The home crowd got quite a show on Thursday evening at John Cain Family Field in Commerce as the Texas A&M University-Commerce Lion softball team grabbed a 3-0 victory against the Dixie State Trail Blazers in their first game of the NCAA South Central Regional Tournament.
The Lions got the win despite only getting a single base hit in the contest on a chilly, windy evening in Commerce.
Both pitchers showed their skills in the early stages of the game, as A&M-Commerce’s Emily Otto and the Trail Blazers’ Cambrie Hazel began to work their magic on the mound. Both pitchers got off to strong starts, striking out the side in their respective halves of the first inning.
Otto was the first to come under fire, as a hit and two walks got the bases loaded for Dixie State with two outs in the third inning. But Otto forced a fly ball to center field that was caught to end the threat.
The Lions would answer in their half of the third, loading the bases on a pair of walks and a hit batter. Madison Schaefer popped a ball up in foul territory down the left field line, and Jodie Hill scored from third on the sacrifice hit, giving the Lions the lead without a hit on the board.
The lead was extended in the next frame, as Bri Sims got solid contact on a pitch from Hazel, launching the ball high down the left field line. The heavy winds that had been present all game might have helped Sims on this play, as the ball was curving foul but doinked off of the foul pole for a home run. Another insurance run was added in the fifth after catcher Avery Boley hit a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded.
Otto took advantage of the small ball and clamped down on the Trail Blazers. She allowed just two hits in the final three innings, and sat down Dixie State one-two-three in the seventh to seal the victory.
Sims got the lone hit for the Lions, going one-for-three with the solo home run. Kinsie Hebler finished zero-for-one but got on base twice with a pair of walks. Ciera Nunez reached on an error and made it all the way to third base on the misplay in the fifth, eventually scoring a run. Jodie Hill walked and scored a run.
Otto picked up her 27th win, 23rd complete game and 12th shutout of the season Thursday, going the full seven innings and allowing just three hits and walking four. She tied her season-high strikeout total with nine K’s on the night.
After the game, a special graduation ceremony was held for the senior athletes on the team.
In a post-game press conference, Sims, still wearing her graduation gown from the ceremony, said that it was tough dealing with windy conditions.
“My first at-bat I felt like I got a hold of the ball and again on my next hit,” Sims said. “On defense we had to follow the ball and make sure that everyone knew where the ball was going, because the ball could end up anywhere.”
Otto said that her thought process during the bases-loaded jam in the third inning wasn’t to get it past the hitter, but to force the batter into making bad contact.
“My thought process was honestly to put it where they will swing the bat,” Otto said. “I have trust in our defense that if the ball is in play, they can get the out.”
Head Coach Richie Bruister says that while the win is great, the team can’t let up, as they have a date with a strong Tarleton team tomorrow.
“I know it’s going to be a battle,” Bruister said. “We are glad to be able to play these games in front of our home crowd.”
The win improves the Lions to 39-12 on the season, while Dixie State falls to 42-12. A&M-Commerce will next play Tarleton State Friday at noon at Cain Family Field. The Texannes defeated Cameron 2-1 on Thursday in a walk-off effort. The Aggies will square off against the Trail Blazers at 2:30 p.m.