'Sleeping giant' wakes up

They stumbled into the NCAA Tournament with three losses in their last four games. They looked to be heading down a similar path after a 8-1 loss to Houston. But the No. 4 seed Aggies proved that they deserved the high seed after three impressive wins to finish the regional weekend.

The No. 4 seeded Texas A&M softball team had been asleep for the past two weeks, losing three of their last four games heading into the NCAA Tournament this weekend. They were flat and seemed to lack any sort of intensity or emotion.

They were making mental mistakes and failing to execute—losing two games in the last week of the season on pass balls to end the game.

That trend reared its ugly head again on Friday night when Sam Houston State put up five runs in the first inning off of Gibson. The Aggies came back to win, 9-5, but the mental psyche seemed to be fragile.

Then the unthinkable happened in the early game on Saturday—an 8-1 loss to the University of Houston. But that loss ended up being the spark that A&M needed to start playing like the No. 4 seed in the nation, and could prove to be the catalyst for a deep run in the postseason.

The Aggies racked up 29 runs on 34 hits in their last three games of the weekend (one versus SHSU on Saturday and two versus UH on Sunday), outscoring their opponents 29-2. They enforced the mercy rule against Sam Houston on Saturday night and again versus Houston in the first game on Sunday.

"I think Houston woke a sleeping giant the other day when they beat us," said A&M head coach Jo Evans. "I love the way our kids came back and had complete confidence and really dominated the three games we played after the loss."

Junior Amanda Scarborough, who allowed no runs in her last 10 innings of work this weekend said that she felt like Sunday was the first time the Aggies had played so hard in quite some time.

"It's so hard to play 55 games with such intensity," Scarborough said. "It's hard on you mentally and physically. We showed exactly how we played in February with that emotion and that is exactly how we played today in those (two) games."

Many of the players said that there was a different feeling when they came to the park on Sunday. There was a vibe in the clubhouse and they knew they were going to win. Several of the players even commented about dreams they had on Saturday night.

Freshman infielder Alex Reynolds was ready to do whatever it took to stay alive for another week.

"You get so mad and your adrenaline starts running and you wake up in the morning and you just want to go kill somebody," Reynolds said. "I was ready to go fight somebody this morning. I sent the team a text message ‘Winning is a state of mind. Let's go kill somebody today, Ags.' We went in there and that is exactly what we did."

Juniors Megan Gibson and Amanda Scarborough got a head start on taking care of business on Saturday night. The two combined to throw 17 scoreless innings in the final three games, allowing just 11 hits and striking out 19 batters. Gibson and Scarborough also allowed zero runs in their 17 innings of work following the loss to Houston.

They were just as dominant at the plate, going a combined 11-for-18 from the plate with 8 RBIs, 8 runs scored and one home run apiece.

"They were both great," Evans said. "We really needed those two. After we lost to Houston and we had been struggling a little bit I said we need Gibson and Scarborough to really step up. Those are the kids that you count on day in and day out. Today we could really count on them."

While Gibson and Scarborough racked up the offensive numbers, it seemed like every offensive explosion began with Sharonda McDonald getting on base. The senior center fielder was 12-for-16 this weekend, with five stolen bases and 12 runs scored.

"If Sharonda gets on, we are going to score," Scarborough said.

The Aggies will hope to continue their rekindled intensity next weekend against Florida, who eliminated Texas on Sunday.

The Aggies will host the NCAA Super Regional beginning next Friday at the Aggie Softball Stadium, which will be televised by ESPN. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30pm.

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