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Texas A&M-Kingsville softball opens NCAA Tournament with win

The Javelinas topped Oklahoma Christian 5-0 in their Region opener.

KINGSVILLE, Texas — The Texas A&M-Kingsville softball team earned its first victory in the South Central Regional Tournament since 2002 and freshman Saidi Castillo(Kingsville, Texas) threw her seventh shutout of 2019 as the Javelinas blanked the Oklahoma Christian Eagles, 5-0, on Thursday evening at Hubert Field in Kingsville, Texas.

The Javelinas now move into the winner's bracket, which sets them up to meet No. 9 West Texas A&M on Friday at 2 p.m. Oklahoma Christian will play a win-or-go-home game against No. 11 Colorado Mesa on Friday at 5 p.m.

"I thought Oklahoma Christian played really good ballgame," said coach Craig Nicholson. "We were fortunate to get some breaks. I thought we played really well defensively and Saidi threw a real nice game for us and Roxy [Chapa] provided a few big swings. Probably a tighter game than what the scoreboard said, but we found a way to get some big hits when we need them and came out on the good end."

An early lead was established by the victors in the first inning thanks to a one-out walk and a double off the left field wall by senior Roxy Chapa (McAllen, Texas), tallying sophomore Anastasia Leibas (Del Valle, Texas) to open the scoring.

Another run scored in the second, an inning that started when freshman Makenzie Mays (Conroe, Texas) was hit by a pitch. A wild pitch moved her to second and with two outs, sophomore Claire Chernosky (Sugar Land, Texas) hit a liner just over the leaping try of Brie Dunkel at second base and Mays scored on the base hit.

Castillo, meanwhile, was receiving help from her defense as she posted zero after zero. On a popup in the first inning and a lineout in the fourth, Leibas caught runners off base and turned double plays. Castillo also used a strikeout and a popup to escape a first-and-third, one-out jam in the second.

"I think my changeup was probably more on point in this game than any other game," said Castillo. "Having my changeup really helped and [so did] my defense having my back."

After Castillo threw a perfect top of the fifth, another big swing by Chapa put the game away. With two runners on and one out, she blasted a three-run homer to left for a 5-0 lead.

"I was trying not to miss the slowball," said Chapa. "I was just going to swing at whatever wasn't too high or too low. I was trying to stay inside because she was throwing me in."

Two more great defensive plays helped end the game. With one out and one on in the sixth, Hunter Strickland singled to left, but when Dunkel attempted to go first-to-third, freshman Amber Reyes (Edinburg, Texas) unleashed a laser beam to Chernosky, who applied the tag for the second out, killing a potential rally. With two on and one out an inning later, Chernosky turned a routine grounder into a 5-4-3, game-ending double play.

Live video and stats for every Javelina game in the South Central Regional Tournament is available on Javelinaathletics.com. 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.