COLUMBIA, S.C. – Despite late home runs from seniors Nicole Morgan and Amber Garza, the No. 13 Texas A&M softball team fell, 3-4, at South Carolina in the Southeastern Conference series finale between the Aggies (21-7, 3-3) and Gamecocks (16-8, 2-4). With the win, the Gamecocks take the series, 2-1, after sweeping both games Saturday.
South Carolina took an early 3-0 lead on a home run in the bottom of the first. Two runners reached on base hits with one out before the two-out shot hit the foul pole in left field to score the three runs. Aggie freshman pitcher Abby Donnell kept her head in the game, however, and fanned the next batter to end the inning with two strikeouts.
The Aggies had also put two runners on base in the first, on an error and a one-out walk, but were unable to capitalize on the opportunity.
Texas A&M loaded the bases with one out in the top of the second and senior Emily Albus put the Aggies on the board with a sacrifice fly out to centerfield that narrowed the deficit to 3-1 in the Gamecocks’ favor. Senior Taran Tyler reached on an error and scored an unearned run on the play. Tyler was joined on base by Donnell, who singled down the line in left field, and junior Brittany Clopton who placed a perfect bunt in front of the plate for an infield single.
The Gamecocks sent a runner to third in the bottom of the inning, but Donnell’s third strikeout of the game sent the home team back to the dugout.
After two straight three-up, three-down innings for both teams, the Aggies sent two runners into scoring position in the fifth. Albus drew a one-out walk and was joined on base by freshman April Ryan, who reached on an error. Both runners advanced on a groundout, but were left in scoring position on the third out.
USC followed suit in the fifth, putting two runners in scoring position with one out on a fielding error and a double. A sacrifice fly was the second out as the Gamecocks stretched to a 4-1 lead.
The Aggies’ left-on-base tally reached nine after the top of the sixth when the half-inning ended with bases loaded. With two outs on the board, senior Jenna Stark reached on an error and was replaced at first by pinch runner Allison Garrett. Donnell hit through the right side to join Garrett, and the pair advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch. Pinch hitter Cali Lanphear drew a four-pitch walk to juice the bags but all three runners were left on base.
The Gamecocks left two on base in the sixth as the Aggie defense held the duo in scoring position. USC stranded five runners through the complete game.
USC put one away in the top of the seventh before Morgan hammered a ball over left field to cut the Gamecocks’ lead to two runs at 4-2. With two outs, Garza followed suit with a shot over centerfield to bring the final score to 3-4.
Donnell (3-1) suffered the loss, giving up three earned runs on six hits while striking out five through four complete innings. Sophomore transfer Katie Marks tossed two shutout frames, fanning two batters and letting two on base on a walk and a hit. USC starter Nickie Blue (10-4) took the win after allowing no earned runs on three hits and two walks in 5.2 innings of work.
The Aggies and Gamecocks played game two of the series earlier in the day as the first game of a doubleheader. USC earned the win in game one of the doubleheader with a two-run walk-off home run in the seventh inning.
Up next, the Aggies return to College Station to host Northwestern in a single game Wednesday before continuing SEC play with a three-game series at home against Georgia next weekend. To learn more about Texas A&M softball, log on to AggieAthletics.com and follow @AggieSoftball on Twitter.
HEAD COACH JO EVANS
On the day as a whole…
“It’s a rough deal. We came in here feeling really good about ourselves. Nobody wants to play a doubleheader, but I felt good about it in terms of our pitchers and who we have able to throw for us. We didn’t come out and take care of business. I didn’t like our approach at the plate all day. Even in that first game, their kid throws a gem and we still have a chance to win it and Rachel Fox goes out – throws a really great ballgame – and she rolls up a ground ball with two outs. It was an easy play and we don’t make it, and there you go. It was a disappointing first loss, but we’ve got to get right back at it and go after it. Abby Donnell goes out there and gives up a three-run home run in the first inning, but you still feel like ‘Hey, we can score runs. We’re a good hitting ball club.’ I just didn’t like our approach. I thought we fought ourselves all day. I thought we got too discouraged, instead of saying ‘Next at bat, I’m going to get it.’ I felt like we weren’t mature in how we handled some adversity and it really came back to haunt us.”
On whether the first game of the doubleheader affected the second…
“It is tough to come back. Definitely, if you’re the team that wins that in that kind of fashion, you certainly have momentum especially if you’re at home. But that’s no excuse for us. We’re better than that. I felt that we played defeated. I thought we played defensive, and you’re not going to beat teams doing that, especially not good teams like this. I tip my hat to South Carolina. Their pitchers came out today and did a nice job against us. But we’ve got to be smart to the end. We go up there in the seventh, down 4-1. I’m saying ‘Take a walk, get hit, whatever it takes,’ and April Ryan, our freshman who’s been great for us all year, gets up there and swings at two balls over her head. It’s the difference in the game if the kid is patient enough, lets the game come to her and takes a walk right there. We end up with the score tied, and then we’re still playing it. Those are little things. The other thing is we keep it at three, we’ve got a chance and we go out there and boot a ball in the fifth inning and that run ends up scoring. I look at it – if a team makes four errors against you with the talent we have, we should run away with that game. They did a good job of taking advantage of mistakes when we made them. Their opportunities on the two errors we made ended up being the difference in both ballgames.”