The last time Texas A&M hosted a super regional, the Aggies had cruised to a 42-6 regular season record. They won the Big 12 Championship and seemed poised for a run to the College World Series.
But then it all came crashing down one afternoon with a thud—literally.
Star pitcher and offensive threat Amanda Scarborough hit the deck after being struck in the head with a line drive during practice. In an instant, what seemed like a formality turned into a loss to Alabama in the super regionals at home. But A&M head coach Jo Evans and her squad never made excuses.
Two years later, they made it back to the super regionals, but this time, they delivered, winning the best of three series last week against Florida to advance to the Women's College World Series for the first time since 1988.
Last year, the Aggies had another solid season, but were eliminated by Lehigh in the Amherst, Mass. regional. But this year is the Aggies' year.
"Last year when we ended our postseason way too early we felt like we had the kind of team for the following year that could get to the World Series," Evans said. "It is certainly a place we expected to be."
But some doubted the Aggies' worthiness of the No. 4 seed after finishing fourth in the Big 12 standings this year. But Evans was quick to point out that A&M was still competing for the Big 12 Championship going into the final weekend of the season.
"A lot of people doubted us somewhat for taking fourth in the Big 12," she said. "I think our players made a statement going into the postseason with how we played and the wins we had."
The only thing any doubters of this A&M team should do is take a look at the beginning of the season when the Aggies started the year with a 12-0 record, including wins over No. 4 Northwestern, No. 20 Fresno State, No. 3 UCLA and No. 1 Arizona all in the opening weekend.
They may have stumbled a bit down the stretch, dropping three of their last four games entering the NCAA Tournament, but that downward spiral came to an abrupt end after an 8-1 loss to the University of Houston.
Instead of tucking their tails following the loss, the Aggies rallied to win the regional out of the losers bracket and then took two of three from Florida to advance to the College World Series.
A&M junior All-American Amanda Scarborough, said those last two weeks of adversity seem to have given the Aggies an extra resiliency.
"We definitely took the hard road," Scarborough said. "(Bouncing back from the loss to Houston) gave our team an ability to see how we can play every single game, and if we play like that then we can play our best.
The Aggies (46-12, 12-6 Big 12) are led at the plate and in the circle by Scarborough, who led the Big 12 in ERA this year—an ERA that has dropped to 0.99 through super regional play. At one point, Scarborough pitched 27-plus consecutive innings without allowing a run.
Scarborough is third on the team with a .335 batting average and leads the team with 46 RBI this year at the plate.
Teammate, and fellow All-American, Megan Gibson leads the team with a .397 average and 12 home runs, including a towering 2-run homer off of Florida ace Stacey Nelson, who had given up just three long balls all season.
The All-American duo combined for 86 of the team's 256 RBIs and 19 of the team's 42 homeruns this year.
But don't expect any gaudy offensive numbers from the Aggies on Thursday against Tennessee. They'll have to scrap for any offense they can find against USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Monica Abbott. The senior pitcher is 46-3 this year and has a .65 ERA in 314.1 innings of work.
Abbott and the Lady Vols won't be intimidated by playing at the WCWS either. They've advanced to the event in each of the last two seasons, finishing third in each of those trips.
The opening round game for the Aggies will be televised on ESPNHD on Thursday night with first pitch set for 6 p.m. (CDT).
The winner of the A&M/Tennessee match-up will face the winner of the Arizona/Baylor game on Friday at 8 p.m. (CDT) on ESPN2HD. The losing teams will meet on Saturday at 1 p.m. (CDT) on ESPNHD.
Aggies ready for WCWS
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