AMES, Iowa – Sophomore Nicole Morgan was a perfect 4-for-4 on the day as the 14th-ranked Texas A&M softball team (27-10, 7-2 Big 12) took two games off of Iowa State (11-24, 0-8 Big 12) in a doubleheader Friday at the Southwest Athletic Complex.
A&M earned a 6-1 victory in game one before clobbering Iowa State in game two, 11-3. The Aggies now lead the Cyclones, 2-0 in the three-game conference series and are now guaranteed a series. The final game will be tomorrow at noon.
“I liked the way our offense came out and attacked the ball,” head coach Jo Evans said. “We scored in a bunch of innings, it wasn’t just one-or-two innings that we put some on the board. It’s nice to see us continue to get up there and drive the ball and attack and put pressure on them. We stranded a bunch of runners but we also picked up a lot of runners and I thought that our kids had a great approach at the plate, in particular their patience at the plate I thought made a really big difference today.”
Three Aggies drew walks in the top of the first inning in game one. Junior Meagan May was the first to reach base on four balls and was waiting at first when sophomore Cassie Tysarczyk took a ball down the right-field line and cleared the fence for a two-out, two-run bomb.
“I really liked Meagan’s patience at the plate,” Evans said. “She got a couple of strikes that weren’t really what she wanted to hit and she took a walk. Cassie just hit that on the screws. That thing got out in a hurry. She just looks good right now. You can tell she’s really confident at the plate. It’s nice having somebody hit behind Meagan that’s got a good idea about the strike zone and knows what she wants to hit.”
A&M left the top of the first with a 2-0 lead and junior Mel Dumezich kept the momentum going from the circle in the bottom of the inning. The right-hander caught the first three batters swinging to shut down the side.
Morgan’s solo home run hit far over left-center field in the top of the third pushed the Aggies’ lead out to 3-0, but Iowa State answered with a one-run bomb of its own in the next half-inning.
Cyclone shortstop Lexi Slater took hold of a pitch in the bottom of the third and narrowed the scoring gap to 3-1 in the Aggies’ favor when the solo home run cleared the fence in left. That was the only run scored by Iowa State through the first game.
The Aggies stretched to a 5-1 lead in the top of the sixth. Seniors Kelsea Orsak and Natalie Villarreal opened the frame with base hits and sophomore Emily Albus grounded into a fielder’s choice that took Orsak off of the base paths. A hard-hit single up the middle by May sent Villarreal home and moved Albus to third before Tysarczyk grounded out and gave Albus time to cross the dish for the 5-1 lead.
A&M’s final run of game one came in the top of the seventh on an RBI single by Orsak. Tyler, who had reached on a walk, scored on the play. The Cyclones had no answer in the final frame as the Aggies took a 6-1 victory and a 1-0 series lead.
Dumezich (18-7) took the win, striking out 10 batters and giving up just one earned run on four hits. ISU’s Tori Torrescano (6-16) suffered the loss after giving up five earned runs on eight hits in six complete innings. Torrescano struck out two batters and walked six.
The Aggies kept connecting with the ball in game two. Villarreal led off in the top of the first with a double to left-center, but the second baseman was stranded on the third out.
A single by junior Brittany Walker in the top of the second gave the Aggies an early 1-0 lead.
Morgan, who was 4-for-4 on the day, reaching base in all eight plate appearances, hit her second solo home run of the day in the top of the fourth as A&M took a 2-0 lead. Her long ball over center field was her third of four hits on the day. She also drew four walks.
“I thought [Nicole] was terrific,” Evans said. “Of anybody, she was seeing the ball great. She was getting RBIs and getting a couple of those solo shots that really gave us a little cushion, and we needed that. Games were still tight when she got up there and did that. It’s nice to see Nic up there having fun and controlling her at bat. She’s doing exactly what she’s capable of doing. She’s a dangerous hitter when she’s feeling comfortable and understanding her strike zone. You could see her today feeling really good about herself.”
The Aggies stretched ahead to a 6-0 lead in the fifth inning. A bases-loaded single by May picked up two RBI as Orsak, who reached on a single, and Villarreal, who drew a walk, ran home. Tysarczyk earned an RBI on a groundout as Albus sped home and Morgan had her fourth-and-final hit of the day, a single that scored sophomore Allison Garrett, who was pinch running for May.
In the top of the seventh, Albus was hit by a pitch and followed on base by May, who drew a walk. An RBI single by Tysarczyk sent Albus home before Morgan drew her last walk of the day to load the bases.
In her first career at bat, freshman pitcher Lauren Ainsley fouled off two pitches and went yard over left field to start her hitting career with a grand slam as A&M took an 11-0 lead.
“I had told [Lauren] ‘Just in case, you’re going to hit because I want to finish the game with you [in the circle].’” Evans said. “If I take her out of there, I can’t reenter her and she loses an inning of good work. So, I told her ‘Go be serious at the plate. If you get up there, first you’ve got to go find a helmet that’s going to fit you, but you get up at the plate and you be serious. Don’t show up our opponent, don’t embarrass yourself or your team. Get up there and be serious.’
“When she got up there, as she got deeper in that count I thought, ‘If she hits one out right now I don’t know what I’m going to do.’ But she just had such a good eye. She knew the strike zone and she took some hacks there. Really, she’s not supposed to do that. I expected her to go up there and do her best and then go out there and pitch. She’ll never forget it. And I can pretty much guarantee that that’s going to be the only at bat in her career, so why not have it be a grand slam?”
The Cyclones didn’t give up in the bottom of the seventh. With runners on first and second on a walk and a base hit, Erica Miller sent a ball over left field for a three-run home run. The rally wasn’t enough, however, and the Aggies left the field with an 11-3 victory and a 2-0 jump in the series.
Dumezich (19-7) also took the victory in game two, striking out six in four innings, while giving up no runs on four hits and walking one. Smith (3-2) took the loss. She allowed six earned runs on eight hits in five innings in the circle.
“Mel was being Mel and I thought that [Mel and Meagan] did a good job of mixing up pitches,” Evans said. “[Iowa State has] got some kids in that lineup that can really swing the bat. I’m impressed with a few of those kids in the middle of their order that did a nice job. I know that Mel didn’t feel comfortable out there. She knew she was going to have to have her good stuff. She respects their team and we respect their team and that’s how you get the kind of outings that you get from her. She doesn’t look past anybody. She knows that they’re going to give her a run for her money.”
The Aggies and Cyclones will finish the three-game conference series tomorrow with a noon game. That game will be featured live in Aggieland on Sports Radio 1150 AM and worldwide on 95.1-3 The Zone HD. Log on to RadioAggieland.com for more details. To learn more about Texas A&M softball, visit AggieAthletics.com or follow @AggieSoftball on Twitter.