COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Riding a 27-game home winning streak, the 15th-ranked Texas A&M softball team (3-2) will host Sam Houston State (0-4) in the Aggies’ home opener, Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. at the Aggie Softball Complex.
The Aggies kicked off the 2012 season at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz., bringing home a 3-2 record with a pair of upsets over No. 9 Stanford and No. 8 Arizona. An extra-inning victory over San Jose State rounded out the Aggies’ wins for the weekend as the team fell in a one-run game to BYU (RV) and a three-run, extra-inning game vs. Northwestern (RV).
Coming off of its 10th straight and 22nd overall NCAA Tournament appearance, the Aggies return 14 letterwinners, including eight starters, from last year’s 44-15 squad. All-Americans Meagan May and Mel Dumezich return for their junior season while two-time Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Natalie Villarreal will take to the diamond for the last time as a senior.
FOLLOW THE ACTION
Live stats and live audio will be provided for every game this season on AggieAthletics.com, while live streaming video will be offered at each of the Aggies’ home games. Fans can also listen to several of the Aggies’ games live locally on Sports Radio 1150 AM. Wednesday’s game will be featured on 95.1-3 The Zone HD, making it available worldwide on any smartphone or HD radio. Log on to RadioAggieland.com for more information.
TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME
As part of the Take Me Out to the Ballgame promotion, two kids will get in free with the purchase of one adult ticket every Sunday. Fans can also enjoy the same deal during the Sam Houston State (Feb. 15) and Monmouth (March 8) weekday games.
AGGIES IN THE POLLS
Texas A&M is ranked 15th in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 Poll, and was slated at No. 18 in the USA Today/NFCA rankings. The Aggies’ remaining 2012 opponents appearing in the polls are No. 1/3 Florida, No. 3/1 California, No. 4/4 Oklahoma, No. 6/5 Missouri, No. 7/9 Washington, No. 9/10 Baylor, No. 13/13 Texas, No. 15/18 Oklahoma State, No. 17/17 Houston and No. 24/22 Nebraska. In addition, Hawaii, Tulsa, BYU and New Mexico are receiving votes.
The Aggies will host their first of three tournaments in 2012 this weekend, the Aggie Classic, starting with a 3 p.m. Friday game vs. North Carolina State. UTSA and Tulsa will also make the trip for the four-team, 10-game tournament. A&M will play two games Friday, two games Saturday and one game Sunday.
Dumezich broke her personal career record for strikeouts in a game with 13 vs. Northwestern, forcing 11 batters to swing at the last pitch and catching two batters looking. The right-handed hurler’s 425 strikeouts rank ninth all-time for A&M.
Evans welcomes a group of five freshmen to the team this season. Lauren Ainsley (RHP – La Vernia, Texas), Brittany Clopton (OF – Montgomery, Texas), Kayla Klein (RHP – Whittier, Calif.), Sara Mireles (LHP – New Braunfels, Texas) and Lauren Tamayo (UT – Roanoke, Texas) will put on the Maroon & White in 2012.
SCOUTING SAM HOUSTON STATE
Sam Houston State is coming off a down year under head coach Bob Brock, finishing at 22-32 and seventh in the final Southland Conference standings. The Bearkats return 14 letterwinners, with the addition of six freshmen and one transfer. Two key players who are returning to the SHSU are junior Tori Benavidez, and sophomore Sarah Allison. Benavidez was named second team All-Southland as a sophomore in 2011, and was named to the preseason All-Southland second team before the 2012 season began. As a freshman last year Allison set single-game all-time records for Sam Houston State with two home runs and six RBI in a game against Louisiana Monroe. This season the Bearkats are off to a slow start at 0-4, but three of those losses were to top 25 teams, with one loss to No. 16 Oklahoma State, and two losses to No. 22 Houston. Junior Kim Damian has been a star thus far, batting .615 with three runs, two RBI, and two home runs through four games.
A&M holds an 85-13 all-time mark against the Bearkats, winning the last 38 contests that date back to 1995. Last season the teams split sites as A&M won, 10-1 in a five-inning run rule in College Station, and 4-1 in Huntsville.
