AUSTIN – The Texas A&M softball took advantage of a two-out throwing error to force extra innings, but the Texas Longhorns answered with a run in the eighth for a 3-2 victory over the Aggies in an NCAA tournament elimination game Saturday at McCombs Stadium.
Texas (42-15) advanced to play Sam Houston State in another elimination game Saturday night. That winner will advance to play Houston, which beat A&M 3-1 Friday and SHSU 5-0 on Saturday. Saturday night’s winner would need to beat UH twice to advance to super regionals.
A&M (28-17) for the second straight day struggled on offense with both its runs unearned.
The Aggies scored in the first without a hit. Junior Kelbi Fortenberry walked and stole second. She moved to third when Texas shortstop McKenzie Parker booted a grounder hit by freshman Baylee Klingler. Fortenberry scored when UT catcher Mary Iakopo threw the ball away down the left-field line on a pickoff attempt.
The lead was short-lived as Texas took the lead in the second. Parker hit a two-out double and Shannon Rhodes followed with a home run that cleared the road behind the left-field fence, bouncing at the back of the parking lot.
It was the lone RBI hit of the game as the pitchers dominated. Texas junior right-hander Miranda Elish (15-9) allowed six hits, striking out 10 and walking two. A&M junior left-hander Payton McBride (9-7) gave up nine hits. She walked two and didn’t strike anyone out. She threw only 93 pitches, compared to 146 by Elish.
A&M forced extra innings by cashing a tough leadoff double by junior Blake-Ann Fritsch. The slap-hitter got behind 0-2 but battled back to blast the eighth pitch well over the center fielder’s head. Elish retired the next two batters and it should have been three, but third baseman Rhoades threw the ball away on Kayla Garcia’s grounder, easily scoring Fritsch.
Texas quickly regained the lead. Janae Jefferson had a one-out bloop double, just out of the reach of a diving Fortenberry in left-center field. UT’s Reagan Hathaway laid down a great bunt after not showing bunt on the first three pitches. A&M freshman catcher Haley Lee threw the ball down the line as no one was covering first. Jefferson scored on the throwing error.
Lee gave A&M a chance with a one-out single, but Elish retired the next two batters, including a great running catch by second baseman Jefferson in short right, robbing Riley Sartain of a base hit in the final at-bat of the team’s lone senior.
A&M as 1 for 18 with runners on back, including 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position. The Aggies against UH had been 3 of 18 with runners on and only 1 of 10 with them in scoring position.