COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The No. 21 Texas A&M softball team rallied back from another three-run deficit against No. 10 Arizona on Sunday afternoon to clinch a series win with a 5-4, eight inning victory over the Wildcats at the Aggie Softball Complex.
The Aggies (13-8) used a three-run seventh inning and scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the eighth to upset Arizona (14-4) for the second time this weekend. A&M snapped the Wildcats’ 12-game winning streak on Friday with a 6-5, nine-inning win.
“To go all out every single game this weekend has been amazing,” said senior right fielder Holly Ridley. “That is the team that we are and it’s great to see us come out and play like we did this weekend.”
Down 4-1 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Ridley stepped to the plate and laced her fifth double of the weekend. Two straight walks by senior Erin Glasco and sophomore Kelsey Spittler loaded the bases and had the crowd on its feet. With a full count, junior Alex Reynolds hit a fly ball to shallow center field where three Wildcats were waiting to catch it but the ball bounced in and out of second baseman Victoria Kemp’s glove and all three Aggies, including pinch runner Bailey Schroeder, crossed the plate to the tie game, 4-4.
Sophomore pitcher Rhi Kliesing shut down the Wildcats in the top of the eighth with two routine fly outs and a strikeout.
In the bottom half of the inning, sophomore Natalie Villarreal connected for a sharply-hit single in the circle with one out to get the Aggies’ adrenaline pumping again. Junior Macie Morrow found a hole through the right side before Arizona relieved Sarah Akamine who threw 180 pitches in the game.
The next batter Ridley, who was 3-for-3 on the day, drew a walk to load the bases for the second straight inning before senior Erin Glasco watched a fourth ball go by to pick up the game-winning RBI as Villarreal touched home plate.
“I was yelling at Erin on the 3-1 count that the pitch had to be in a soup can,” said head coach Jo Evans. “She wants to hit so bad that I was concerned she might try to hit anything that came in there. The ball was down and out and I’m pleased that she was patient.”
Arizona struck first after head coach Mike Candrea was ejected following a discussion with home plate umpire Dustin Douglass between the third and fourth innings. The second batter of the fourth, Stacie Chambers, hit a two-run home run to center field to put the Wildcats ahead, 2-0.
The Aggies put runners on base in the fifth. Morrow reached on a fielder’s choice and advanced to second on Ridley’s single to left, but a diving catch in the infield by shortstop K’Lee Arredondo ended the inning stranding two Aggies.
Spittler led off the bottom of the sixth with a long triple off the wall in right center. Reynolds followed with a hard-hit infield single that bounced off the glove of Akamine and misdirected to Victoria Kemp at second. Spittler was sprinting from third as Kemp made a throw to the plate, but the A&M left fielder slid home safely to cut the lead in half.
The Wildcats added two unearned runs in the top of the seventh after an A&M error with two outs was followed by a two-run home run by lead-off batter Brittany Lastrapes.
Ridley hit .625 on the weekend with 10 hits, including five doubles and two home runs, and eight RBIs. Kliesing went 3-0, picking up two wins against Arizona. From Pearland, Texas, the Aggies’ ace fanned 23 in 24 innings pitched.
“Ridley’s unreal and you can see that they tried everything, but they just couldn’t find a pitch to get her out,” said Evans. “She’s in a zone right now and is really letting the game come to her. She was phenomenal this weekend.
“Rhi also did a really good job. We can count on her day in and day out and she’s really grown up as a pitcher.”
The Aggies went 4-1 on the weekend and travel to Houston on Wednesday for a midweek contest against the Cougars at 6 p.m.
“These wins are really going to be a catalyst for us to move forward,” said Kliesing. “If we take the same energy we had for these games and remember the feeling we got from winning them, it will be very beneficial down the road.”