KINGSVILLE, Texas — For the second time in program history and the first time since 2002, the Texas A&M-Kingsville softball team earned the title of Lone Star Conference Tournament Champions, capturing the championships with a 3-1 win over the No. 7 A&M-Commerce Lions in the LSC Tournament Final on Saturday evening at Hubert Field in Kingsville, Texas.
The marks the first time in school history the Javelinas have won the LSC Championship in the regular season and the tournament title in the same year.
"I really like the way we played today," said coach Craig Nicholson. "Our pitching and defense were outstanding and that's how you win in the postseason. We got some timely hits and found ways to take advantage of our chances."
Freshman Saidi Castillo (Kingsville, Texas) took the ball for TAMUK and started the evening with a bang. She struck out five of the first six hitters she faced before the Javelinas got on the board in their half of the second.
Freshman Veronica Chavez (Tempe, Ariz.) started the inning with a single and pinch-runner Yvonne Castillo (Leander, Texas) promptly stole second. An Amber Reyes (Edinburg, Texas) knock moved her to third and she scored when freshman Jory Cervantes (Pflugerville, Texas) grounded out.
The Lions wasted no time responding and Jodie Hill provided the equalizer with a solo homer to center in the third, but it was a short-lived tie.
A one-out double in the bottom of the third was provided by senior Victoria Schoonard-Saborio (Elk Grove, Calif.) and another senior, Roxy Chapa (McAllen, Texas), smacked a two-bagger of her own that put the Javs back ahead, 2-1.
The Lions put runners on in each of the next two innings, but Castillo, with help from her defense, protected the lead. After hitting a batter with two outs in the fourth, she struck out Bri Sims to close the frame. Castillo would end the night with 10 Ks. In the fifth, two runners reached, bringing up Madision Schaefer with two outs. The freshman third baseman sent a drive towards the alley in right-center, but Cervantes sprinted into the gap and made a running catch just before hitting the wall, saving two runs and ending the inning.
An insurance run came in the fifth thanks in part to a pair of Commerce errors, the first of which put sophomore Loren Kelly (Rockport, Texas) on base. The second miscue was committed by Kayla Kilcrease in center, who misplayed a single by Schoonard-Saborio, allowing Kelly to race all the way around with the run that provided Castillo with a 3-1 cushion.
The tying run was quickly brought to plate by A&M-C in sixth when Kinsie Hebler reached on a lead-off single, but the next three hitters were set down in order. TAMUK's freshman 20-game winner then proceeded to toss a perfect seventh to clinch her team's second championship of 2019.
Five TAMUK student-athletes earned spots in the conference's all-tournament team, including junior Breanna Smith (San Antonio, Texas), who was named the tournament's MVP. Smith was joined by Castillo, Schoonard-Saborio, Leibas and Kelly.
The Javelinas will now turn their attention to the South Central Regional Tournament. TAMUK was ranked at No. 1 in the most recent regional poll and the top two seeds serve as hosts for the event, which will begin on Thursday. Javelina fans can keep with Blue and Gold softball by following @TAMUKSB and @JavelinaSports on Twitter, @JavelinaSports on Instagram, liking Javelina Sports on Facebook and visit Javelinaathletics.com.