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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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No. 5 Aggies outlast No. 3 Razorbacks in 11-inning pitchers duel

Texas+A%26amp%3BM+pitcher+Ryan+Prager+%2818%29+reacts+during+Texas+A%26amp%3BM%E2%80%99s+game+against+Arkansas+at+Olsen+Field+on+Thursday%2C+May+16%2C+2024.+%28CJ+Smith%2FThe+Battalion%29
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Texas A&M pitcher Ryan Prager (18) reacts during Texas A&M’s game against Arkansas at Olsen Field on Thursday, May 16, 2024. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)

If you’re a fan of high-scoring baseball, Thursday’s matchup between No. 5 Texas A&M and No. 3 Arkansas probably wasn’t for you.

But if you’re a sucker for pitching duels, elite defense, intense crowd energy and walk-off wins, then it was a must-see.

That’s especially true for the Aggies, as senior 1B Ted Burton’s bases-loaded walk in the 11th inning plated the only run they needed in a 1-0 victory over the Razorbacks on May 16 at Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park. The win keeps A&M in the hunt for an SEC West title, just a game behind Arkansas in the division standings.

After a pair of walks sandwiched a single, all Burton had to do was watch five of redshirt senior RHP Will McEntire’s pitches sail by, with the fourth ball being the nail in the coffin as freshman 3B Gavin Grahovac strolled home.

“That game took years off my life for the better or for the [worse],” Burton said. “I wanted to see his cutter first, so I let one get over the plate, and then I also saw him spike a few in warm-ups … I was really selective and just tried to get his stuff up, and it worked out.”

Despite an hour and a half delay due to heavy rain and a pond forming in center field, the faceoff proved to be worth the wait, particularly for Burton, as he walked off the Aggies for the second time this season.

In a game dominated by two of the nation’s top pitchers in the Aggies’ redshirt sophomore LHP Ryan Prager and the Hogs’ junior LHP Hagan Smith, there was no irony lost in A&M coming out on top via a base on balls. Between the two electric southpaws, there was enough talent to make pitching enthusiasts and MLB scouts drool.

While Prager’s 8-1 record and 2.71 ERA put him among the conference’s best, Smith’s spotless 9-0 mark cast him as one of the sport’s best pitchers in recent memory. Entering the game, Arkansas was undefeated in starts by the Bullard native, whose 1.65 ERA and 17.2 strikeouts per nine innings lead the country.

“I was trying to remember a lefty that I’ve seen that starts with that kind of arm, and I can’t remember one in 35 years,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “I’ve coached the only college pitcher to pitch in the College World Series and the Major League World Series in the same year, and we just said in the locker room, ‘that guy’s going to be pitching this October.’”

Given the hype surrounding the pitching showdown, the duel lived up to it and then some. Smith and Prager combined for 13 scoreless frames and seven hits, with Smith tallying 14 strikeouts compared to Prager’s nine. A punchout of junior SS Ali Camarillo in the fifth put Smith atop the Razorbacks’ record books with 349 career strikeouts.

Prager may not have had the same numbers as Smith, but he pitched just as effectively. Twice, he found his way out of jams with two runners on. His final strikeout to end the top of the seventh elicited a competitive shout from the oft-reserved starter.

“I’m not really a guy to show a ton of emotion up there, but it just kind of came out,” Prager said. “I thought it was a big moment in the game, and I was just super happy to be able to go out and give our team a chance … it just spoke to the moment and this team and just the atmosphere and everything. I think it all kind of flowed together.”

Freshman RHP Gabe Gaeckle followed Smith and sophomore RHP Christian Foutch with an eighth inning that nearly saw the Aggies break the ice if not for a terrific play by sophomore SS Wehiwa Aloy. With senior 2B Travis Chestnut at second, Grahovac poked a slow roller up the middle as Aloy made up plenty of ground to field it and throw to first, beating Grahovac by a step for the third out.

As coach Dave Van Horn turned to six pitchers out of the Arkansas bullpen, Schlossnagle opted for his workhorse in senior LHP Evan Aschenbeck. A&M’s top reliever kept the Razorbacks off the board for four innings, letting up four hits with four strikeouts.

“Evan’s just fun to watch because he’s the true essence of pitching,” Prager said. “He’s the guy that comes in and you just have full belief that this thing’s over. He’s a true shutdown stopper guy in the back end of a game or whenever you need him.”

No two innings proved more significant than the final two, when Aschenbeck looked the part of an escape artist. In the 10th, an error by Burton and a one-out single put Razorbacks on the corners, but Aschenbeck induced swinging strikeouts of the next two batters to extinguish the threat.

That is, until it flared up an inning later. Senior 1B Ben McLaughlin’s one-out double put a man in scoring position before a punchout brought up junior C Hudson White. The Texas Tech transfer lined a shot to the left field wall, where an airborne freshman Caden Sorrell corralled the ball to save a run.

“My hands flew straight in the air,” Burton said. “I saw him get to the warning track in front of the wall and he leaped. We expect that out of him at this point, he’s such a stud out there.”

Sorrell’s catch kept the ball in the Aggies’ court in the home half, with ball four to Burton releasing a ball of built-up excitement from the 6,976 in attendance.

A&M and Arkansas return to action on Friday, May 17 at 7 p.m. at Olsen Field. Sophomore LHP Justin Lamkin is expected to pitch opposite sophomore RHP Gage Wood in a game the Aggies must win to compete for an SEC West title.

“We always say, ‘shower well,’” Burton said. “Once this game’s over, good or bad, shower well, it’s over, head in the pillow, new day tomorrow.”

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About the Contributor
Luke White
Luke White, Sports Editor
Luke White is a senior telecommunication media studies major and sport management minor from Round Rock, Texas. He has served as head sports editor since May 2023.
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