Pair of walkoffs open up Abrams era

Lady Buffs open the new season with a pair of victories in thrilling fashion.

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The Candace Abrams era has started, and it could not have pictured to be any better.

No. 13 West Texas A&M Lady Buff softball team had to dig deep and come from behind in both games, using walkoffs to take a pair of season-opening victories against Augustana, 9-8 and 5-1 respectively to kick off the new season.

Lady Buffs 5, Augustana 1

It seemed like two games with the same ending that would go in favor of the Lady Buffs.

Ashley Hardin and Kylee Moore hit respective walk-offs as the Lady Buff softball team took both games against Augustana, who was in the Central Super Region 2 title game a season ago.

“I was trying to be patient,” Moore said, who finished with five RBIs and went two-for-four at the plate. “I was trying to hit in the outfield, really, a deep fly-ball and she just gave me a good pitch to hit out.”

“I talk to them about having a clean approach every single time,” Abrams said, who is acting as head coach of the Lady Buffs. “The game is not over until that final out.”

Augustana got on the board first right away in the top of the first with a RBI single for a 1-0 lead early in what looked like deja vu for the Lady Vikings early on.

In game one, the pitching was the key for the Lady Buffs en route to a walk-off victory. For Augustana, the same could be said throughout the game.

Lady Viking pitcher Amber Elliott struck out 11 Lady Buffs in five innings and allowing three hits on no runs. With the tough pitching, the Lady Buffs went 0-5 with runners in scoring position after five innings.

“She threw the ball extremely well,” Abrams said. “You have to tip your hat where credit is due. We didn’t make adjustment early enough and that’s what this game is, about adjustment.”

As the sixth inning would come, that would quickly change.

The offense finally found a spark as Moore smacked a solo homer into the Buffalo Corral to even the game at one run apiece.

“When I came in, we talked about calling up pitches and Coach [Abrams] told me to look down and lay off the up-pitches.” Moore said. “Even if they are a strike, just lay off of them and that changed my approach at the plate.”

Shaney Starkey found her way on base with a single after an E4 play from Augustana. She would be left stranded on base with a ground out from McLemore and a Shanna McBroom line out to third base.

In the seventh inning, the offense continued to roll with a lead-off single from Cordell. Suka Van Gurp the followed up with a single of her own down the third base line, placing Cordell at second.

After being hit by pitches twice in her four at bats, Kourtney Coveney hit a single of her own, the third consecutive at bat in the bottom half of the frame. After a Hardin walk to take a 2-1 lead, Moore came from behind in a count to jump ahead 3-2, and hit a grand slam walk-off to left field to win, 5-1.

In the circle, Stevie McLemore was credited the win while Amber Elliott received her first loss starting for the Lady Viking.

“I’m extremely proud of her [McLemore] at where she is at,” Abrams said. “We are fortunate enough to have her in the circle behind Kilee, Starkey and Coveney and Sam [Riesen] if we needed them.”

“More of the last game, I kept telling everyone to be patient at the plate,” Moore said. “We’re going to score balls up, just keep being patient and keep fighting at the plate.”

Lady Buffs 9, Augustana 8

It was an opening day scare for the Lady Buffs in the opening game of a doubleheader and a 18-game home stand at Schaeffer Park, winning 9-8 after a Ashley Hardin walk-off single.

Hardin was due for a big play all game, struggling and going 0-4 in her first four at bats.

The Lady Buffs looked solid defensively early, with senior pitcher Kilee Halbert striking out three Augustana batters early on.

After trading defensive stands in the second innings, the small things started to matter.

Augustana extended an early lead to 3-0 after three innings with a fielding error from junior shortstop Suka Van Gurp.

Shaney Starkey attempted to spark the offense in the bottom of the fifth inning with a double off the center field fence, putting Kylie Moore in scoring position. McLemore then hit a two-run RBI down the third base line to cut the Augustana lead to 4-3.

The pitching from Halbert was impressive, going in a key three up, three down in the top of the sixth inning in a momentus defensive stand to stay within striking distance.

Needing two outs to win, it was two runs that came in a much needed time. Van Gurp hit a two-run bomb past center field, to hold the Lady Buffs to their first lead of the game at 5-4 after Alyx Cordell got on base by a hit by pitch.

Augustana had their response in the top frame of the seventh inning, recording four runs that included a two-run RBI homer to left field.

Schaeffer Park’s magic works in mysterious way when the Lady Buffs are at home, and it was working with the Lady Buffs loading the bases.

Van Gurp didn’t let up after her error earlier in the game, getting on base on a fielder’s choice and then advanced to second on the fielding throw error, which also allowed McLemore and McBroom to score.

More Schaeffer magic took place as Coveney used her speed to get on base after a bunt, which scored Cordell and advanced Van Gurp to third. Hardin, who has struggled in her opening offensive showings, ended the game with a walk-off single down the third base line.

Leading the way for the Lady Buffs offensively was Starkey and McLemore, going for three-for-four at the plate respectively with McLemore tallying two RBIs.

Halbert was solid defensively in the circle, pitching a complete game, striking out five and allowing eight runs on 10 hits.

The Lady Buffs continue a 16-game home stand after tonight, facing off against Augustana once again at 2 p.m. Followed by game one of a two-game series with Regis starting at 4 p.m, ending on Sunday with first pitch schedule at 1 p.m.