STILLWATER, Okla. – Junior Mel Dumezich threw a career-high 15 strikeouts as the No. 15 Texas A&M softball team (24-9, 4-1 Big 12) defeated Oklahoma State (16-14, 1-4 Big 12), 3-1 in extra innings Friday at Cowgirl Stadium.
The victory came on a two-RBI double to center field by sophomore Cassie Tysarczyk, who blazed the ball on a 0-2 count in the top of the eighth.
“I thought [OSU pitcher Kat] Espinosa was really good tonight,” head coach Jo Evans said. “She’s really good at getting ahead of hitters and she doesn’t make mistakes. It was just a hard battle, kind of a grind at the plate. Our kids didn’t exactly look great at the plate and Espinosa did a nice job.”
The contest was the first of a three-game series between the Cowgirls and Aggies. Game two will follow tomorrow at 4 p.m. and game three will be played Sunday at noon.
“I think it’s huge [to get ahead in the series count],” Evans said. “It’s tough going on the road. It is so fun to play at home. You get so relaxed, you don’t have a care in the world, the Sugar Daddies and the 12th Man are going to show up and we just do what we do. You know when you go on the road that it’s going to be a little bit different. You’re not as comfortable and to win the first game is really huge.”
Despite five strikeouts by the Aggie right-hander in the first two innings, the Cowgirls took an early, 1-0 lead in the second. In her first at bat back from a knee injury, Julie Ward hit a 1-2 pitch down the right field line that bounced fair off of the foul pole for a ruled home run.
Junior Meagan May hit a solo home run of her own in the top of the fourth, clearing the fence in right field.
Dumezich showed her prowess out of the circle as well, diving out of the chalk toward the third baseline to snag a bunted ball in the bottom of the fourth. The ball popped out of her glove but the pitcher caught it again before it hit the ground to send the batter back to her dugout.
The Aggies had two more hits through regulation, in the form of singles by senior Kelsea Orsak and sophomore Nicole Morgan, but didn’t get their first lead of the game until the top of the eighth.
“I’m really pleased with the depth we have in our ballclub,” Evans said. “We got into a situation there where [Amber] Garza rolled her ankle and then everything changed out there in terms of personnel. Jenna Stark has had lots of reps at third base so I wasn’t worried a bit with her over there. It was nice to see Nicole Morgan go up there and get a hit. And then we’ve got Lauren Tamayo that we can put in there at defense and she got some good looks at the plate.”
Senior Natalie Villarreal led off in the top of the extra frame with a single into the right-field gap. The second baseman was 3-for-4 on the night.
“I thought Natalie Villarreal was incredible tonight,” Evans said. “She just sprayed it and went all over the field. She put on a clinic up there tonight.”
Villarreal stole second before a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Emily Albus sent her to third. May drew a walk and was replaced on the base paths by freshman Kaydee Rayburn and Dumezich was walked intentionally to load the bases.
With the bags juiced, Tysarczyk lined a double into center field and earned a pair of RBI as Villarreal and Rayburn flew home for the Aggies’ first lead of the game, a 3-1 advantage.
“I was loving Cassie coming up in that situation,” Evans said. “That kid is just a gamer. She loves to play the game and she gets better in every at bat up there. She makes adjustments. She won’t get up there and make the same mistakes over and over. It’s interesting because I almost put her in the four hole today. It turned out OK because Cassie got a chance to get up there in a really clutch situation.”
A pair of groundouts and Dumezich’s career-high 15th strikeout of the game in the bottom of the inning ensured the A&M victory in an extra frame.
Dumezich (16-6) walked only three batters and gave up one earned run on two hits through eight complete innings for the win. OSU’s Kat Espinosa (9-7) gave up three earned runs on seven hits while walking three and fanning four in eight innings of work.
“I thought Mel really settled in there and was just mowing them down,” Evans said. “I loved her focus out there. They had an opportunity with a walk and she just shut it down.”
The teams will play game two of the three-game conference series tomorrow at 4 p.m. That game will be broadcast live on 95.1-3 The Zone HD. The series finale, Sunday at noon, can be heard in College Station on Sports Radio 1150 AM. Go to RadioAggieland.com to learn more about either broadcast or to listen worldwide.
To learn more about Texas A&M softball, log on to AggieAthletics.com or follow @AggieSoftball on Twitter.