Texas A&M at Tennessee
NCAA softball super regional
Friday: Tennessee 8, Texas A&M 1
Today: 5 p.m. (ESPN2)
Sunday (if necessary): 3 p.m. (ESPN)
KNOXVILLE — Tennessee is within a victory of making the program's eighth Women's College World Series appearance after opening a best-of-three super regional with an 8-1 victory over Texas A&M on Friday.
There were no extended postgame celebrations, though.
Tennessee players saluted a Lee Stadium single-game record crowd of 2,352 with a postgame wave and then departed to watch video oof a pitcher who kept them off balance in the game's second half.
"Nothing's been won yet," Tennessee co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "We won the first round of a three-round boxing match. That's the way I look at it. If we're fortunate to come out tomorrow and play really well, then maybe the bout could be shortened. But right now, it's two tough teams going at each other."
Texas A&M pitchers Samantha Show and Lexi Smith combined to walk seven batters in the game's first three innings. Tennessee, also aided by two Aggies errors during that stretch, capitalized with eight runs.
Aggies freshman Payton McBride kept Tennessee (48-10) from adding to the lead, and she caught the Volunteers' attention for the rest of the weekend with her relief performance.
McBride inherited a bases-loaded jam with nobody out in the third inning and pitched the rest of the game without allowing a hit or a walk.
"They shut us down for three innings there at the end," Weekly said. "And they did it with a pitcher that we knew was a challenge to us. We're going back to watch film. I guarantee you we'll be ready tomorrow, just like they'll be ready tomorrow."
The game would have ended after five innings due to a mercy rule without a fifth-inning RBI single from Texas A&M's Sarah Hudek. The freshman outfielder had two hits against Tennessee winning pitcher Matty Moss (26-2).
"We started to strike the ball a lot better as the game went on," Texas A&M coach Jo Evans said. "So that's something to put in our back pocket. We had some kids drive the ball against Matty Moss. Tomorrow's a new day. I think it's really important that we don't get too bogged down with this. I don't think we have to sit here and try to search for answers as to what went wrong.
"We were just out of sync. There's no other way to look at it."
The eighth-seeded Vols and ninth-seeded Aggies play today at 5 p.m. If Texas A&M wins, the teams would play again Sunday at 3 p.m.
Tennessee shortstop Meghan Gregg set a school record for most runs batted in during a season (78) when her fielder's choice scored CJ McClain to make the score 8-0.
Then Texas A&M began showing the fight the Vols expect to see the rest of the weekend after a rare postseason game that did not come down to the wire.
Weekly said the Tennessee players told the coaching staff they wanted to stay after the game to develop a plan for hitting McBride.
"But we have to develop a plan for their whole team," he said. "I'm not kidding you. That's a very good softball team. We knew it was going to be a battle. When you get this close to the College World Series you want to make certain that if you don't go, you did everything you could to go."
Contact David Cobb at firstname.lastname@example.org.