FORT COLLINS – A storybook ride to the Division I postseason stage came to an end for Tarleton on Tuesday at TC Colorado Field.
The Texans fell 6-4 to UNLV in an elimination game at the National Invitational Softball Championship.
The defeat signifies the conclusion of the 2021-22 athletics season for Tarleton.
The Texans, who were seeded 11th out of 12 teams in the double elimination tournament, finish the 2022 campaign with a 30-25 overall record.
The ending sequence was gut-wrenching.
Tarleton was designated as the home team ahead of first pitch. Solo home runs on consecutive pitches by Georgia Capell and Katy Schaefer gave the Texans to a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the sixth.
All that separated the Texans from an upset and a spot in the super regional round of the tournament were three outs in the top of the seventh.
But two straight walks to open the frame led to a three-run home run off the bat of UNLV (41-14) right fielder Denise Armendariz to vanquish Tarleton’s lead.
Armendariz accounted for all six of the Runnin’ Rebels’ RBI in the contest.
The Texans were then retired in order in the bottom half.
Dry eyes were scant and emotions during the postgame radio broadcast and in one final team huddle.
The significance of what Tarleton accomplished in 2022, though, was not lost on those in attendance and within the program.
Less than 24 hours earlier, the Texans notched the first D1 postseason win in school history with a 6-4 victory over UC San Diego. Tarleton had just two days to assemble a 19-player squad after initially receiving an invitation to compete in the NISC on May 15. Eleven straight wins to start the season fueled the largest year-over-year win improvement (+13) of any team on campus.
A solo shot over the right field fence by Schaefer to lead off the bottom of the second staked Tarleton to an early 1-0 lead.
Schaefer accounted for two of the Texans’ six hits. The sophomore’s two-home run game was the first multi-dinger performance of her collegiate career. Schaefer’s second blast gave her a single season career-high nine home runs on the season..
Capell’s long ball was every bit as significant. It proved to be a fitting conclusion to a Tarleton Sports Hall of Fame career that her final at-bat in purple and white was a home run. The big fly was her 19th of the season, surpassing her previous single-season school record of 18. Capell finished her five-year run in Stephenville with 69 career home runs, by far the most in school history of any Texan baseball or softball player.
She was named to the All-NISC Tournament Team following the conclusion of the contest. Capell went 7-12 with five home runs over the course of Tarleton’s three-game stay in Colorado.
Missed opportunities at the plate and in the field loomed large in the loss.
Tristyn Trull singled and Austin Germain worked a two-out walk following Schaefer’s blast to put two on in the sixth inning. A strikeout on the ensuing at-bat stranded both runners.
Brittany Coe blooped a single into center field with one down in the fifth to cut a 3-1 UNLV in half. Tarleton struck out twice to end the scoring threat.
The Texans were held without a hit in the third and fourth innings while trailing 2-1.
In the circle, left-hander Tristan Bridges earned her third straight start. The junior proved invaluable in keeping the Texans in position to rally late. She delivered her second straight complete game, scattering seven hits while striking out four.
Bridges allowed two runs in the second, but both were unearned following a throwing error.The Denton, Texas native surrendered a two-after she was pinched behind the plate on a 3-2 riseball to load the bases. A subsequent single to center field plated the lead runner. UNLV sent the runner from second, but the throw home from center fielder Amanda Desario arrived two steps in front. The Texans were called for obstruction at the plate, though, allowing both runs to score.
UNLV tacked on another run with a two-out RBI single in the top of the fifth.
Bridges scattered 10 runners on base.
The trio of home runs were the lone extra base hits for Tarleton in the game.
Seventeen of the 19 members of Tarleton’s travel squad are expected back in 2023. Capell and Hallie Saintignan were the lone student athletes to suit up in their final collegiate game on Tuesday.