By Julian Martinez
The Aggies softball team and their coach, Kathy Rodolph, have made it a point to face the best the nation has to offer. The problem is, every now and then you’ll hit a brick wall and that’s exactly what happened to the Aggies in their first game of a doubleheader Friday night.
The first game of the Troy Cox Classic was a very humbling experience against the #10 team in the country, the Oklahoma University Sooners. The Sooners threw the best pitcher on their staff at the Aggies and Sooner Parker Paige showed why she is the ace of the Oklahoma team and the returning pitcher of the year for the Big-12 conference.
Paige limited the Aggies to one run on three hits over five solid innings of work, and included eight strikeouts to top things off. As great a pitcher as Karysta Donisthorpe is, she struggled to limit the Sooners’ offense.
It started with the Sooners putting up three in the second inning and they added three and four in the third and fourth innings, respectively. All told, the final game score was 11-1 when the Sooners added one more in the fifth to be eligible for the mercy rule, giving the Aggies their first loss of the season.
One positive for the Aggies was catcher Tatum Reedy driving in the lone run off Paige with a homerun on a 1-2 count.
So the big question any team has to face in a young season is, how do you immediately rebound after a loss to try again?
The Aggies were obviously shaken up by the loss from the start of their second game, against Western Michigan. Michigan put up three runs in the first inning off a big homerun by their right fielder Erin Binkowski to take an early lead. Binkowski homered again in third inning to give the Broncos an early 5-0 lead.
Then, finally, in the fourth inning, things started to click for the Aggies.
Reedy got on base off a single and then, after having Stokes pinch-run for her, she scored on an error by Bronco shortstop Sabrina Gamboa. Brennalyn Nakamura added on with a single to drive in Amy Bergeson. The Aggies exited the fourth trailing, 5-2.
The comeback continued in the fifth inning with Kelsey Horton driving one deep down the left field for a two-run homerun. Trailing by one, the Aggies entered the fifth inning and came through with a quick 1-2-3 inning to put the Broncos away in the top of the sixth.
Then in the bottom of the sixth, things got explosive in the Softball Complex.
It started off innocently with a Nakamura single up the middle and then Emma Adams came up. Adams drove one in the right center field gap to bring in Nakamura and tie the game at 5-5. Fiana Finau was next up to bat and she made her presence felt with a big homer just above the right fielder’s head to give the Aggies the 7-5 lead.
There was no settling down after that. Western’s Binkowski couldn’t do enough to keep runs off the board. She was only able to record one out and allowed four unearned runs.
The Aggies loaded the bases in the inning and scored off a hit batter, a walk, and multiple poor decisions by fielders. Eventually the lineup rolled all the way back to Finau with the bases loaded.
For the second weekend in a row, Finau mercy-ruled a team on a home run. With a big grand slam, her second homerun, and sixth RBI of the inning, Finau gave the Aggies a 15-5 victory.
The Aggies will be back in action in day two of the tournament on Saturday, February 20. They will have another day of doubleheaders as they play Oklahoma at four p.m. with a chance of redemption and then take on the Campbell Fighting Camels at six p.m.