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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Saves and a robbery

Aggies top Florida in defensive showdown to open MCWS
Texas+A%26amp%3BM+outfielder+Jace+Laviolette+%2817%29+robs+a+home+run+from+Florida+infielder+Cade+Kurland+%284%29+in+the+top+of+the+ninth+inning+during+Texas+A%26amp%3BM%E2%80%99s+game+against+Florida+at+the+NCAA+Men%E2%80%99s+College+World+Series+at+Charles+Schwab+Field+in+Omaha%2C+Nebraska+on+Sunday%2C+June+15%2C+2024.+%28Hannah+Harrison%2FThe+Battalion%29
Photo by Hannah Harrison
Texas A&M outfielder Jace Laviolette (17) robs a home run from Florida infielder Cade Kurland (4) in the top of the ninth inning during Texas A&M’s game against Florida at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Sunday, June 15, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)

Texas A&M baseball sophomore RF Jace LaViolette is known for his bat — and for good reason. LaViolette ranks sixth in the country in home runs this season, but his biggest moment in the Aggies opening game in the Men’s College World Series against the Florida Gators came in the outfield. 

With Florida trailing by one with a runner on first, Gator fans’ hearts soared as sophomore 2B Cade Kurland launched a ball high into right field and over the wall.

Over the wall indeed — and right into the outstretched glove of LaViolette, who’s snag robbed Florida of a go-ahead home run and smothered the Gators’ best chance to keep the game alive A&M held on for a 3-2 win to open its MCWS run in Omaha, Nebraska in the early hours of Sunday morning. 

A fitting moment for a game in which the Aggies relied on their defense, rather than their seventh-best scoring offense in the country, to lead them to victory.

After a bases-loaded single from senior CF Travis Chestnut and a conveniently timed wild pitch in the second inning, along with an RBI double from freshman LF Caden Sorrell in the third, the Maroon and White found themselves with a 3-0 lead — that a trio of performances on the mound allowed A&M to cling to.

A Dynamic Trio

When A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle announced sophomore LHP Justin Lamkin would be starting the Aggies’ Men’s College World Series opener against the Florida Gators, it raised a few eyebrows.

Not necessarily skeptical eyebrows, mind you — this is Schlossnagle’s sixth trip to the MCWS, and the Aggies were going to be without sophomore LHP Shane Sdao after his season-ending injury during the Super Regional against Oregon — but eyebrows all the same. After all, Lamkin had only pitched 1/3rd of an inning since his outing against Arkansas on May 17. 

Fans needn’t have worried. Lamkin set the tone for the Maroon and White, pitching three scoreless innings while recording six strikeouts and giving up just one hit before being replaced by junior RHP Chris Cortez headed into the fourth inning. 

“We’re trying to navigate this tournament without Sdao,” Schlossnagle told the ESPN broadcast. “….We took him out because we’re hopefully going to need him later this week.”

It’s another decision that hindsight will look upon fondly. Cortez carried the Aggies through the next three innings, adding six strikeouts of his own — including a pair of strikeouts after Florida junior 1B Jac Caglionone put Gators on second and third with no outs in the sixth inning to keep Florida off the board. 

It didn’t last. The Gators rallied back with an RBI ground rule double from senior 3B Dale Thomas to make it 3-1, and end Cortez’s outing, and added another run thanks to an RBI groundout from sophomore CF Michael Robertson to clip the A&M lead down to just a single run. 

Then came the closer: A&M turned to senior LHP Evan Aschenbeck — who was just awarded the NCBWA Stopper of the Year award on Friday — who’s battle against the Gators through the eighth and ninth innings shows why it was an honor that he more than deserves. 

Evan Aschenbeck versus the world

Before there was LaViolette’s robbery, there was Aschenbeck’s save.

The All-American Caglianone gave the Gators a leadoff single in the eighth inning. Aschenbeck responded with a pair of strikeouts. Sophomore C Luke Heyman doubled to put a pair of Gators in scoring position. Aschenbeck gave up a walk and then ended the half-inning with a groundout. 

And after LaViolette’s robbery, there was Aschebeck’s second save. 

Aschenbeck started off the ninth inning with his third strikeout. Then came a single, followed by the game-saving catch from LaViolette. And with Caglianone up to bat once again, Aschenbeck kept the nation’s second-best home run hitter from making contact, walking him on a full count. 

How else to end a game like that than Aschenbeck’s fourth and final strikeout? A swing and a miss and euphoria for Aggies everywhere. 

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About the Contributors
Ian Curtis
Ian Curtis, Sports Reporter
Ian Curtis is a journalism freshman from College Station, Texas. Ian has written about football, men's basketball, women's basketball, baseball, hockey, gymnastics, volleyball and more for The Battalion. Ian's work has also appeared in The Bryan-College Station Eagle and over the airwaves on WTAW and BCSball.com. 
Hannah Harrison
Hannah Harrison, Photographer
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