Texas A&M starting pitcher Kayla Poynter came ready to give a gritty performance against McNeese State on Thursday, sporting just a short-sleeve jersey to protect her arms from a windy, 43-degree night at Davis Diamond.
While her determination matched her fashion choice, the Aggie offense and defense wasn’t nearly as tough in a 1-0 loss to the Cowgirls four days after a late-inning explosion to beat Abilene Christian 10-6.
“It’s not what I would have expected out of our ball club after a big come-from-behind win the other day and putting a bunch of hits together and having some fun playing the game,” A&M head coach Jo Evans said.
Poynter allowed five hits and one unearned run in seven innings, while striking out five and not walking a batter for the Aggies (3-3). It continued a solid start to her season as the junior allowed just one run and one hit in 9 2/3 innings over two appearances last week.
“Kayla Poynter had another great night and was just really in command,” Evans said. “I think her presence right now is so good and really confident. I love the way she’s playing, and it’s a shame that kid doesn’t get a win tonight because she deserves it. She earned it, and our team didn’t take care of business.”
Wind blowing in from center field created some difficult plays for the Aggie defense, including a one-out, bloop single by McNeese third baseman Haylee Brinlee that fell between the pitching circle and second base in the top of the fifth. Aggie freshman shortstop Jourdyn Campbell fielded it and made a late throw to first.
Gracie DeVall then hit a grounder to short, which Campbell bobbled, allowing Brinlee to reach second base. Brinlee then scored the game’s only run on a bloop single into shallow center by second baseman Sara Geier.
After the error, Evans had a conversation with her infielders that she ultimately had again in the locker room after the loss.
“I thought we were so passive out there,” Evans said. “[Poynter] was giving us opportunities to get outs, and we were just on our heels and no sense of urgency to make a play. The ball never left the infield really with the pop-up. That’s a ball we’ve got to catch. Our infield should be able to extend itself to make the play.”
Offensively, the Aggie batters struggled to make solid contact on McNeese’s No. 2 pitcher, dropballer Saleen Flores (2-0). A&M’s first hit of the game was an infield grounder outrun by Aggie senior center fielder Kelbi Fortenberry in the bottom of the first. The second was a one-out single to left center by Kayla Garcia that bounced of the glove of a diving Toni Perrin.
After that, A&M had four more baserunners on three walks and a hit batter. A two-out walk in the bottom of the seventh pushed A&M’s only runner into scoring position in the final four innings of the game.
Flores used her dropball effectively below the strike zone throughout the majority of the game, and Evans said her hitters didn’t make any adjustments.
“We’re chasing that, and [Flores] made some mistakes on the plate, something at least up that we could hit, and we took a lot of those pitches we should have been a lot more aggressive on,” Evans said. “She did a good job. Why not keep doing what you’ve been doing? It’s been effective when we didn’t make adjustments on it.”
Flores lasted 6 2/3 innings, striking out four and walking three. Whitney Tate retired the only batter she faced to earn her first save of the season for McNeese (5-1).
With six underclassmen in the starting lineup, Evans said A&M is going through a learning curve both at the plate and on the base paths. But Poynter said the mistakes can be fixed.
“Right now, we’re in a learning stage,” Poynter said. “We have a lot of new people and a lot of young people, so right now we’re just in a kind of coming together phase of everyone working together and learning how to communicate.”
A&M has little time to dwell on the unexpected loss, returning to action for a Friday doubleheader against Lamar at 3 p.m. and St. John’s at 5:15 p.m.
“Thank goodness,” Evans said. “Let’s get this bad taste out of our mouth and get out and play. We’ve got five games this weekend, which is really good. We need to get out there and get after it. I want to see us play with a lot more energy and enthusiasm and passion for the game and a lot more confidence.”