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NORMAN, Okla. – Texas A&M senior catcher Haley Lee made a key early error, but later scored a run and drove in two more as the Aggies beat the Gophers 5-1 on Friday afternoon in the opening game of the Norman (Okla.) Regional in the NCAA softball tournament.

Minnesota (26-25-1), the third seed in the regional, will now play Prairie View A&M, which lost 14-0 in five innings to top-seeded Oklahoma, at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in an elimination game.

Freshman Emiley Kennedy and senior Makinzy Herzog of the Aggies (30-26) held the Gophers to four hits.

The Gophers took a 1-0 lead in the third inning. Sara Kinch drew a 10-pitch walk and then MacKenzie Denson, pinch running for her, reached third base on Lee's error. Kayla Chavez's attempted sacrifice bunt was caught in the air by Lee behind home plate, but her throw to first base went off Denson's leg.

Denson then scored on Lauren Espalin's ground ball out to third base.

The Aggies tied the score in the bottom of the inning on a two-out rally. Lee walked and two batters later scored on Trinity Cannon's single. Freshman Emily Leavitt got a strikeout for the final out to strand two runners.

Lee's two-out line drive single up the middle in the fourth inning put Texas A&M ahead 3-1. The Gophers had a chance to get an extra out in that inning, but botched a rundown when they had a runner picked off at second base.

The Gophers had a good scoring chance with two outs in the sixth when Ellee Jensen blooped a single into left field and Natalie DenHartog singled on a high hopper over the third baseman. Chloe Evans, the next batter, struck out.

Grace Uribe hit a two-run homer for Texas A&M in the sixth to make it 5-1, but the Aggies could have had an even bigger inning. They had runners thrown out at home and at third base.

Minnesota loaded the bases in the seventh, but Kennedy, who returned to the circle with one out in that inning, got Espalin to ground out for the final out.

  • Outfielder DenHartog was named to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association's All-Great Lakes Region second team while shortstop Makenna Dowell, and outfielders Espalin and Evans were picked for the third team.

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