Hammond, La. - The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi softball team was down to the final two outs of the season when Brittany Tucker hit a three-run home run over the right field wall to tie the game at 7-7 in the top of the seventh inning. The Islanders would eventually go on to win the game in the ninth when Tucker hit a solo home run, her 11th of the season, to give A&M-Corpus Christi an 8-7 victory over Southeastern Louisiana and send her team to the Southland Conference Tournament for the first time in school history. The 11th home run of the season also set a new single-season record for the Islanders with the previous record being 10, set by Jennifer Golden in 2005.
"Our no quit attitude kept us in the ballgame all day," said head coach Jake Schumann. "We were down 5 runs with three innings to play and our big players came up big today.
"It was the most exciting game I have been a part of as a coach or a player."
The Islanders finish the regular season with a 35-20 record, tied for the third-most wins in school history, and won a school record for conference games after going 16-14 this year. The Lady Lions finish the year with a record of 11-37 overall, 3-25 in league games. Elena Crabtree picked up her third consecutive victory in relief, going 6.2 innings while giving up four hits and two runs, both of them earned, to improve to 17-11 this season.
The Islanders struck early, putting up two runs in the top of the first to gain the lead. Cassie Redman led off the game with a double to center field while Hannah Schwarz reached on a walk. Caley Jeter laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Redman and Schwarz into scoring position while a Margo Hurdt single scored Redman and put runners on the corners. Tucker doubled to center field to bring Schwarz home and make it 2-0 for the Islanders.
In the bottom of the third, the Lady Lions responded with eight straight hits to score seven runs and take a commanding 7-2 lead after three innings.
The Islanders chipped away with two runs in the top of the fifth inning as a two-run home run by Hurdt cut the lead to 7-4 after five.
Down to the final two outs of the game, that is when Tucker made her mark on the game, drilling a 1-0 pitch over the wall for her 10th homer of the season and scoring Schwarz and Jeter in the process to knot it all up at 7-7 and send it to extra innings.
Tucker played the hero yet again in the top of the ninth, taking the first pitch she saw over the left field wall to make it 8-7 in favor of the Islanders. Crabtree got the Lady Lions to go down in order in the bottom of the ninth to clinch the win and tournament spot for the Islanders.
"That's probably the definition of earning you way into the tournament," said Schumann. "It's an exciting time, this week we are going to make a trip to the Southland Conference and try to go win it."
Tucker was 4-for-5 with five RBI in the game while Hurdt was 2-for-4 with three RBI. Both players ended the regular season with 38 RBI, tying the school record set by Kim Connelly in 2008. Schwarz went a perfect 4-for-4 to claim the Southland Conference batting title with a .416 average and shatters the previous school record of .365 by Katie Evans in 2002. McKinney also picked up a pair of hits while also drawing two walks. Redman, Sandy Schumann and Lauren Dodson each had one hit apiece for the Islanders.
Due to Nicholls losing to Sam Houston State and McNeese State beating Central Arkansas, A&M-Corpus Christi will be the No. 5 seed in the tournament. They will play No. 4 seed McNeese State in the first round of the tournament this coming Thursday.
The Islanders beat the Cowgirls 4-of-5 times this season, twice in the Hawaii Paradise Classic and won 2-of-3 in the Southland series in Lake Charles, La. on April 17-18.