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The Battalion

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Aggies finish off Rice for third and final time

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A Nguyen

Junior Batter Hunter Haas (2) swing his bat ti hit the baseball at Olsen Field on Friday, March 17, 2023.

For the Aggies, winning was so nice, they did it thrice.
In a series of unique circumstances, Texas A&M baseball faced off against the Rice Owls for the third time this season, but only the first time at home. The first matchup came in the Shriners Children’s College Classic at Minute Maid Park, with the second on the road at Reckling Park. Closing out the disjointed series at Olsen Field, the Aggies looked to complete the sweep against Rice.
Despite falling behind early, A&M thrived off of extra-base hits, using six of them to drive in six runs to lead the Aggies to victory on a drizzly Tuesday, March 21 night.
Junior RHP Wyatt Tucker got the start and struggled immediately. Against the first batter he faced, Tucker gave up a solo home run to dead center field, bouncing off the batter’s eye and giving the Owls an early 1-0 lead.
Rice drove yet another ball over the fence in the top of the third inning, stretching its lead to three and forcing Tucker into an early exit. The right-hander went 2.1 innings, giving up 3 earned runs on five hits.
“It was just a really weird night,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “The weather, with the wind blowing out, Rice put some good swings on some balls. They didn’t look like a team hitting .235, that’s for sure.”
In relief for Tucker, freshman LHP Shane Sdao quieted the Rice offense in the middle innings, only allowing two hits with three strikeouts in 3.1 innings of work.
“The main thing behind [my success] is throwing strikes,” Sdao said. “ You’ve got to get ahead in the count, stay ahead in the count. That’s how you win at bats. Most importantly, though, I would say having confidence in yourself. You’ve got to have confidence in order to compete at the best level.”
In the bottom of the third, A&M’s bat came to life. After junior CF Stanley Tucker grounded out, junior catcher Hank Bard, freshman RF Kasen Wells and junior SS Hunter Haas all doubled in order, plating two runs. Not to be outdone, junior 1B Jack Moss hit the fourth consecutive extra-base hit of the inning with a triple to center field, knotting the game up at 3.
One of only two runs not from an extra-base hit for the Aggies came in the fourth, with a groundout from Wells scoring junior DH Trevor Werner, giving A&M its first lead of the night.
In a game that featured six total home runs from both teams, the first of the night for the Aggies came in the sixth, as freshman LF Jace LaViolette blasted a 452-foot solo shot to right-center field, a ball that the Rice outfielder could only watch fly out of the ballpark.
Werner joined in on the home run action in the eighth inning. After a walk by freshman 3B Kaeden Kent, Werner hit a deep fly ball 412 feet to center field that gave what many Aggie fans considered, at the time, a comfortable four-run lead.
Werner, who began the season in the starting lineup, had been sidelined with a hamstring injury. After pinch hitting in last weekend’s series against LSU, the third baseman looks to return back to his usual spot at the hot corner next weekend in a series against Tennessee.
“Good to have Trevor back,” Schlossnagle said. “Unless he wakes up tomorrow sore, he’ll be playing full-time on Friday.”
In the top of the ninth, after giving up a lead-off single, junior LHP Evan Aschenbeck gave up Rice’s third home run of the night to cut the lead to two. After a strikeout and a bunt single, the left-hander was replaced by junior LHP Will Johnston, who looked to close out the game for A&M.
Johnston, who pitched in the Sunday finale of last weekend’s series, instead gave up the game-tying home run, stunning the few Aggie faithful in attendance that weathered the midweek storm. In four quick hits, the game was tied. Johnston did get a strikeout in his appearance, but after a walk was replaced by sophomore RHP Robert Hogan, who closed the inning with a strikeout.
“Will Johnston’s fine,” Schlossnagle said. “ We’re asking too much of the guy. To come in the seventh inning on Sunday, and then try to get some outs here, we’ve got to find some other guys who can finish games.”
Going into the bottom of the ninth, the Aggies had the top of their lineup up to bat, looking for “Olsen Magic.” A&M got the lead-off man aboard with a walk from Wells. Haas battled the next at bat, fighting through 10 pitches before singling to shallow left field. Moss would follow up Haas with another single after the Owls’ SS bobbled the hard-hit grounder, loading the bases with no outs.
“We just went into the inning, and we had our guys out there that we trusted,” Werner said. “ You can’t rely on one guy all the time. You’re going to get punched sometimes, and it’s just about learning from it and moving on to the next fight.”
With bases loaded, senior 2B Austin Bost faced a 3-2 count, looking to drive in the walk-off run. Instead, in a circumstance that can only be described as strange or even anticlimactic, Bost took a pitch to his hand, awarding him first base and driving in Wells. After a review, the call was upheld, and the Aggies walked off Rice in peculiar fashion.
“You see him get hit and you win the game, but also you’re saying, ‘looks like it hurt,’” Schlossnagle said. “Hopefully he’s alright. He’s hurting pretty good, hopefully it’s just a bruise, but those are always scary when you get hit on the hands.”

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