COLLEGE STATION, Texas- Back-to-back hits by freshmen Rhiannon Kliesing and Natalie Villarreal in the bottom of the fifth frame gave the fifth-ranked Texas A&M softball team (52-7) all the run support it would need to secure its spot in the NCAA Softball Super Regional as Megan Gibson tossed her second-career no-hitter to beat Louisiana Tech (37-29) 6-0 in Sunday’s championship game of the College Station Regional.
The Aggies posted a five-spot in the fifth as Jamie Hinshaw laced a bases-clearing single into rightfield scoring Villarreal and Gibson. Just one batter later, Holly Ridley blasted an opposite-field homerun on a 3-1 pitch to push the score 5-0 in A&M’s favor. The longball was Ridley’s sixth of the season. The first-time All-Big 12 outfielder logged her 25th and 26th RBIs of the season on the hit.
“I’m excited about the way our team played,” A&M head coach Jo Evans said. “We talked about it yesterday, about how we were going to come out with more enthusiasm and more intensity. You saw that in our team. It still took a little while for us to get rolling but I liked our energy.”
For the second straight game, Gibson started her outing by striking out the side. The two-time NFCA All-American fanned 11 batters earning her 13th double-digit strikeout performance of the year. With her 19th shutout of the season, Gibson moved to 36-1 on the mound with a 0.92 ERA.
“Of course, Gibson was fantastic on the mound and in control all game,” Evans noted. “Our defense, I thought, was very solid. We made all the plays we needed to make. It’s just nice to come out and win a championship at our place and do it in the fashion that we did.”
The only Lady Techster batter to reach base was Kylie Bassestt who manage to draw a walk in the second inning. Gibson was just the one walk shy of a perfect game, sitting down 17-consecutive batters.
Hinshaw finished the College Station Regional going 4-for-9 (.444) at the plate with two runs scored and four RBIs. The senior third baseman was also a perfect 4-for-4 in stolen bases. The 2008 Midwest All-Region selection was perfect in the field, not committing an error in three games.
In her last six starts Gibson has surrendered just one run, striking out 63 batters in 42 innings of work. A&M has outscored its opponents in 21-1 in 2008 postseason play (Big 12 Championship and College Station Regional).
“Megan was clearly dominating the entire weekend and has really done a good job helping us out,” Evans ended. “She’s just been unbelievable. It was nice to see kids stepping up in key situations. We were able to be aggressive on the bases, but have people step up and get some big RBIs.”
Krissi Oliver (18-15) harbored the loss for La Tech, working 4.1 innings before Wanda Malone was brought in for relief. Oliver allowed five runs on seven hits and two free passes. Malone was responsible for the Aggies’ sixth run of the game walking two more A&M hitters.
The Aggies will face the winner of No. 1 seed Stanford and No. 2 seed UMass in the College Station Super Regional set to begin next weekend at the Aggie Softball Complex. More information on the super regional can be found this week on aggieathletis.com.