KINGSVILLE, Texas — Fueled by a five-run rally in the sixth inning, the top-seeded Texas A&M-Kingsville softball team rallied from a three-run deficit to notch an 8-3 win over the fourth-seeded and No. 9 West Texas A&M Lady Buffs on day two of the South Central Regional Tournament at Hubert Field in Kingsville, Texas on Friday.
This victory pushes the Javelinas through to the regional final on Saturday, which has a scheduled first-pitch time of 1:30 p.m. WT will play at 7 p.m. against the winner of fifth-seeded Colorado Mesa and eighth-seeded Oklahoma Christian.
"Obviously, we got behind early," said coach Craig Nicholson, "I thought our offense late in the game was really good and we had a lot of high level at-bats. This team has figured out how to be really resilient. Some days it's easy and some days, you have work for it. Today we had to work and we did a nice job."
Following a scoreless first inning, WT's Ruby Salzman opened the scoring in the second by drilling a solo homer to left, putting the Javs behind for the first time in the postseason. One frame later, a lead-off walk brought up Kylee Moore, who rocketed a two-run homer over the left field wall, staking starter Shayne Starkey to a 3-0 lead.
A chance to increase that lead came in the third, when the Lady Buffs loaded the bases with one out but junior Breanna Smith (San Antonio, Texas) kept the score frozen. She induced popups from Salzman and Erica Vessels to keep her team in the game.
"The two biggest outs of the game," said Nicholson, "were getting out of the bottom of the third. From that point on, I felt like we really seized the moment."
Starkey cruised through the first three innings, allowing only one baserunner before TAMUK started to chip away in the fourth. Senior Victoria Schoonard-Saborio (Elk Grove, Calif.) was hit by a pitch to begin the inning and moved to third two batters later on a Roxy Chapa (McAllen, Texas) single. Another single, this one by freshman Veronica Chavez(Tempe, Ariz.) scored Schoonard-Saborio to get the Blue and Gold on the board.
A second run scored in the fifth when a hit and a hit batter brought up sophomore Anastasia Leibas (Del Valle, Texas), who rapped one through the middle to draw the Javelinas within one run.
The sixth inning is when the Javelina offense erupted to move in front for the first time. Two singles sandwiched around an out put two on for Claire Chernosky (Sugar Land, Texas). The sophomore dropped a single inside the right field line, sending freshman Amber Reyes (Edinburg, Texas) across with the tying run.
The next batter was sophomore Loren Kelly (Rockport, Texas) and she hit a high chopper on the infield for a hit that scored freshman Jory Cervantes (Pflugerville, Texas) with the go-ahead run. A walk loaded the bases and, two batters later, Chapa ripped a gapper into left-center, clearing the bases and putting the Javelinas ahead 7-3. Cervantes then added insurance with RBI knock in the seventh.
Smith, meanwhile, stifled the West Texas lineup after Moore's home run. She retired the side in order in the fifth and sixth before two players reached for WT in the seventh. Smith made the last play herself, throwing out Starkey on a bouncer back to the mound.
The Javelinas now wait to see who their opponent will be on Saturday. They'll have two chances to get one win for a spot in Super Regionals. To keep up with everything related to Javelina softball during the postseason, fans can stay up-to-date with Javelina softball throughout the season by following @TAMUKSB and @JavelinaSports on Twitter, @JavelinaSports on Instagram, liking Javelina Sports on Facebook and visit Javelinaathletics.com.