(What follows is a tryout article I wrote for a full-time sports writing job at the McAlester News in Oklahoma. Wish me luck!)
Texas A&M doesn’t need much offense when Mel Dumezich pitches. Combine Dumezich’s dizzying assortment of pitches with some power at the plate, and a softball game can easily become a slaughter.
The Aggies homered four times off Longhorn starter Kim Bruins – twice by sophomore third baseman Amber Garza – invoking the NCAA’s eight-run rule and powering them to a 9-0 victory in six innings Thursday night at Aggie Softball Complex in College Station. The two teams are now tied for second in the Big 12, each a game behind Oklahoma.
Texas A&M’s offensive explosion began in the second. Sophomore right fielder Cassie Tysarczyk beat out a grounder to first for an infield single, followed by a full-count walk from Dumezich. Bruins then left too much of a 1-1 screwball to Garza over the plate, and Garza crushed the ball to left-center for a 3-0 lead.
Bruins repeated the same mistake four pitches later, and sophomore first baseman Nicole Morgan deposited a 1-2 screwball in almost exactly the same spot Garza had. The 4-0 lead turned out to be more than enough for Dumezich, who struck out five in six scoreless innings.
Dumezich lived on the outside corner Thursday, mixing her curveball, changeup and screwball so well that the Longhorns didn’t swing at any of her third-strike pitches. She also held Texas to just two hits with runners in scoring position, and bad base running kept Texas from scoring on either.
When senior Longhorn second baseman Lexy Bennett beat out a two-out infield single in the top of third, leadoff hitter Taylor Hoagland thought she’d been tagged out and slowed down midway between third and home. Seeing Hoagland caught in no man’s land, Morgan quickly threw home, and junior catcher Meagan May applied the swipe-tag to end the inning.
A similar play happened an inning later, after junior left fielder Torie Schmidt singled to right with one down. Following a foul out by Bruins, sophomore catcher Mandy Ogle hit a bouncer to second. The ball clipped Schmidt in the heel as she ran by, ending the inning on interference.
Between lackadaisical base running and dominant pitching by Dumezich, the Longhorns stranded nine base runners.
Texas A&M ended the game in the bottom of the sixth. Tysarczyk led off with a double – her second hit of the day – and Dumezich drew a full-count walk to put two on with none out. Bruins got into eight full-count situations Thursday, giving up three walks but no hits.
Bruins then made the same mistake she’d made in Garza’s previous at-bat: leaving a pitch high and over the plate. And just like in the second, Garza homered to left-center, putting the Aggies up 7-0.
Freshman Texas reliever Gabby Smith relieved Bruins after Garza’s second home run, but she fared no better, walking Morgan on four pitches. Junior shortstop Brittany Walker then crushed the first pitch she saw over the right field wall, driving in Morgan and ending the game in style for Texas A&M.
Dumezich picked up her 24th win of the season, lowering her ERA to 1.94, while Bruins’ record fell to 7-5. Bruins gave up seven earned runs on seven hits, three walks and three strikeouts, increasing her 2.12 ERA before Thursday’s game by over half a run.
Texas and Texas A&M will play two more games this weekend in Austin. With Texas A&M leaving the Big 12 after this year, these next two games will likely mark the end to an historic college rivalry.
The Aggies currently lead the Longhorns in softball 20-18, dating back to 1997. The Longhorns, however, lead the Aggies in football, basketball and baseball.