FORT COLLINS – The long ball proved to be a double-edged sword in Tarleton’s Division I postseason debut.
The Texans smacked six dingers – three of which came off the bat of Georgia Capell – vs. North Alabama in the opening round of the National Invitational Softball Championship.
But No. 11 seed Tarleton surrendered seven big flies of its own to the sixth-seeded Lions, ultimately falling 18-15.
The Texans and Lions combined to mash 35 hits, 33 RBI and 13 home runs. The 33 runs scored were the most ever in a single game in the history of the NISC, which was incepted in 2017.
Tarleton (29-24) raced out to an 11-2 lead in the top of the third on the strength of four home runs. UNA (39-18) counterpunched with 16 unanswered runs between the third through fifth frames to seal the victory.
Exactly two weeks had passed since Tarleton last took the diamond in its 2022 regular season finale. Any signs of rust, however, failed to oxide in the early going.
Especially for Capell, who quickly staked the Texans to a 2-0 edge in the top of the first. The fifth-year senior launched the first pitch she saw off UNA starter Maci Birdyshaw over the left field fence – affectionately dubbed “The 14’er” – following a leadoff slap single off the bat of shortstop Morgan Medford.
Left-hander Tristan Bridges then scattered a two-out single in the bottom-half to set the table for a Texan four-spot in the second inning.
Second baseman Tristyn Trull lifted a leadoff homer to right center field to increase the Texans’ edge to 3-0. Consecutive doubled from Austin Germain and Hallie Saintignan tacked on another run. Center fielder Amanda Desario, who reached base or added a run in all five of her at-bats, followed suit with a two-out, two-run bomb over the short porch in right field.
UNA trimmed the Texans’ edge with a pair of solo shots in the bottom of the second.
Tarleton’s bats, though, continued to hum in the third. Katy Schaefer led off with a double. Freshman Bella Hernandez was inserted as a pinch runner and promptly advanced to third via a single by Brady Rowland. Hernandez scored on the following at-bat thanks to a single up the middle by Trull. Fellow middle infielder Germain then blasted a three-run home run to center field to briefly bust the game open. Saintignan later crossed the plate off a pair of Lions errors with two down.
Capell, Germain and Rowland finished with three hits while Desario and Trull had two apiece. Tarleton collectively finished with 17 hits – a single-game high in 2022 and the program’s most in its D1 era.
But UNA quickly turned the game on its ear.
The Lions chased Bridges with two home runs and a trio of walks to make the score 11-7 in the bottom of the third. UNA added another run later in the frame with two down to cut the deficit to three.
Four fourth-inning home runs fueled an eight-run frame for the Lions that transformed a nine-run Texan lead into a 16-11 hole.
UNA plated two more in the bottom of the fifth to swell its lead to seven runs.
Capell refused to bow out quietly. She took the ball the opposite way for a two-run shot in the top of the sixth to give Tarleton life. The Midlothian, Texas native then drove an absolute moonshot past the left field fence and onto the nearby office structure with two out in the seventh to get Tarleton within three runs.
She continues to rank fourth among all active D1 players in career home runs (64). Capell’s six RBI were her most in a single game in her illustrious collegiate career.
The defeat sends the Texans to the loser’s bracket in the 12-team, double elimination tournament. Tarleton next faces either No. 2 Baylor or No. 10 UC San Diego at 4 p.m. on Monday.