FORT COLLINS – The 2022 Texan softball team forever etched its legacy into the Tarleton sports history books on Monday in Fort Collins.
The Texans defeated UC San Diego 6-4 in the second round of the National Invitational Softball Championship to secure the university’s first Division I postseason victory.
Tarleton also picked up its 30th win of the season with the triumph over the Tritons.
The Texans are now one of just 24 D1 softball teams left competing following Regional results in the NCAA Tournament and the elimination of four-of-12 teams in the NISC on Monday.
It was a fitting triumph for the first team to earn a D1 postseason invite and a squad that secured the largest year-over-year win improvement of any intercollegiate athletics program on campus in 2022.
With the win, the No. 11 seed Texans (30-24) now advance to face No. 3 seed UNLV (39-14) at noon CT on Tuesday.
Tarleton entered Monday’s tilt facing elimination following an 18-15 setback at the hands of UNA on Saturday.
No feelings of pressure or a lingering deflation from the opening-round loss were present, though.
A palpable enthusiasm in the team’s stretch and toss bled over into a pregame bout of Hackey sack and impromptu karaoke renditions of Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind.” Players also received a visit from former Texan gymnast Jenny Alden, who was a member of the program during its existence in 1980.
And the energy more than translated onto the on-field performance.
The Texans banged out 11 hits and put up four runs in the top of the first to build a lead they never relinquished.
Three players posted multi-hit games to pace the performance at the plate. Left fielder Georgia Capell led the way with three knocks. Her last hit was a solo shot over the right field fence in the fourth inning that boosted the Texans lead to 5-3. Infielders Katy Schaefer, Tristyn Trull and Austin Germain finished with two hits apiece.
Perhaps the biggest x-factor in the victory, though, was the effort in the circle.
Left-hander Tristan Bridges was masterful, as she twirled a six-hit complete game while punching out eight on 144 pitches. Only one of Bridges’ runs allowed was earned. Following a three-run first inning, the junior posted goose eggs in five of the final six frames.
Tarleton’s offense picked up right where it left off in the top of the first. The Texans tallied five hits in the frame. Center fielder Amanda Desario set the table for the four-spot with a one-out double. Capell followed with a sharp single. Schaefer, who drove in a team-high two runs, then staked the Texans to a 2-0 edge with a two RBI double to left field. Brady Rowland drove Schaefer in with a single up the middle on the following at-bat. Germain advanced Rowland to third with a single two batters later. Rowland then came around to score after Brittany Coe, who served as the team’s designated player, slapped a grounder to second that was mishandled.
No. 10 seed UC San Diego responded with three runs in the bottom-half, although all three runs were unearned. A one-out fielding error plated the Tritons’ leadoff hitter. A conservative outer edge of the strike zone then worked against Bridges. Back-to-back two-out walks on questionable no-calls set up a two-RBI single to pull the Tritons within a run at 4-3.
But Bridges buckled down from there. The Denton, Texas native struck out the side in the second and tossed a hitless third to set up Capell’s long ball.
The Tritons plated a run in the bottom of the fourth, but Tarleton returned fire in the form of an RBI single off the bat of Germain following a leadoff triple by Trull.
Bridges then held the Tritons scoreless over the final three innings. She retired the side in order in the fifth, scattered a pair of singles in the following frame and went three-up, three-down in the seventh to seal the historic victory.
She moved to 12-11 with the performance.
Should Tarleton upend the Runnin’ Rebels on Tuesday, the program draws the loser of No. 2 Baylor and No. 6 North Alabama the following morning.