By Matthew Hamill
The Texas State Softball team opened the 2016 season hosting the CenturyLink Classic, here in San Marcos.
Texas State welcomed Abilene Christian University, Oklahoma State, DePaul, and Northwestern State to San Marcos. In six games the Bobcats finished the Classic with a 5-1 record, the one loss a 1-0 defeat to Northwestern State on Saturday.
The Bobcats opened the season with a 13-1 pounding over Abilene Christian University. In the first inning the offense got off to a hot start, with two outs and runners on second and third Corrina Liscano stepped to the plate for her first at-bat in a Texas State uniform. The Howard College transfer did not disappoint, crushing a pitch out of the yard for her first home-run in her very first Texas State at-bat, to give Texas State an early 3-0 lead.
In the second inning the Bobcats added five more runs with 2 RBI doubles coming from Prado and Ortiz, and an RBI single from Liscano.
The Bobcats had another five run inning in the top of the 4th, to take a 13-0 lead over Abilene.
Randi Rupp impressed in her season opener. In three innings, the Sun-Belt Preseason pitcher of the year struck out five of the ten batters she faced, for her first win of the season. Paige Williams pitched the final two innings for the Bobcats, and notched five K’s to match Rupp.
Game 2 on Friday night against the Big-12 school Oklahoma State proved to be much more challenging for the Bobcats, and much more dramatic.
Randi Rupp started again for the Bobcats and was absolutely dominant. Pitching all seven innings Rupp recorded 9 strikeouts while walking 3 batters, giving up only three hits and allowing one earned run.
On the other side Brandi Needham was also dominant for the Cowboys. Through six innings Needham matched Rupp pitch for pitch, striking out seven batters only walking one.
Runs were at a premium and this game was a classic pitchers duel between Rupp and Needham. With the score tied at one run apiece heading into the bottom of the seventh, the stage was set for some early season magic.
With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Kelli Baker hit a single to get on base and Bianca Prado stepped up to the plate. Prado, with a mighty swing of the bat, hit a two run homer to give Texas State the 3-1 walk-off win and a 2-0 record to end Day 1 of the CenturyLink classic.
The Bobcats opened up the second day of tournament play against the DePaul Demons. Paige Williams got the start for the Bobcats and got off to a rocky start by giving up a leadoff home run to DePaul’s starting pitcher Morgan Maize.
Fortunately for the Bobcats, Williams was able to bounce back and excelled at getting opposing batters to ground out.
In the bottom of the third, Kimberlin Naivar took a fastball from Maize to left-center field and evened the score at one apiece. Naivar’s first homer of the season, matching her total from last year.
The score wouldn’t stay tied for long. In the top of the fourth, Williams gave up another lead-off home run to Nicole Pihl. In the fifth inning Maize would get on base again, and Dylan Christensen got Maize across the plate to give the Demons a 3-1 advantage, going into the bottom of the fifth.
However the Bobcats would respond. With Naivar and Baker on first and second, and two outs, Ariel Ortiz stepped up to the plate looking to make a statement. Ortiz came through, crushing a Maize pitch into left field to give the Bobcats the 4-3 lead, their first lead of the afternoon.
Williams recorded one out in the 6th inning before giving up a single, it was then Texas State unleashed Randi Rupp to preserve the lead. Rupp came in and pitched 1.2 shut-out innings and earned the save to give the Bobcats their third win in as many games.
Game 2 on Saturday was the definition of a pitcher’s duel between Texas State’s Randi Rupp and Northwestern State’s Mikayla Brown.
Northwestern’s batters got of to a good start, with Shelby Salmons hitting a leadoff double then Kellye Kincannon hitting another double to bring in the only run of the afternoon.
After the first inning Rupp regained her dominance, giving up only three hits the remainder of the game.
Brown was phenomenal for Northwestern State going up and down the Bobcat line up with relative ease. The only knock on Brown was the fact that she walked 4 batters through 5.2 innings.
The Bobcats had a legitimate chance to take the lead in the top of the sixth. With two outs, Brown walked Kendal Wiley and gave up a double to Corrina Liscano, putting runners on second and third. With Taylor Webb at the plate, Brown injured herself throwing a pitch and was forced to leave the game with two runners on and two outs.
Northwestern State went to Shelby Sells to finish Webb’s at-bat. Sells got the vital strikeout and NorthWestern State were able to preserve their lead. Giving the Bobcats their first loss of the young season.
A tough loss for Randi Rupp (2-1) who only needed a couple of runs, the Bobcats failed to capitalize on offensive opportunities, leaving seven runners on base in the loss.
The final day of the CenturyLink Classic saw Texas State playing Oklahoma State and Abilene Christian University again.
In Sunday’s first game the Bobcats got to Needham and Oklahoma State early in the game. The Bobcats took a 2-0 lead off a Taylor Webb 2-RBI single in the first. In the second inning Needham walked a batter with the bases loaded to give the Bobcats another run, and then an illegal pitch gave Texas State a 4-0 lead.
Randi Rupp (3-1) continued her dominance with 9 K’s in six innings. Quincy Charleston pitched a scoreless frame in the seventh inning in her Bobcat Softball debut.
In the Bobcats final game of the Classic against Abilene Christian University, the Bobcats gave Paige Williams her second start in as many days. In the first inning the Bobcats helped out Williams with two runs scored in the first inning.
But Abilene Christian would respond in the second inning to tie the game, courtesy of a Bobcat error. Then in the following inning the Demons would take a 3-2 lead with a two-out RBI single.
Williams kept the Demons scoreless after the 3rd inning, and finished the afternoon with five K’s giving up six hits, three runs and one earned run in six innings pitched.
Randi Rupp entered the game in the seventh inning as this game had the feel of an extra innings affair.
Going into the bottom of the seventh trailing by a run, the Bobcats needed to manufacture some offense. Enter Corrina Liscano, who homered in her first Texas State at-bat, against Abilene Christian on Friday. Liscano hit a leadoff home run in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game at three runs each. To extra innings they went.
In the top of the eighth the Demons were able to get a runner to third base with two outs. However Rupp recorded a clutch strikeout to give the Bobcats a chance for a walk-off win.
With the bases loaded, Ariel Ortiz came up with a clutch single to give Texas State their fifth win out of six, in dramatic walk off fashion.
What does this mean for the Bobcats moving forward?
There are no signs of a Sophomore slump for the phenom that is Randi Rupp. The Sun-Belt Preseason Pitcher of the Year finished the weekend with a 0.55 ERA, a 4-1 record, pitched two complete games, and even recorded a save. In six appearances over the weekend, Rupp struck-out 35 batters, while only allowing two earned runs on 12 hits.
On the offensive side Corrina Liscano had an impressive debut for the Bobcats, and after the CenturyLink Classic leads the Bobcats in batting average and home runs. Ariel Ortiz also impressed with some clutch hitting on her way to a team leading seven RBI’s.
The CenturyLink Classic went exactly the way the Bobcats wanted, as they faced some good softball teams in Oklahoma State and Northwestern State. This early season tune up will definitely pay dividends in the future, as this team looks to make some noise when conference play begins in March.
Featured image by Madison Tyson.