After beating the only two teams to defeat them in the previous 18 games on Tuesday, the TWU Pioneers finished the Best Western Premier Spring Fling on Wednesday with a 7-2 victory over Texas A&M International on the shoulders of Katie Hines’ team-leading 10th home run of the season at Pioneer Field.
The Pioneers’ most recent loss came at the hands of the Dustdevils on Sunday, when A&M International ended TWU’s school record-tying 11-game winning streak. That didn’t keep 10th-ranked TWU (25-6) from scoring seven runs on 11 hits in its fifth win over the Dustdevils to stay undefeated at home at 11-0. With a 3-0 mark, TWU claimed the tournament title.
Devoid of any RBIs Tuesday despite going 3-of-7 with a walk, two steals and a run scored, leadoff hitter Bailey Vrazel stepped her game up even more, going 3-of-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Her big hit was a two-run triple in the sixth inning to pad the Pioneers’ lead at 6-2 after Hines broke a 2-all tie in the fifth.
“We definitely needed that going into the top of the seventh,” Vrazel said. “I wanted to drive the runs in and I was looking to hit the ball. I’ve been waiting for my swing to come back. That felt really good to get back in there with two RBIs. I needed it and the team needed it.”
Brandie Lander (9-3) earned her team-leading ninth win of the season. She allowed seven hits while striking out seven in a complete-game effort.
“Brandie pitched well today,” TWU coach Richie Bruister said. “We’ve been working with her on getting her pitches to change speeds. She had her changeup working today. And when it’s working, it speeds her up, and she throws the ball hard anyway. You have to keep the hitters off balance and not throw one speed.”
Coming off her walk-off grand slam and record-breaking day Tuesday, Readicker didn’t waste any time getting more runners across home plate, as she gave TWU a 2-0 lead in the first inning. With the bases loaded, Readicker sent a well-hit single through the middle of the infield to drive home Vrazel and Lizzy Kelly, who both reached on infield hits.
The Dustdevils (13-21) evened the score at 2 after Esmeralda Gonzalez’s double rode the wind and sailed over Amanda Ruiz in center field. Lander almost worked around the leadoff double, but with two outs Rochelle Nash smashed a two-run home run to left field.
Already 2-for-2, Nash had the opportunity to give the Dustdevils the lead in the fifth inning with runners on first and second. Fortunately for TWU, Lander slammed the door on Nash’s bid for a third hit and RBI as she struck out Nash.
She then forced Mariena Gallardo into a grounder back to her for an easy toss to first baseman Kendra Sancet to get out of the inning unharmed.
“She did great,” Hines said. “She gave up a home run, but then she came back with a strikeout. That’s a quality of a great pitcher. She had seven strikeouts and that’s incredible. It’s more than I’ve ever had. I know as a pitching staff, as a whole, that we can count on each other. She had control. She showed it on her face, and she showed it with her pitching.”
Riding the momentum of the defensive stand in the top half of the inning, Hines seized control of the game for the Pioneers with her two-run home run in the bottom half, putting TWU back on top 4-2.
“I definitely wasn’t trying to hit a home run,” Hines said. “Lizzy just got out, so I needed to get the momentum back in our favor. I was just thinking I needed to hit the ball hard somewhere, and it just happened to be hard out of the park.”
Vrazel gave the Pioneers some insurance in the sixth with a bullet to right-center field. Scoring Megan Leff and Haley Colwell, who reached on singles, Vrazel stretched her hit into a triple as the ball trickled all the way to the wall to give TWU a 6-2 lead. Lizzy Kelly then singled up the middle to finish the scoring at 7-2.
“She [Vrazel] has been working on some mechanical things at the plate where she can dial it in and hit those hard line drives like she did with that triple right there,” Bruister said. “So it was good to see her bat being consistent again for us at the top of the lineup.”
The victory over the Dustdevils completes the Pioneers’ treacherous nonconference schedule. as they now enter the final portion of their schedule. The final 24 games are all against Lone Star Conference opponents.
“We played this like a three-game series,” Bruister said. “It’s an in-region, nonconference game, which is very important for us, and this game wrapped up an incredible nonconference schedule for us. Our schedule was tough and is getting tougher as we get into conference. We got everybody’s No. 1 pitcher, so it hasn’t been a gift to us.”
TWU will get right back into action Friday and Saturday at Pioneer Field with a three-game series against Abilene Christian, which went 1-2 in the Spring Fling with two losses to St. Edward’s and a win over A&M International.
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873. His e-mail address is email@example.com .
TWU 7, TEXAS A&M INTERNATIONAL 2
WP — Brandie Lander (9-3). LP — Mariena Gallardo (3-2). 2B — TAMUI: Gonzalez. TWU: Vrazel. 3B — TWU: Vrazel. HR – TAMUI: Nash. TWU: Hines.