LEXINGTON, Ky. – Despite late home runs, including a grand slam by junior Amber Garza, the ninth-seeded Texas A&M softball team dropped a 10-9 walk-off decision to No. 8 seed Alabama, Wednesday on ESPNU in the Aggies’ Southeastern Conference Tournament debut.
The Aggies at one point trailed by five runs before a grand slam by Garza and a two-run long ball by junior Cassie Tysarczyk pushed A&M ahead of Alabama headed into the bottom of the seventh. The late rally wasn’t enough, however as the Crimson Tide used a two-RBI triple to grab the walk-off win and advance to the SEC Tournament quarterfinal round.
A&M, the designated visiting team, not only scored nine runs off of the defending national champions but also chased Alabama ace Jackie Traina from the circle.
A&M was full of energy and comfortable at the plate in the top of the first, plating two runs for a quick lead on the Crimson Tide. Junior Jenna Stark set the table as the leadoff hitter was hit by the first pitch thrown by Traina. Sophomore Brittany Clopton bunted behind Stark and reached on a two-base throwing error that sent Stark to third.
With runners in scoring position, Garza floated a sacrifice fly into left field that gave Stark time to tag third and run home for the 1-0 lead. Clopton scored, unearned, on a single to the gap in left field by senior Mel Dumezich. A bunt single by freshman Cali Lanphear was the last of the Aggies’ first-inning hits as she and Dumezich were left on base, but A&M left the half-inning with a 2-0 lead.
Alabama’s bats were also alive in the first inning as the Crimson Tide took a 4-2 lead over A&M. Dumezich struggled to find the strike zone, walking the first two batters with four pitches each before an RBI single plated Alabama’s first run. With two on base, UA second baseman Kaila Hunt went yard down the left field line for a 4-2 Crimson Tide lead.
Traina fanned five Aggie hitters in the second and third innings as A&M was able to get just one runner on base in the form of a second-inning Meagan May walk.
Dumezich settled into her strike zone in the second, fanning two batters to maintain the 4-2 score. In the bottom of the third, Alabama put two on base with two straight hits, but Dumezich shut down three consecutive batters and ended the half-inning with a strikeout looking.
A&M narrowed the scoring deficit in the top of the fifth when Lanphear singled to right field for the 4-3 run. Stark led off with a single up the middle and was replaced on first by freshman Alex Masek. The pinch runner moved to second on a two-out walk by Dumezich before Lanphear placed a ball perfectly in right field. Dumezich and Lanphear were stranded on the corners, however, as Alabama maintained a one-run lead.
In the bottom of the fifth, UA loaded the bases with one out on an infield single and two walks. Tide first baseman Leona Lafaele took advantage of the situation and narrowly topped the wall in left field for a barely-there grand slam that gave Alabama an 8-3 lead.
The Aggies didn’t stop fighting and loaded the bases in the top of the sixth with a trio of base hits. Senior pinch hitter Sydney Shannon came through for A&M with a two-out single to centerfield and was replaced by junior Taran Tyler at first.
Stark followed with a base hit through the left side before Clopton followed suit with a well-placed hit into left field. Stark was 3-for-4 on the night with two runs scored.
Garza stepped up to the plate with five career grand slams under her belt and made it six as she cleared the entire complex with a convincing bomb over right-centerfield.
The four-RBI homer brought the Aggies back into the game as the score moved to 7-8 in UA’s favor. Garza owns six career grand slams, and three this season to bring the Aggies’ 2013 tally to seven. She also hit three as a freshman in 2011.
The Aggie defense kept the momentum going with a three-up, three-down bottom-of-the-sixth to propel the one-run game into the seventh. Junior Nicole Morgan battled through a 10-pitch at-bat to reach on a walk, and was replaced at first by junior Kaydee Rayburn.
With one on and one out, Tysarczyk took her turn at the plate and made the most of it with a bomb over left-center field to plate two runs and give the Aggies a 9-8 lead over the Tide as the game entered the final half-inning. Tysarczyk’s bomb sent Traina back to the dugout as Leslie Jury entered in relief.
A leadoff single and a fielding error put two UA runners on base before a two-out triple down the left-field line plated two unearned runs for the walk-off Alabama win.
Dumezich (26-7) suffered the loss after giving up eight earned runs on 10 hits and four walks, while fanning six in the complete-game effort. Jury (16-6) earned the win as she gave up one hit and walked one in 0.2 innings of relief.
Dumezich moved into the No. 3 spot on the A&M all-time innings pitched list during the game, sitting behind Aggie greats Shawn Andaya and Lori Stoll with 877.2 innings of work so far during her four-year career.
The teams sat through a three-and-a-half-hour rain delay before the start of the game, changing the match-up to a night game at Kentucky’s John Cropp Stadium. With the win, Alabama will advance to the SEC Tournament quarterfinal, facing No. 1 seed Florida at 10 a.m. Central tomorrow on ESPNU.
Shannon and Tysarczyk, who still has one year of eligibility, have finished their undergraduate careers and will graduate from A&M this weekend.
The Aggies will return to Texas to prepare for the NCAA Tournament, learning their postseason fate Sunday at 10 p.m. Central as the NCAA Division I Selection Show airs on ESPNU. To learn more about Texas A&M softball, log on to AggieAthletics.com.