TEMPE, Ariz. - Junior Meagan May hit the game-winning home run and junior Mel Dumezich struck out ten batters as the No. 15 Texas A&M softball team (2-1) upset No. 8 Arizona (2-3) on the second day of the Kajikawa Classic.
The Aggies' seventh-inning victory over the eighth-ranked Wildcats was also highlighted by a three-run home run by senior Kelsea Orsak.
"Right now I'm really proud of our kids," head coach Jo Evans said. "I thought we fought so hard against Arizona. We hurt ourselves a little bit in the first inning, but I'm really proud of our kids."
Senior Natalie Villarreal put her leadoff spot to good use from the get-go, hitting an infield single at UA pitcher Shelby Babcock that she knocked down but couldn't control in time for the out. A sacrifice bunt by junior Brittany Walker helped Villarreal to second base before a passed ball gave her time to race to third.
Sophomore Nicole Morgan used a sacrifice fly into center field to score Villarreal from third, giving the Aggies an early 1-0 lead.
"Nicole Morgan really looks so good at the plate right now," Evans said. "She's hitting good pitches and her discipline has improved 100 percent at the plate."
The Wildcats were quick to respond with a two-run bottom-of-the-first. A pair of Arizona singles and two walks forced the first of the Wildcats' runs across the plate before a ball lobbed into left field caused a fielder's choice for the second out of the half-inning, but the 2-1 run had already been scored. Aggie pitcher Mel Dumezich then fanned the final batter to get out of the inning.
A&M held on through the second and third innings, allowing batters no farther than first base in the bottom of the second and stopping a pair of batters in scoring position in the third.
In the top of the fourth the Aggies pulled out to a 4-2 lead over the Wildcats on a three-run bomb over right-center by Orsak. The center fielder worked through a full count and several foul balls before going yard for the lead. Senior Lindsey Sisk and sophomore Cassie Tysarczyk each benefitted with runs after reaching on a fielder's choice and a pitch to the body.
"Kelsea Orsak was just battling all day and had two strikes on," Evans said. "She did a great job to get up there and get rid of some pitches. She just sat on it and that thing was crushed. She has such a sweet swing. If that kid would trust herself day-in and day-out, you'd see a lot more of that. I'm so proud of her. She's such a great kid and works so hard and it's so fun to see someone like that step up."
The bottom of the fifth inning put two UA runners in scoring position with one out but Dumezich's throws, guided by catcher May at the plate, fanned the final two batters to keep the score in the Aggies' favor, 4-2.
"Mel kind of got on a roll there in the fifth and sixth," Evans said. "I know they scored some runs but she got some big strikeouts when we needed it. Arizona got back in the game there, but I love how our kids fought and they just didn't back down. The thing about Mel is that she's so competitive on the mound and she gets hyped up, too, so we have to kind of calm her down because she'll tend to get too quick out there and walk some kids but she had a tremendous game."
Leading off in the bottom of the sixth, Wildcat shortstop Shelby Pendley sent a pitch sailing over right field. Tysarczyk jumped through the temporary fencing in the outfield but couldn't get to the ball in time as Arizona narrowed the score to 4-3.
With two outs and a runner on second, UA third baseman Bridgette Del Ponte lined a single down the left field line that sent center fielder Hallie Wilson across the plate to tie the game, despite Sisk's throw from left nearly beating her home.
May led off in the top of the seventh in search of the go-ahead run for the Aggies, and that is what she got. In her signature move, May homered to right field and gave A&M a 5-4 lead entering the bottom of the seventh.
"I've got to say something about Meagan May getting up there in the seventh inning," Evans said. "I'm loving seeing her be more aggressive up there and how about going with the pitch. They threw her inside a bunch and then Meagan goes with the pitch."
Determined to hold onto the Aggies' one-run lead and despite giving up a leadoff single, Dumezich and May worked to keep batters guessing at the plate. With one out on the board, Dumezich shut down the final two batters swinging as A&M defeated its second top-10 opponent of opening weekend in No. 8 Arizona.
"In that last inning, the kid that was up there [Koria] is such a tough out and [assistant pitching] Coach [Danielle] Spaulding said, 'Coach, are we going to go at her?', and I said 'Absolutely not. We're not going to walk the tying run on base,' and Mel did a great job to get a ground ball out of that kid," Evans said. "Mel's so so fired up and I thought our dugout was unbelievable - they just carried us all game. For Mel to get a huge strikeout there - that kid was 3-for-3 and feeling good at the plate - was great. That strikeout is going to be something Mel is going to remember for a long time."
Dumezich (2-0) struck out a season-high ten batters on the game in the winning effort. Arizona's Babcock (1-3) suffered the loss, pitching a complete game and striking out eight.
Up next, the team will play San Jose State, with the game set to begin at 8 p.m. CST but running behind. Listen live on 95.1-3 The Zone HD. The Aggies will finish the tournament tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. CST with a game vs. Northwestern (RV) at Arizona State's Farrington Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on Sports Radio 1150 AM. To learn more about Texas A&M softball, log on to AggieAthletics.com.