LINCOLN, Neb. - Aggie starting pitcher Megan Gibson tossed a three-hit shutout and posted a 2-for-3 day at the plate with two runs scored, a homerun and two RBIs as the fifth-ranked Texas A&M softball team (44-7 15-1 Big 12) picked up its 15th conference victory in a 6-0 routing of the Nebraska Cornhuskers (19-24, 1-11 Big 12) at Bowlin Stadium on Saturday.
“I thought our kids looked really good and very sharp,” A&M head coach Jo Evans said. “The way they are handling themselves at the plate, on defense, on the mound, it is very professional. It is exactly what you want your kids to look like out there.”
The shutout marked the third-consecutive shutout in the circle for Gibson (28-1) and brought her league-lead to 14 on the season. The senior posted a new career-best for seven innings of work by fanning 13 batters and allowing just two Husker hitters to reach scoring position.
“Gibson was really relaxed,” Evans said. “You could see that about her, she looked very comfortable out there. She gave up a couple of nubber kind of hits, but they were nothing to be concerned about. She kept their leadoff batter off the bases. She was in total control. I really felt like Megan and Erin Glasco knew what they were going to call out there and they kept the Nebraska hitters on their toes. She did a great job hitting her spots.”
The Aggies plated the winning run in the first inning. With one out freshman Natalie Villarreal lined a single back up the middle, marking the seventh time in 12 games that Villarreal has reached safely in her first at-bat since moving to the two-hole. Gibson walked for the 44th time this year and Jamie Hinshaw reached on a fielding error by Heidi Foland at third base. With the bases loaded Holly Ridley sharply hit a grounder to second base driving in her first of two RBIs on the afternoon.
Gibson help A&M post another run in the third inning after reaching on a fielder’s choice. Hinshaw crushed her first of two doubles on the day into the left-centerfield gap to plate her 28th RBI of the season in Gibson.
In Gibson’s third trip to the plate, the Spring, Texas native lifted a 2-0 pitch high over the left-centerfield fence that landed at the base of the flag poles. The homerun marked Gibson’s 13th this season and 56th of her Aggie career. The Big 12 career-leader in walks and homeruns, Gibson now ranks fourth all time in RBIs (180) and is just 11 shy of taking over the top spot. The two-run blast put the Aggies up 4-0.
“Gibson looked great,” Evans noted. “I thought early on Natalie was really terrific in setting the table for us. She scored the two times she got on base. Gibson just got all of [that pitch].She hit that ball hard.”
Back-to-back hits by Hinshaw and Ridley following Gibson’s longball and A&M took a 5-0 lead into the late innings.
“I thought Hinshaw was really seeing the ball well today,” Evans ended. “She looks very comfortable at the plate I like seeing her look for the drag [bunt], and then get up there and just rip the ball. She is really stepping up for us.”
The Aggies managed to drive in their final run of the game in the sixth. Senior centerfielder Jami Lobpries started the inning off with a single and quickly swiped her second stolen base of the day. Aggie shortstop Macie Morrow singled to rightfield scoring Lobpries for her 22nd RBI on the year.
Nebraska’s Molly Hill (9-13) shouldered the loss for the Huskers surrendering five runs on six hits in four innings of work. Alex Hupp and Tori Tyson combined for three innings of relief work giving up one more run on four hits.
Villarreal and Hinshaw each posted two hits on the afternoon with the freshman scoring twice and Hinshaw touching the plate once. A&M’s two-three- and four-hole hitters (Villarreal, Gibson and Hinshaw) combined to go 6-for-10 at the plate with five runs scored and three RBIs. The trio also drew three walks.
A&M and Nebraska will close-out the series on Sunday with first pitch set for noon at Bowlin Stadium.