The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away

Aggies take down Ducks 10-6 in Game 1 of super regionals
Photo by CJ Smith
Texas A&M pitcher Chris Cortez (10) reacts during Texas A&M’s game against Oregon at the NCAA Bryan-College Station Super Regional at Olsen Field on Saturday, June 8, 2024. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)

When junior RF Braden Montgomery announced his transfer from Stanford this past offseason, the eye’s of the nation’s best college baseball programs set their sights on the Magnolia, Mississippi native.

After the smoke cleared, much to the delight of Aggie fans, Montgomery announced his intent to transfer to Texas A&M. Ever since, the switch-hitter has been a staple for the Maroon and White and one of the catalysts for their success this season.

Hitting .322 with 27 home runs while also tied for fifth in the country in runs batted in with 85, Montgomery was expected to be a pivotal piece for the Aggies this offseason.

Through regional play, he was living up to his expectations, earning Bryan-College Station Regional MVP. In Game 1 of the Super Regional against Oregon, Montgomery got into early action on the basepaths after the Ducks took an early 2-0 lead thanks to a two-run shot from redshirt sophomore LF Anson Aroz.

After A&M got on the board from a single by senior C Jackson Appel that scored freshman 3B Gavin Grahovac, it seemed like the Aggies may knot the game up at 2, as Montgomery rounded third after a single from senior 1B Ted Burton. However, the throw from Aroz reached junior C Bennett Thompson in time, tagging Montgomery for the out as the air drained from the ballpark.

But it wasn’t the potential run left off the board that had Aggie fans stunned, it was the fact that instead of trotting back to the dugout after being tagged out, Montgomery lay writhing in pain on top of home plate.

In silence, the medical staff ran out and put an air cast on his right ankle, helping him off the field to a chorus of cheers from fans who were just happy to see the transfer sensation and prospective top-five pick in the MLB Draft be able to make it off the field. Coach Jim Schlossnagle provided the grave news that Montgomery will not be back for the remainder of the season.

“The thing about Braden is, in this era of college athletics, he’s probably not going to be here for nine months,” Schlossnagle said. “I think our guys would attest, the greatest thing about Braden is that he’s dove into his teammates. … It’s been transformational for everybody involved. Now, Braden’s challenge is to be the greatest teammate to everybody else that everybody has been to him.”

Despite the weight of the game, with the winner of the series reaching the College World Series, the atmosphere in Blue Bell Park took a while to return. What didn’t help was a four-run top of the second inning for Oregon, which put it up 6-3 while also sending redshirt sophomore LHP Ryan Prager to the dugout early.

Prager, the Friday starter for the Aggies, came into Game 1 of the super regional tied for 11th in the country in earned run average, and in his last outing went 6 ⅓ innings with just two earned runs against Texas in the regional.

However, against the Ducks, the southpaw was only able to make it through 1 ⅔ innings, giving up seven hits and six earned runs. In his stead, junior RHP Chris Cortez took the mound.

The Las Vegas native was the first step in helping bring the energy back into the ballpark, as Cortez shined in relief, going 5 ⅔ innings with 10 strikeouts and just two hits, earning his ninth win of the season.

The second boost of energy came in the fourth inning, as a pair of doubles from sophomore CF Jace LaViolette and Appel headlined a three-run frame that pushed the Maroon and White in front for the first time all afternoon.

In the next inning, life was finally brought back to Blue Bell Park, as despite not registering a single hit, A&M managed to score 3 runs to grab a four-run lead off of four walks and two RBI groundouts.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever been more proud of a team,” Schlossnagle said. “Emotionally, Prager goes out, didn’t have a great first inning. Then we battled back into it, and then you know, injury. … The emotions of that, a lot of teams fold.”

After the fifth, both teams’ bullpens locked down, with senior Oregon RHP Logan Mercado going 3 ⅔ innings in relief, surrendering just three hits and senior LHP Evan Aschenbeck — who leads the nation in ERA at 1.64 — closed the door on the Ducks, throwing 1 ⅔ innings of hitless baseball to secure a 10-6 win for A&M.

With the win, the Aggies are one game away from clinching a super regional win and punching their ticket to the College World Series. Sunday’s Game 2 is set for 6:30 p.m.

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About the Contributor
Hunter Mitchell, Associate Sports Editor
Hunter Mitchell is a sport management senior minoring in journalism. Hunter has covered football, men's and women's basketball, baseball, volleyball, softball, hockey, cross country, track and field, along with swim and dive. Hunter's favorite sport is college basketball, and he is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writer's Association. Hunter also hosts weekly episodes of the Home Turf sports podcast.
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