Norman, Okla. – Texas A&M got solid pitching from Emily Kennedy and the Eggies smashed nine hits to beat the Gophers 5-1 at Marietta Hines Field Friday afternoon in the opening round of the NCAA Norman Regional Softball Tournament.
Minnesota (26-25), the No. 3 seed in the four-team regional, faces a winning game against the loser in Friday night’s second first-round game between No. 1 Oklahoma in a double-elimination event on Saturday afternoon. (49-2) and No. 4 Prairie View A&M (20-28). The host Sooners are the overall No. 1 seed in the 64-team NCAA Tournament.
The Gophers held their own for the first half of Friday’s opener and took a 1-0 lead in the third inning when Mackenzie Denson scored Minnesota’s only run, slipping around the tag to ground out Lauren Espalin, one in the plate. Close game defeated. Denson ran for Sarah Kinch, who led the innings with a walk, as she jumped from first base to third on a throwing error from Eggsy catcher Haley Lee.
Texas A&M (30-26) scored with one run in the bottom of third, then went on for good with two runs in fifth and two runs in sixth.
The Gophers scored one last run at the Agiges when they loaded the bases in the seventh. Makena Down reached an error and Delaney Cox went in with one, then struck an infield single by Kayla Chavez with two outs. But Espalin, a plate-going tie, landed at second base to end the innings.
Natalie Denhartog, a Hopkins center fielder and the Gophers’ all-time leader in home runs, produced two of Minnesota’s four hits, one in the first inning and another in the sixth. He extended his hitting streak to 16 games.
Allie Jensen also sang for U in the sixth, but both she and Denhartog were stranded on bass.
Gophers’ starting pitcher Emily Levitt (14-10) lost. He conceded six hits and three runs in four innings. The Autumn Peas finished with two runs for three hits in two innings. Pease dismissed the team in the fifth inning in his first innings.