ARLINGTON, Texas – Sandra Mendoza provided the crucial hit in the ninth to help UT Arlington earn a walk-off, 5-4, win in extra innings over Texas Southern at Allan Saxe Field on Thursday.
The Mavericks (1-0) won their fifth consecutive season opener by taking the first game of the UTA Invitational. It was a trio of underclassmen that led the way. Mendoza provided two hits, including the game winner, while freshmen Laura Curry and Krista Rude each knocked two hits in their collegiate debuts.
Using international rules to place a runner on second to begin each extra inning Rebecca Stokes pushed Rude over with a sacrifice bunt to leadoff the ninth. Mendoza sent the first pitch of the at-bat to left to score the winning run.
Sam Montes, UTA’s leading pitcher in 2015, picked up her first win in 7.1 innings pitched. Montes struck out six and allowed just four hits and two earned runs.
UTA continues action in the tournament on Friday with games at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. Action gets underway with neutral games beginning at 9 a.m.
After threatening in the first to open scoring, UTA broke through in the second with a four-run inning. Two of the first three hitters reached base before Rebecca Stokes lined a triple to right, scoring Rude and Britnea Barilli. Curry continued action with a single two at-bats later to plate another pair.
Texas Southern battled back with a run in the fourth and fifth before tying the game in the sixth. With the bases loaded, the Tigers sent a two-out pitch into left to bring the game to four apiece.
Both teams had an opportunity to pull ahead in extras prior to the walk off. The Mavericks stranded two on base in the eighth as Rude lined out to second. Rude’s defensive abilities helped keep TSU off the board in the top of the ninth. The centerfielder combined with Mendoza to throw out the Tiger runner at home.
UT Arlington coach Kristie Fox on the win:
“I was really proud of them. They stayed really composed. Overall, we were pretty nervous. It was good to get this game under our belt on Thursday and get it out of our system. I am proud of the way we competed. They could have very easily given up in that situation when they got caught off guard by the team. Hands down credit to the other team, they came out with energy and I thought they played very well. For our girls to not play very well and still be battling is a positive to me. They could have quit and they didn’t.”
Fox on the importance of the eighth-inning play on defense:
“It was beautiful. It was all that practice. You say oh my gosh that is one of our weakest points and you see it all come together in that moment. I was really proud of them and that is what I expect from our defense. We had one mistake and it was a mental mistake, we can learn from that and grow from that.”
Fox on Montes’ performance:
“She is a competitor and that is why I gave her the ball. I know she is going to go out there and get us ground balls and compete with everything that she has and that is what we need from the circle.”
Mendoza on the walk-off hit:
“I was looking to hit a deep fly ball anywhere. Jarvis said tried to hit one right up the middle so that is what I was trying to do.”
Mendoza on the team’s battle:
“I knew we were going to come back and win it. I knew my team picks each other up. We are always positive. I was confident.”
Up Next: UTA continues play on Friday in the UT Arlington Invitational with a pair of games. The Mavs take on Northern Colorado at 4:30 p.m. and then take on Detroit at 6:30 p.m. Video is available for free on Mavs All-Access for the entire UTA Invitational.
Notes: UTA is 3-2 in extra inning games in season openers all-time. UTA … UTA is 7-0 all-time against Texas Southern.
Season ticket prices for UT Arlington softball are $75 for reserved seating and $40 for general admission.VisitUTATickets.com to purchase tickets.
Diamond Club membership costs $100 and includes a reserved seat, commemorative T-Shirt, seat cushion, and a donation to the softball program.