May 17—The Texas A&M University-Commerce softball team ended the 2022 season with a 1-0 regional tournament home loss to Texas A&M-Kingsville but not before reaching a couple of milestones.
The Lions, who finished at 43-15 for the season, reached the 43-win mark for the first time in program history.
They also won the Lone Star Conference postseason tournament for the first time, beating the No. 2 seed Texas A&M-Kingsville 9-2 in the finals on May 8.
The Javelinas turned the tables on the Lions at the South Central Regional 2 Tournament at the John Cain Family Softball Complex on Friday night. After the Lions stayed alive in the tournament with a 10-2 win earlier on Friday over Oklahoma Christian, they lost a pitcher's duel in the next game.
A&M-Kingsville's Saidi Castillo blanked the Lions on five hits while striking out five.
Alyssa LeBlanc scattered eight hits for the Lions while on the mound, striking out two. A&M-Kingsville scored its only run in the sixth after Jory Cervantes reached on a bunt single. Jennifer Giesey then tripled down the right field line to bring in the winning run.
LeBlanc answered in the seventh, reaching on a double with no outs but Castillo worked out of the jam by retiring the Lions' three batters on a pop-up to the shortstop, a fly-out to center that advanced LeBlanc to third and then a ground-out to the first baseman, ending the Lions' final game as an NCAA Division II team. They're moving up to NCAA Division I and the Southland Conference next season.
"Well, what a great year we've had," said Lions coach Gay McNutt in the postgame press conference. "43-15, that's the best record at A&M-Commerce so I'm so proud of this team. We're battling weekend after weekend.
"I'm sitting right here next to two of the best pitchers in the country," said McNutt, who sat between Lion pitchers LeBlanc and Emily Otto at the press conference, "We just didn't get enough offense for Alyssa LeBlanc today. She threw an outstanding game. Defensively we played well. We just didn't hit. Sometimes it happens."
The Lions backed the three-hit pitching of Otto with nine hits in the 10-2 win over Oklahoma Christian. Avery Boley slugged a three-run homer for the Lions in the first inning. LeBlanc and Uxua Modrego slugged two-run homers in the sixth inning.
Mackenzie Dugi drove in a run with a single in the third inning.
Otto allowed two walks while striking out three.
Oklahoma Christian scored its two runs in the sixth on a triple by Brooklin Bain and a ground-out.
The Lions stayed alive in the tournament with that win after dropping their first tournament game, 5-1 to St. Mary's.
"Well, we had to win," said McNutt. "This team battles. We didn't do what we needed to do yesterday (Thursday). I knew this team was going to come back today.
A&M-Commerce went 1-3 in four games this season against its old rival A&M-Kingsville, which entered this tournament ranked No. 2 in NCAA Division II.
"Whoever we were going to play in the game it was going to be a battle," said McNutt. "Because everybody wants the same thing we want. The only thing today was we just didn't get it done."
A&M-Kingsville went on to beat St. Mary's 2-1 and 6-2 on Saturday to win the tournament and advance to the South Central Super Regional this week at UT Tyle, which is ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division II.