first.
The Aggies countered pushing three runs across in the top of the second. Reynolds drew a walk with one out in the inning and scored easily on the triple down the rightfield line by Lobpries. A single by freshman Kelsey Spittler and double by Villarreal drove in the remaining two runs.
The Cyclones put more traffic on the base-paths in the bottom half of the third frame. Courtney Wray reached after a booted ball by the Aggies. Wray moved to second when Bradberry hit a one-out infield single. Wray would be stranded when Villarreal, Morrow and Gibson turned a double play to end the inning.
Villarreal came out and showed some muscle in the top of the fourth, stroking a 3-1 pitch deep over the rightfield wall to increase the Aggies’ lead to 6-1. Two batters later A&M would push that lead to 7-1 after Hinshaw blasted a homerun of her own, a solo shot clearing the right-centerfield fence, just under the Cyclone scoreboard.
In the top of the fifth the Aggies added two more runs to bring the run-rule into effect. Again Reynolds reached with one out, this time a ball deep in the hole between third and shortstop. Pinch-hitter Bailey Schroeder also hit an infield single setting Spittler up for an RBI single up the middle. Morrow grounded out to second but drove in Schroeder to put A&M up 9-1.
Rhi Kliesing (10-4), A&M’s starter in the second game, coaxed three groundouts to end the fifth inning and preserve her 10th victory of the season, second in league play. Kliesing worked seven complete allowing just one run on seven hits. She struck out four Cyclone batters without allowing a walk.
“I thought Rhi threw really well all day,” said Evans. “She moved the ball well and mixed up her speeds a little bit. She threw the ball on the corners. I was really pleased to see Rhi get a good game in there.”
Villarreal ended the second game going 3-for-3 at the plate with a walk and four RBIs off a double and a homerun.
“Natalie looked fantastic,” Evans ended. “I thought she was seeing the ball well all day. The first game she was hitless, but she hit the ball hard and had an RBI. They couldn’t throw anything by her in the second game. She looked so comfortable at the plate. She’s helping to set the table for us in the two-hole. The kid has a lot of RBIs, too. She can hit in pressure situations.”
The Aggies head to Austin on Wednesday for the State Farm Lonestar Showdown to close out the three-game Big 12 road swing. First pitch at McCombs Field is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. and can be heard on aggieathletics.com and locally on Sports Radio 1150 The Zone.
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