OKLAHOMA CITY-- Freshman pinch runner Andrea Tovar scored the winning run for the fifth-seeded Texas A&M softball team (55-7) in the sixth inning of the Aggies’ opening game of the 2008 Women’s College World Series against the Virginia Tech Hokies (38-9).
A&M won the 1-0 contest with two hits off USA Softball National Player of the Year Angela Tincher and a throwing error by Virginia Tech third baseman Charisse Mariconda.
“It feels great to get that first win,” A&M head coach Jo Evans said. “Last year we exited mighty early and we have been talking about getting back here ever since. I’m really proud of our kids. The biggest thing we told to our kids was that, ‘We were going to have some strikeouts; this pitcher is a strikeout pitcher and you’re going to strikeout in this game. How are you going to handle that? What are you going to learn from your at bat and your teammate’s at bats? And what are you going to take up to your next at bat?’
I said to them, ‘As long as you can keep loose and not get heavy about that [striking out] we are going to be fine. We’ll just keep plucking along. We’ll keep going until we score a run. It doesn’t matter how long it takes.’ I thought our kids really kept their composure and did a nice job up there of putting the ball in play.”
With one out in the bottom of the sixth freshman Rhiannon Kliesing lined a shot in shallow right field. Kliesing was lifted for Tovar who moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by lefty-second baseman Natalie Villarreal. With two down three-time NFCA All-American Megan Gibson hit a liner at Mariconda who fielded the ball cleanly but threw wide of Beth Walker at first base, allowing Tovar to take home and Gibson to sit safely on the bag.
The Hokies managed to have runners in scoring position twice in their last three at bats however Gibson’s dominance in the circle continued as the senior used two strikeouts and two pop-outs to work herself out of the jam.
Gibson posted her 39th victory working, seven complete en route to her 20th shutout of the season. She did not surrender a free pass, scattering just five hits and striking out nine Hokie hitters. With her 38th complete, Gibson dropped her overall ERA to a 0.96.
Tincher’s numbers were strikingly similar to Gibson’s, fanning nine Aggie batters without allowing a walk. With the unearned run in the sixth, Tincher fell to 38-9 on the year.
The victory marked the first for the Aggies in the WCWS in nearly 20 years. In 1988, facing elimination, A&M posted a 3-0 win over Northern Illinois in Sunnyvale, Calif.
The Aggies are just one win away from tying a school record for most wins in a season (56) set by the 1987 and ’94 squads.
The Aggies will face the Louisiana-Lafayette Rajin’ Cajuns on Friday at 6 p.m. on ESPN2. Louisiana-Lafayette advanced to day two action after beating the Florida Gators 3-2 in extra inning. First pitch between the Aggies and Cajuns can be heard locally in Bryan/College Station on Sports Radio 1150 the Zone. Live stats will be available on aggieathletics.com.