After the Texas A&M softball team clinched its berth into the NCAA tournament Super Regionals with a 3-1 win over Texas, there was no dog pile on the field — just a huddle.
Shortly after the final out was recorded — a ground out to first baseman Tori Vidales — the Aggie softball team gathered around a phone near home plate. On the other end of a FaceTime call was A&M pitcher Trinity Harrington, who was at her family’s home in Greeley, Colo.
Harrington’s father, Eric, died Thursday after a long battle with cancer, head coach Jo Evans said.
“The FaceTime call gave me so much joy, because the girls and the softball team mean so much to my family and me,” Harrington said in a statement given to The Eagle. “Texas A&M opened its arms to my family in 2015 and through thick or thin, they have stood by our side ever since. I couldn’t ask for better teammates or a better coach.”
Wednesday, word reached Evans that Eric Harrington took a turn for the worse and was admitted into the hospital. Her thoughts instantly shifted from which games Harrington might start during the College Station Regional this weekend to getting the junior home to be with her father and her family.
Within hours, the pitcher was on a plane to Colorado.
Harrington was able to spend a few hours with her father, fully coherent, before he died Thursday, Evans said.
“Just fortunate for her to get home in time to be with her family,” Evans said. “We knew it was inevitable, but we were thinking we had more time.”
The weight of Harrington’s absence fell on the shoulders of pitchers Samantha Show and Lexi Smith, who started A&M’s three games in the NCAA tournament regional. Harrington would have entered the weekend as the Aggies’ hottest hand, holding Alabama to just one run in the Aggies’ lone SEC Tournament game.
Over the last 16 games, Harrington made six appearances and allowed 10 earned runs, struck out 12 and walked six batters.
Her drop ball style of pitching is also a significantly different look than that of Show and Smith, both rise ball pitchers.
“You look at her stats and what she’s done for us all year, she’s been huge, especially when she throws so differently. Different pitches from Sam and the other two,” Evans said.
Friday, Lexi Smith made her first start since April 29 in a 14-0, run-rule shortened win over Texas Southern. Smith allowed two hits, struck out nine and walked two in the shutout effort.
Show closed out the weekend with wins over Texas State and Texas on Saturday and Sunday. In 14 innings pitched, the junior allowed two runs and struck out seven. She walked six in 210 pitches over the course of two days.
“Even if she wasn’t here, she was with us spiritually and we were in contact with her and she was texting us,” Show said. “She was definitely here even though she wasn’t here and I’m glad that we’re able to continue our season right now and for her to hopefully be with us when we go to Supers.”
Harrington will have as much time as she needs to grieve with her family before rejoining the Aggies’ postseason run, Evans said. As of Sunday, Evans said she was uncertain of Harrington’s status for next weekend’s best-of-three Super Regional series at Tennessee, but continues to remain in constant contact with the pitcher.
“It was great for our kids to rally around Trinity, even though she was not here, and for Sam to step up and do what she did,” Evans said. “Trinity did a lot to get us to this point, so I am proud of our team. We played hard for Trinity this weekend and we played hard for the 12th Man. We are sad for her dad’s passing, but it has really brought us even closer.”
Whether they knew it or not, the 12th Man rallied around Harrington and their family, who celebrated the regional win by watching A&M’s fans “Saw Varsity’s Horns Off” via the FaceTime call. It was a sight that Eric Harrington would have loved, Harrington said.
“My mom and I enjoyed every second seeing our family in Texas and sawing the horns off with the rest of College Station. My Dad in heaven is looking down and he is so proud of all of them,” Harrington said.