COLLEGE STATION, Texas- Senior Cassie Tysarczyk came through with an eighth-inning walk-off hit as the No. 13 Texas A&M softball team took its first Southeastern Conference series, 2-1, with a 4-3 win over No. 15 Missouri in the series finale. The Aggies improve to 19-5 on the season and 2-1 in the SEC after the first weekend of conference action, and the Tigers fall to 13-5 with a 1-2 SEC mark.
Tysarczyk’s blast to the wall in left field was her only hit of the day, but it was all the Aggies needed as senior Emily Albus easily scored the game winner from third.
Senior Nicole Morgan’s three-run home run in the bottom of the third inning brought Texas A&M back into the game after Missouri’s three-run bomb in the top of the inning. The slugger hit two three-run home runs against the Tigers this weekend.
The game started in a pitcher’s duel with senior Taran Tyler being the only runner to reach base through two complete innings. Tyler’s laser up the middle hit Missouri pitcher Tori Finucane in the shin and stopped play as the hurler’s leg was examined, but she finished the game in the circle for the Tigers.
Missouri struck first with a third-inning home run down the right-field line that plated three runs after a pair of runners reached on infield singles, but the Aggies didn’t let the lead last long.
Morgan hit her ninth home run of the season to continue to lead the team in the bottom of the third. The blast over left-centerfield tied the game as three unearned runs were added to the board for Texas A&M. Senior pinch Allison Garrett, running for senior Jenna Stark after a base hit put her on first, and freshman April Ryan, who reached on an error, scored on the play.
Mizzou put a runner on base in the top of the fourth, but a double play turned by Tyler sent two back to the dugout before Aggie reliever Katie Marks caught the final batter looking with her first strikeout of the game.
The Tigers also turned a double play to end the fifth, after Stark reached on her first hit-by-pitch of the game and her third of the weekend.
Ryan led off with a base hit to right in the bottom of the sixth, but a pair of fielder’s choices and a groundout ended the inning with the game locked in a 3-3 tie.
Marks worked the Aggies out of a jam in the top of the seventh when a Missouri reached third with two outs. The sophomore transfer tossed her third strikeout of the day to end the inning.
Texas A&M quickly went three-up, three-down in the bottom of the seventh and the game entered extra innings with the teams still tied at 3-3. Missouri had the game right where they wanted it with their powerful top of the lineup due up to bat. The leadoff hitter reached on a bunt single and sped to second on a sacrifice bunt, but a stingy Aggie defense shut down the next two to stay in the game.
Stark led off in the final half-inning, taking her fourth hit-by-pitch of the weekend to reach base before being replaced at first by senior pinch runner Kaydee Rayburn. Rayburn was tossed out at second in the next at-bat as a fielder’s choice by Albus put an out on the board.
Albus stole second and took third on a groundout by Ryan. The Tigers opted out of pitching to Morgan and sent her to first with an intentional walk. Tysarczyk took the cue in the next at-bat and slammed a pitch that looked like it would top the wall for a home run. Instead, the Mizzou left fielder just missed the inning-ending catch as Tysarczyk’s shot hit the wall and gave Albus plenty of time to score the game-winning, 4-3 run.
With the win over the Tigers, the Aggies take their first SEC series win of the season, 2-1. Marks (10-0) earned the win after tossing five shutout innings of relief. The sophomore fanned three and gave up three hits. Junior Rachel Fox started the game in the circle for the Aggies, allowing three earned runs on four hits while striking out two through three complete frames.
Finucane (6-3) suffered the loss after giving up just one earned run on five hits and one walk with four strikeouts.
The Aggies travel to the state of South Carolina this week, playing a game at College of Charleston Wednesday before facing the University of South Carolina in a three-game series, Friday through Sunday. To learn more about Texas A&M softball, log on to AggieAthletics.com and follow @AggieSoftball on Twitter.
HEAD COACH JO EVANS
On the walk-off win over Missouri…
“It was a heck of a ballgame. They come up and [Missouri shortstop Sami] Fagan hits that bomb. Really, Rachel Fox was throwing really well and keeping the ball down and she just made a mistake to Fagan, and Fagan made her pay for it. Obviously, the difference in the game for us is us answering right back. We take advantage of a ball between [Missouri second baseman Corrin] Genovese’s legs and [Nicole Morgan] makes them pay for it. We’ve had so many opportunities early in the season when we dropped games stranding 12 runners, 13 runners. Teams are giving us an opening, and what I’m seeing right now is that if you give us an opening, we’re going to take it. I know nobody wants to throw to Nic and she did a great job out there driving that ball in the north wind. It’s a day when that ball is not necessarily going to carry a ton. And then we step up and get it done at the end.”
On Cassie Tysarczyk coming through in a pinch…
“We’ve seen that a lot lately. That’s a kid who has done a great job when they’re walking Nic. They don’t want Nic to have an opportunity to win a ballgame for us. Every team is going to say, ‘We’re not going to let one certain kid beat us,’ and it’s going to be Nic right now. So Cassie [Tysarczyk] is getting lots of opportunities. She’s done that a bunch lately with two outs – big opportunities. She got up there and just really scorched the ball. They threw her away a lot and she was making adjustments. She got a little frustrated early in the game when she didn’t like a couple of calls on the strike zone, and I’m proud of her for settling in and wanting to be the one in that situation. It all starts with Jenna Stark getting herself on base. A couple of weeks ago, Jenna Stark was one of our worst hitters. She was feeling horrible about herself, in terms of not being able to help her team out. For her to make some adjustments, she drove the ball well today in the gap, and she got herself hit. She found a way to get herself on base and that’s a huge difference. Even Emily [Albus] getting a stolen base there, where it takes some pressure off of us having to hit the ball out of the yard. I’m really proud of Cassie. She’s such a great leader and I’m really happy for that kid because it’s all about our team with her.”
On Marks’ performance in the circle…
“She’s feeling good about herself out there. Even when she makes a mistake, it’s not hurting her. She’s out there with good movement on her pitches. She’s keeping the ball down in the zone. She’s able to throw strikes on both sides of the plate. She got some big strikeouts in key situations, and she’s giving us ground balls and our defense is making plays and getting outs. Also, you might not see it in the scorebook, but I thought Taran Tyler was terrific out there at shortstop. She got lots of opportunities and she doubled a kid off at first in one inning. She just makes all the plays she’s supposed to make, and that’s what we need out of her. You can tell she feels good about herself and she’s comfortable out there.”