Texas rallies for thrilling 9-8 win over Texas A&M in nine innings


For a second straight game, the No. 16 Texas A&M Aggies executed better and showed more poise through most of Saturday’s Austin Super Regional contest against the No. 1 seed Texas Longhorns at Red & Charline McCombs Field.

And then, as quickly as the weather can change in the Lone Star State, the Longhorns suddenly came to life and rose to the moment, overcoming a four-run deficit five-run sixth inning, giving it back in the seventh, and then winning the game in the ninth inning to send the super regional into Sunday’s decisive third game.

“I think, just … ‘Wow, what a game.’ There were certainly a lot of change of emotions throughout the day and throughout the game. Both teams played their hearts out and it really just came down to … I don’t know … it just came down to winning, I guess,” Texas head coach Mike White said.

“It felt like we really gave it everything we had out there. I’m real proud of my team and how they hung in there and all the different ways we were able to overcome some adversity and some things that happened. The pitching staff picked each other up and the defense came up with some good plays when we needed them. What an atmosphere for tonight’s game. And if that’s the No. 16 team, I’m dumbfounded.”

Early on, Texas A&M repeated Friday’s success by getting to the lauded Texas starter early with a big home run — on Saturday, it was center fielder Jazmine Hill connecting against Teagan Kavan for a two-run blast to left center to take a 2-0 lead extended to three runs with a single.

Unlike Friday starter, Citlaly Gutuirrez, who only lasted 1.1 innings, the freshman Kavan more effectively battled through those early nerves to get through 4.1 innings, although she did give up two more runs, one earned, when Aggies first baseman Trinity Cannon made second baseman Alyssa Washington pay for an error with her third home run of the super regional as Texas A&M took a 5-1 lead in the fifth inning.

With starter Emiley Kennedy stretched into her second game in the oppressively hot, humid Austin weather, Aggies head coach Trisha Ford made the decision to remove Kennedy in the fifth inning.

The decision paid off for three outs, but Texas A&M wasn’t sharp enough defensively to help Brooke Vestal out of the bullpen — after a walk and a single to start the inning, the Aggies catcher was called for obstruction at the plate on a fielder’s choice, forcing Ford to send Kennedy back into the game.

Texas third baseman Mia Scott came through with an RBI single while right fielder Ashton Maloney took an extra base on a throwing error by the A&M center fielder. A two-run single by shortstop Viviana Martinez extended the momentum before a delay of more than 10 minutes to remove trash behind the left-field wall that was pushing the padding into the field of play.

Catcher Reese Atwood ensured the momentum continued past the unusual delay, lacing an RBI single into left center to tie the game.

Working deep counts against Kennedy, who was surely tiring under the mental and physical strain of pitching in the difficult, high-pressure conditions, Texas worked a one-out single in the seventh and right fielder Bella Dayton came up with a clutch two-run home run to right center to give the Longhorns a three-run lead. The blast by Dayton was the 88th home run by Texas this season, tying the program high.

Reliever Estelle Czech couldn’t hold, it however, allowing a two-out single one strike away from ending the game and then conceding a two-run home run by designated player Mya Perez on a two-strike pitch, the first career homer for Perez, who entered the series batting .200 as a freshman.

The eighth inning proved indecisive as Texas failed to take advantage of having runners on first and second with two outs, but the ninth did decide the game. Center fielder Kayden Henry led off the top of the inning with a bunt single, stole second, and then advanced to third when Dayton grounded out to first base. The key RBI came from Scott, who singled through the left side to take the lead.

In a half inning that the close game deserved, Texas A&M led off with a single against Texas reliever Mac Morgan before some more drama — Maloney nearly dropped a routine popup to shallow right field, bobbling it for a nervy catch and Atwood was called for catcher’s interference on a 2-2 pitch to Perez, putting runners on first and second. The defense came through for the final out, though, as Morgan induced a grounder to second base and Washington took it herself to end the game.

With Kennedy throwing 118 pitches over seven innings on Friday before throwing 7.2 innings on Saturday, the operative question for Sunday’s super regional finale is whether the Texas A&M ace has enough left in the tank to pitch extended innings for a third straight game.

First pitch is at 6:30 p.m. Central on ESPN2.