The margin was as thin as a blade of grass for Texas A&M on May 26, 2018.
It was the bottom of the sixth, and neither Florida nor South Florida had scored. The scoreb…
The Aggies held a 3-2 lead over Florida with two outs and two strikes against Jordan Matthews in Game 3 of the NCAA Super Regionals in Gainesville.
Then, the season melted through their fingers.
Matthews hit a three-run, walk-off home run off the scoreboard to give the Gators a 5-3 victory.
Friday’s matchup in College Station, Texas, will be the first time these two teams take the diamond since.
The new Texas A&M
A lot has changed for the Aggies (25-15, 3-9 SEC) since they left Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium last May.
They went from one of the SEC’s top teams in 2018 to dead last in the current standings.
The team not only lost three of its top players to graduation but saw its top returning offensive player, outfielder Sarah Hudek, and pitcher, Samantha Show, transfer.
Hudek, now a junior, transferred to Louisiana, and Show, a senior, left for Oklahoma State.
Remarkably, Texas A&M’s offensive production hasn’t stifled. It actually improved in team batting average (.296 in 2018 to .303) and in runs per game (4.82 in 2018 to 5.2).
Yet the loss of pitchers Trinity Harrington, Lexi Smith and Show has caused the team’s earned run average to skyrocket.
The Aggies have a 3.89 ERA compared to a 2.22 average last season. Baylor transfer Kendall Potts holds a team-best 2.96 ERA. The two pitchers that follow, Kayla Poynter (3.78) and Payton McBride (4.09), combined for only four starts a year ago.
With the personnel changes also came an update to Texas A&M’s home. It remodelled its old stadium, the Aggie Softball Complex, into the 2,000-seat Davis Diamond.
“I’ve had rave reviews as far as the environment and the experience,” UF coach Tim Walton said. “The 12th Man is real.”
Reigniting the rivalry
Last year’s super regional series was one of many postseason meetings between the Gators and the Aggies.
UF leads the all-time series 18-5, but Texas A&M has emerged victorious three times in postseason play.
The first meeting between the two powerhouse programs was in the 2007 Super Regionals at College Station. The Aggies defeated Florida 2-0 in Game 3 to advance to the Women’s College World Series.
The two teams met a year later at the WCWS, and A&M ended UF’s season with a 1-0 extra-innings win. Florida got revenge in the NCAA Regionals in 2009 with a 7-1 win.
The postseason rivalry renewed in 2017 at the WCWS with an 8-0 run-rule victory for the Gators.
Now, the Aggies have an opportunity to end Florida’s four-game winning streak and take their first SEC series of the season. They’ve had a difficult conference schedule so far, losing 2-1 series to No. 5 Alabama, No. 7 LSU and No. 13 Georgia. They were also swept by No. 12 Auburn.
“They’ll be tough,” Walton said of the Aggies. “They’ve had the toughest SEC schedule so far, so I think that’s where some of their losses have shown up.”
Follow Mark Stine on Twitter @mstinejr and contact him at [email protected].