LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The No. 17 Texas A&M softball team (4-0) battled through a late scoring surge by the Bruins to defeat 19th-ranked host school UCLA (3-1), 7-6 in extra innings, Sunday in the final day of Stacy Winsberg Memorial tournament at Easton Stadium.
The Aggies stranded 12 runners through the game but held 11 Bruins on the paths for the eight-inning win. Senior Meagan May and freshman Cali Lanphear each had 3-for-5 efforts on the day to defeat the 12-time national champions.
Junior Nicole Morgan, who entered the game with an already impressive 2013 résumé that included a .667 average and six hits including a grand slam and two other home runs, started the A&M scoring with a two-out bomb over left in the top of the first.
The Aggies abandoned a bases-loaded effort in the top of the second, unable to send a run across the plate. Lanphear hammered a base hit to the shortstop to lead off in the second and was thrown out when junior Jenna Stark reached on a fielder’s choice. Singles from junior Amber Garza and sophomore Brittany Clopton juiced the bags before a pair of strikeouts ended the frame.
The A&M defense struggled in the bottom of the inning, letting two base hits put runners on first and second before senior hurler Mel Dumezich worked through an at-bat to catch a hitter swinging to end the inning.
Dumezich carried the momentum into the top of the third, sending a ball through the left side for a base hit. The Whiting, Ind., native was tossed out at second as junior Cassie Tysarczyk took first on a fielder’s choice. With two outs and a runner on base, Lanphear showed her strong swing as she sailed a home run over the fence in right-center that gave the Aggies a 3-0 jump. The long ball was the team’s ninth of the season through four games.
The Aggies continued to work themselves out of defensive jams with Dumezich leading the way. The right-hander threw strikeouts with runners in scoring position in the second, third and fourth innings to hold onto shutout innings.
A&M left the bases loaded again in the top of the fifth. May led off with a hard-hit double to left-center field and was replaced on the base paths by junior Allison Garrett. Garrett moved to second when Morgan reached on a fielding error at first and a Tysarczyk walk loaded the bags but two straight outs ended the half-inning.
After a quick out in the bottom of the fifth, a fielding error put a Bruins runner on first. UCLA right fielder B.B. Bates hammered a pitch to left-center field that would have surely been a double, but Aggie left fielder Clopton sprinted over and caught the ball backhanded in midair for the out and the inning ended with the same 3-0 A&M lead.
With two outs in the top of the sixth, junior Emily Albus slapped an infield single to reach. May hit a ball on the screws and put it on the line in left to reach before advancing on the throw to place runners at second and third. An intentional walk to Morgan loaded the bases but a line drive to the third baseman ended the half-inning in a stalemate and with A&M bases loaded for the third time.
A single and a two-out walk in the bottom of the sixth put Bruins on first and second. A batted ball was bobbled at short and overthrown at first before rolling out of play and sending two runs home to narrow the score to a 3-2 A&M lead.
Looking to get the Aggies back into a comfortable lead, Tysarczyk worked to a full count before bludgeoning a pitch and sending it over dead-center field for a 4-2 home run. Lanphear stepped up in the next at-bat and followed suit, easily topping the wall in right-center and chasing the Bruins’ starting pitcher.
UCLA mounted a major comeback in the bottom of the inning on a pair of home runs that tied the game at 5-5 with two outs. Dumezich fanned two batters and let one on base with a single to right before a single through the left side put a runner in scoring position.
The game entered extra innings and the international tiebreaker rule put Clopton at second to run. An Albus sacrifice bunt moved the runner to second before May went yard over center for her third hit of the day and the Aggies’ fifth homer of the day, bringing A&M back into a 7-5 lead.
The Bruins scored one on an error and a sacrifice fly out in the bottom of the eighth, but the Aggies shut the game down with a 7-6 extra-inning victory.
Dumezich (3-0) earned the win after throwing 10 strikeouts through seven innings. She gave up three earned runs on nine hits and three walks. Sophomore Lauren Ainsley threw one inning of relief for the save, allowing one unearned run on no hits and no walks.
UCLA reliever Jessica Hall (1-0) took the loss, giving up one earned run on one hit and one walk while striking out one.
The Aggies went 4-0 on opening weekend and return to Texas for a Wednesday game at Sam Houston State before hosting the Aggie Classic Feb. 15-17 at the Aggie Softball Stadium. To learn more about Texas A&M softball, log on to AggieAthletics.com and follow @AggieSoftball on Twitter.