COLLEGE STATION, Texas- The seventh-ranked Texas A&M softball team (34-6, 6-0 Big 12) used four homeruns by four different Aggies to come from behind to beat the Missouri Tigers (31-10, 2-2 Big 12) 9-4 on Sunday; making its best start ever in Big 12 play, sweeping its third straight conference series this season.
“I love the mentality of our team,” A&M head coach Jo Evans said. “I’m very proud of our kids. Every time they scored we came back and at least scored one in the inning and that made a huge difference for us.”
A&M entered the bottom of the fifth tied with the Tigers at four-all. Freshman second baseman Natalie Villarreal stroked the first pitch thrown to her over the left-centerfield wall. The game-winning homerun was Villarreal’s third longball of the season and team-second best 25th RBI. One out later, Jamie Hinshaw launched a homerun of her own to put the Aggies up 6-4. With two-outs on the board, Holly Ridley was drilled in the left arm by a pitch and moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. A&M centerfielder Jami Lobpries worked herself into a 2-1 count before blasting her second homerun of the season, extending the Aggies’ lead to five runs.
After allowing three hits on four pitches, including a two-run homerun to start the game, A&M starting pitcher Megan Gibson settled down to retire the side with three straight strikeouts in the first.
“I’m excited about the way Gibson and our team kept their composure out there,” Evans noted. “It was no surprise to me that Missouri came out and swung the bat like that. I knew they made adjustments. Their coach does a good job with their hitters and they were aggressive.”
With two outs in the bottom of the frame, Gibson helped the Aggies begin to chip away at Missouri’s 3-0 lead. The senior was up in the count 2-0 when she drove the ball high over the leftfield wall into the bushes just in front of the 12th Man Productions video screen. The dinger was Gibson’s 12th of the season, second on the weekend.
Missouri would take a 4-1 lead in the top of the third, scoring one run off another homerun by senior Jen Bruck. Bruck was responsible for the two-run blast in the first, giving her three RBIs on the day.
“I really have a lot of respect for Jen Bruck,” Evans said. “She’s feisty as can be. Yesterday she got that homerun in her last at bat, it didn’t mean a whole lot in the scorebook for that game but it meant a lot to her coming in to this game. She had all that confidence and took that at-bat into today and worked off it. I love the way though that Gibson went at her in her third at bat and struck her out.”
Kelsey Spittler helped the Aggies to counter in the bottom of the inning, leading off with a sharply hit grounder in the gap between third and shortstop. Macie Morrow laid down a perfect bunt back toward the circle and beat out the play to put runners on base without any outs. Villarreal sacrificed Spittler and Morrow over before MU starting pitcher Stacy Delaney intentionally walked Gibson to load the bases. Hinshaw sacrificed a run home on a fly ball at the leftfield warning track. Erin Glasco drew a four-pitch walk to once again load the bases for A&M. Ridley pushed across two runs to tie the ballgame with a single up the middle.
“I was excited to see Natalie lay down the bunt,” said Evans. “I thought we had fantastic execution in that third inning when we moved our runners. Macie lays down a nice bunt, Natalie lays down a nice bunt and then Kelsey was great all day getting herself on base. She really got us started in that inning.”
Gibson earned her 21st straight victory on the mound, her 20th complete game, working all seven innings, striking out nine batters and walking just one. The win also marked Gibson’s fifth victory in conference play, tying her career-high from 2007.
A&M chased Delaney in the third inning after tying the ballgame. Jana Hainey (10-2) worked three and a third innings of relief and shouldered the loss after surrendering five runs on six hits.
Hinshaw ended the afternoon 2-for-3 at the plate with a run scored and two RBIs, while Spittler was a flawless 3-for-3 with a run scored. All nine of the A&M batters reached base at least once during the game.
The Aggies will take to the road, heading to Ames, Iowa for a two-game series with the Iowa State Cyclones next Saturday and Sunday at the Southwest Athletic Complex. First pitch on Saturday is scheduled 2 p.m.
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