Prior to the Best Western Premier Spring Fling, Jordan Readicker told Larisa Garcia that she had a good feeling about returning home after TWU won four of five road games over the weekend.
Turns out Readicker had more than just a feeling, as the Pioneers sustained their dominance at Pioneer Field on Tuesday, defeating Texas A&M International 7-1 and answering St. Edward’s comeback with a walk-off grand slam by Readicker for a 7-3 victory.
Readicker now has 137 career RBIs, breaking the school record of 133 set by TWU Hall of Famer Teresa Flores (2002-04).
St. Edward’s (12-14) tied the game at 3 in the top of the seventh when Brianna Bozon delivered a bases-loaded double off Garcia, who hadn’t allowed an earned run in her previous three games.
But even after the Hilltoppers’ comeback, the Pioneers (24-6), who are 10-0 at home, were not worried.
“We are the kind of team that if there is pressure on us or not, we are going to come through,” Readicker said. “We are such a strong team that anyone throughout the lineup can do what I just did. I knew my team needed me to do something and I hadn’t been hitting at all, so I had confidence in myself. As soon as it left the bat, I knew it was something good.”
St. Edward’s starter Sarah Debrow wasn’t exactly a leaky faucet either, striking out seven Pioneers before the bottom of the seventh.
Amanda Ruiz’s line drive to center field got things started for TWU in the seventh, and Lizzy Kelly smashed a double to left to give Katie Hines an opportunity to end the game. Hines worked a full count and looked to have a game-winning sacrifice fly, but the wind carried it foul and Hines settled for a walk.
Readicker had gone 0-for-3 with a strikeout in the game, but she scorched her school record-tying second career grand slam to left.
“That’s a sign of upperclassmen and that mature team that we have,” TWU coach Richie Bruister said. “No big deal. They went out, got the job done. They put a couple line drives together and then Katie has a great at-bat and gets a walk. Then, the pressure is on [St. Edward’s] because they know the walk is the winning run. J-Read was patient, got her pitch and put a good swing on it.”
Garcia (8-1) allowed three runs and five hits while striking out seven.
“She’s pitching with heart right now, and that’s what you want,” Bruister said. “You want players that will play for the name on the front of their jerseys. She’s leading the way with the pitching staff. She reached down deep and gave us a chance to win the ballgame. That’s all we ask.”
The Pioneers entered Tuesday’s play with 23 home runs and 170 RBIs. They added two home runs and seven RBIs as they took the first game against A&M International with Hines leading the way.
Hines (8-1) limited the Dustdevils to one run on six hits while striking out two. She peppered the strike zone with 55 of her 71 total pitches.
“Katie is so consistent,” Kelly said. “She is a great pitcher and can have a great at-bat at any time. She has great confidence in herself, and I think that’s what gives her success.”
Hines coerced the Dustdevils into three double plays, including two that ended the first and third innings when A&M-International had runners in scoring position.
With a bat in her hand, Hines launched a two-run homer, her ninth of the season, in the fourth inning to stretch the Pioneers’ lead to 6-1.
Bruister said the poise needed to be as successful and versatile as Hines often goes overlooked.
“Being a utility player, you have to have a mental focus like no other, because it is extremely hard to go from pitching to hitting and back and forth,” Bruister said. “There are so many highs and lows. It takes a special person to balance those two things out. People don’t realize how hard that is to do. She does it as well as anybody in the country.”
Kelly went 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored as the Pioneers got 11 hits off A&M International starter Sarah Johnson, who surrendered four earned runs while walking two and striking out two.
The Dustdevils scored their only run in the second, but TWU evened the score in the third with Kelly’s RBI single driving in Ruiz, who reached on a double. Readicker scored Kelly with a single through the left side of the infield to make it 2-1, and Sarah WIttenburg’s RBI single to left put the Pioneers up 3-1.
After Haley Colwell and Bailey Vrazel reached on infield hits to start the fourth, Ruiz’s sacrifice fly put TWU ahead 4-1.
Ashley Maddox’s drive to left field that found its way just inside the foul pole for her second home run of the season gave the Pioneers a 7-1 lead in the fifth.
With their last loss at Pioneer Field remaining last season’s 5-1 decision against Incarnate Word in the Lone Star Conference tournament, the Pioneers will finish the Spring Fling with a rematch against A&M International at 2 p.m. today.
“We’re obviously playing good softball right now,” Bruister said. “It’s nice to be at home because you can sleep in your own bed, you don’t have to get up as early and you’re in your normal routine. It’s nice to come out relaxed. Then, you’ve got your home crowd cheering us on when you need that extra something. It was a great team effort [Tuesday], and in that team are our fans.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873. His e-mail address is email@example.com .
TWU 7, TEXAS A&M INTERNATIONAL 1
WP — Katie Hines (8-1). LP — Sarah Johnson (2-6). 2B — A: Kristen LaBuhn, Rochelle Nash, Marisa Castillo. T: Amanda Ruiz, Lizzy Kelly. HR — T: Hines, Ashley Maddox.
TWU 7, ST. EDWARD’S 3
WP — Larisa Garcia (8-1). LP — Sarah Debrow (8-7). 2B — T: Kelly, Kendra Sancet. HR — T: Readicker.