Brock and assistant coach Adrian Gregory both have ties to A&M. Brock coached the Aggies for 15 years, winning a trio of National Championships with the Maroon and White. The Bearkats’ skipper was inducted into the Texas A&M Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006. Gregory graced the Aggie softball roster from 2001-05, leading the team as a captain and earning ESPN/CoSIDA Academic All-Region and Academic All-Big 12 honors. The shortstop was also named All-Big 12 as a junior in 2004.
HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE
The Aggies are on a program-best 27-game home winning streak, starting April 25, 2010. The streak is also the longest current home winning streak in the nation as the Aggies went undefeated at home in 2011. This is the longest home winning streak A&M has had since the program’s inception in 1981. The previous record holder by Aggie softball was a 21-game ride from Feb. 19, 2005-May 22, 2005.
HOME RUNS GALORE
A&M tallied 81 home runs during the 2011 season, including eight grand slams, in 59 games. The team ended the season at fifth in the nation in the NCAA statistical rankings in home runs per game with a 1.37 average. Then-senior Rhi Kliesing was 13th in the nation with 18 home runs and 24th in home runs per game, individually. Of A&M’s 19 players, 12 went yard in 2011. Undefeated at home, the Aggies cleared their own fence 49 times, including three times in the one-run victory over No. 15 Baylor, once against No. 12 Nebraska and No. 3 Texas, five times in the sweep of No. 16 OSU, seven times in the NCAA College Station Regional and three times vs. No. 1 Arizona State at the Super Regional level. The team also had a solo bomb against top-ranked Arizona early in the season. Then-freshman Amber Garza led the team with three grand slams, including two on back-to-back days in the NCAA Tournament.
The Aggies consistently found themselves among the best in the nation in several categories last season. In the final NCAA Statistical Ranking Summary, A&M ranked 29th in ERA (1.95), 28th in fielding percentage (0.971), 27th in scoring (5.59), 20th in win-loss percentage (0.746), fifth in home runs per game (1.37) and 19th in slugging percentage (0.497). Individually, Kliesing was 13th in home runs and 24th in home runs per game (0.31), while May was ranked 33rd. May was also 30th in RBI per game (1.02). May’s 0.77 walks per game on average were 21st in the nation and her four sacrifice flies ranked 18th. From the circle, Dumezich ranked 13th in victories (30), 31st in hits per seven innings (4.72), 33rd in strikeouts (262) and 12th in shutouts (12).
In 2011 Dumezich was named to the Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-American second team after earning a 1.92 ERA in 247 1/3 Innings pitched. The junior gave up only 68 runs while fanning 262 batters as a sophomore and ranks ninth on the Aggies’ career strikeouts list.
May earned All-America second team honors in 2010 as a freshman. The standout catcher broke the team and Big 12 records for home runs in a season after clearing the fence 24 times. She also posted a team-leading .405 batting average, 66 hits, 16 doubles, 62 RBI, a .945 slugging percentage and a .557 on base percentage. May was one of only six Aggies to earn the honor as a freshman.
Tickets for the 2012 softball season can be purchased through the 12th Man Foundation Ticket Office for $5-$8. Fans can purchase tickets to every home game in person at The Zone at Kyle Field box office, online at www.12thManFoundation.com, or over the phone at 1-888-99-AGGIE (2-4443) or (979) 845-2311. The ticket window at the Aggie Softball Complex will open one hour prior to each home game, at which time remaining tickets may be purchased at the gate.
Parking this season is free for each home game that does not share a date with a baseball or basketball game. Fans can park in Reed Arena Lot 100, across the street from the Aggie Softball Complex. For conflicting dates, fans will be charged $5 to park.
BIG 12 PRESEASON POLL
A&M was picked to finish fifth in the Big 12 Preseason Coaches’ Poll. The Aggies received 37 points and finished behind preseason favorite Missouri (59), and Oklahoma (56), Texas (50) and Baylor (45). A&M was selected as the frontrunner for three consecutive years, from 2006-08, and was picked fourth last season, ending 2011 in third place. Oklahoma State placed sixth with 32 points, followed by Texas Tech (22), Kansas (13) and Iowa State (10).
GET IT LIVE
Live audio and live stats are featured in every A&M game in 2012. Several contests will be aired on Sports Radio 1150 AM. All other games will be broadcast live on AggieAthletics.com and on 95.1-3 The Zone HD, making it available worldwide on any iPhone, iPod Touch, Blackberry or PDA free of charge. Log on to RadioAggieland.com for more information.