Lions push tournament to the limit before falling in South Central Regional final.
COMMERCE – The fifth-seeded Texas A&M University-Commerce softball team won a suspended game. It pushed the extent of the NCAA Division II South Central Region tournament to its limit before ultimately falling in the regional championship series on Saturday.
A&M-Commerce resumed Friday night’s game in the morning and eliminated top-seeded Oklahoma Christian with a 2-0 win, then forced a championship game with a 10-5 win over second-seeded West Texas A&M. In the final possible game of the tournament, WT advanced to the site of the final with a 4-0 win over A&M-Commerce.
The Lions complete their season at 33-18, having played seven games in the regional tournament – the most possible in a six-team bracket. A&M-Commerce has now advanced to the final 16 teams in the country and the final game of the South Central Region twice in six postseason-available years.
GAME NINE: A&M-COMMERCE 2, OKLAHOMA CHRISTIAN 0
In the resumption of a game halted after the first inning on Friday night, the Lions scored two runs in the second inning and used strong pitching and defense to advance.
Emily Otto (Lamar Consolidated) twirled a complete-game shutout, allowing four hits and four walks with four strikeouts to move to 15-6 on the year.
Seniors came through for the Lions on offense in the second inning, as Kinsie Hebler (Cy-Fair) led off by reaching an error. After pinch-runner Da’Jia Davis (Waco Midway) advanced on a groundout, Chealsea Slider (Texarkana – Texas High) smoked a single up the middle to plate the first run.
Jasmine Mott (Emory – Rains) then beat out an infield single, runners advanced to scoring position on a wild pitch, and Uxua Modrego (Burlada, Spain) brought home the insurance run with a sacrifice fly.
Otto worked around trouble throughout the game, as OC had the bases loaded with none out in the second and could not score. Neither did the Eagles score in the third when they had the bases loaded with two out.
From there, though, Otto controlled the game, allowing only two singles to eliminate the top seed.
GAME TEN: A&M-COMMERCE 10, WEST TEXAS A&M 5
The Lions opened the game with an eight-run inning to control the game from the start. Hebler, Avery Boley (Fort Worth – Nolan Catholic), and Slider all drove in runs before the second out of the game to start the rally.
After Slider scored on a wild pitch, Modrego drove in two runs with a double, and Kimber Qualls (Humble – Atascocita) brought home a run with a sacrifice fly for an 8-0 lead after an inning.
The Lady Buffs also started quickly with two runs in the first on a sacrifice fly and an RBI groundout, but a nice snag by Alyssa LeBlanc (Katy) stopped that rally with the Lions ahead 8-2.
Modrego created a run in the third, walking, stealing second, then moving to third and scoring on wild pitches for a 9-2 Lion lead. WT narrowed the margin back to six runs with an Alyx Cordell RBI groundout in the bottom of the inning.
The Lions had a chance to take the potential game-ending lead in the fifth on a walk by Mott and singles by Samantha Dutton (Tulsa, Okla.) and Qualls, but the bases were left full.
WT cut into the lead further with a solo homer by Ruby Salzman in the fifth. In the seventh, Modrego beat out an infield single and scored on a Qualls double to go ahead 10-4. The Lady Buffs attempted to rally in the seventh with a run, but LeBlanc notched two straight strikeouts to end the game and force the final contest.
Neal, Boley, Modrego, and Dutton had two hits apiece in the game, and Qualls, Slider, and Modrego had doubles. LeBlanc moved her record to 17-11 with a five-run (four earned) complete game, allowing five hits with three walks and three strikeouts.
GAME 11: WEST TEXAS A&M 4, A&M-COMMERCE 0
The Lions’ offensive fortunes went south in the final game, as they were held to three hits in a shutout by Lady Buff pitcher Kyra Lair, who struck out nine.
A&M-Commerce pitching matched her for most of the game, but they tagged LeBlanc for four runs in the third inning. Shanna McBroom hit a one-out triple that they nearly caught in the outfield, and Salzman drove her in with a single. Four hits and two walks in a row later, the Lady Buffs led 4-0 before Hebler entered to pitch and shut the inning down.
Hebler was strong in relief, allowing only two hits and three walks in 4.1 innings, striking two out to keep the Lions in the game.
Unfortunately for the Lions, they only managed two hits after the WT rally, and the home side was unable to finish off a fantastic tournament run with a trip to Denver.