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The Battalion

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The Battalion

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Aggies send Gators back to the swamp with balk-off win

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Junior INF Jack Moss (9) runs onto the field to celebrate Texas A&M’s win against Tarleton at Olsen Field on Tuesday, May 2, 2023.

The balk is a pitcher’s worst nightmare, but an Aggie’s wildest dream — especially when it presents itself in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the ninth inning.
After defeating the University of Florida with a run-rule victory on Saturday night, Texas A&M baseball looked to replicate its offensive savvy in Sunday afternoon’s rubber match in order to end the weekend with a conference series win.
Following a 15-minute lightning delay, the Gators were hungry for revenge and eager to draw first blood from junior LHP Will Johnston, A&M’s starter on the mound.
Johnston, notified of his start less than 24 hours prior to throwing the first pitch, opened the game with a 1-2-3 inning, recording two strikeouts in the opening frame of play.
“He did a nice job, he probably deserves to be in there some more,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “We’re just trying to win them one at a time.”
Johnston was able to keep the game scoreless in the second, relying on the Fightin’ Farmers’ defensive power and dependability.
However, a quick-hit solo home run in the third frame allowed the Gators to take an early lead — and with the Aggies unable to gain any offensive traction in the first three innings of the game, a one run deficit would prove to be trouble.
The maroon and white began to show signs of life in the bottom of the fourth frame when junior 3B Trevor Werner started the inning with a single into center field. Back-to-back walks administered to junior DH Ryan Targac and senior 2B Austin Bost would load the bases for freshman CF Kasen Wells.
Wells, walked on four pitches, would score Werner from third base and reinvigorate the crowd of Aggie fans, who came alive as they began their infamous “Ball 5” chant.
Johnston’s day came to an end in the top of the fifth inning after allowing a hit from the Gators. His Sunday start served as the longest outing of his career as he left the mound after allowing one run, three hits and serving five strikeouts in 4.1 innings.
“As I go, I continue to get better,” Johnston said.
Johnston’s reliever, junior LHP Evan Aschenbeck, finished the fifth inning with two strikeouts.
“When Aschenbeck is able to come in in the middle of games twice in a weekend, then we normally have a really good chance of winning,” Schlossnagle said.
In his return to the mound in the sixth inning, however, he allowed another no-doubt solo home run to leave the ballpark, and the Gators took the lead once again.
Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning, freshman LF Jace LaViolette’s plate appearance resulted in a leadoff triple, breathing life into the crowd that had been silenced after Florida broke the tie.
With a sacrifice-fly from Targac, LaViolette was able to tag up and score from third base, tying the game once again with a score of 2-2.
Aschenbeck continued to deal into the eighth inning, hoping to instill a sense of confidence in the Aggies’ offense and build on their efforts. He was then replaced by junior LHP Brandyn Garcia, who worked to stave off the Gators’ attacks.
“He’s [Garcia] evolved into somebody that you can really, really trust in the back end of the game,” Johnston said. “He’s got monster stuff — he’s filling it up, making pitches, doing different things.”
Despite the skill on the mound from both bullpens, neither offense was able to score and the game remained tied as the ninth inning began.
In an effort to prevent Florida from scoring, the maroon and white put on a show of defensive splendor in the top of the ninth frame, with Garcia continuing to deal and Bost flashing his glove and catching a foul ball along the right field wall.
“He’s a competitive and gritty dude,” Werner said. “For him to lay his body on the line in that last inning for that catch … he’s just doing whatever it takes to win a ballgame.”
Hoping for some “Olsen Magic,” the bottom of the frame began with Targac being hit by a pitch and junior OF Travis Chestnut taking his place at first base as a pinch runner. A well-timed and well-placed single from Bost would allow Chestnut, known for his speed, to reach third base easily.
As Olsen Magic would allow — or, as Chestnut’s incessant third-base taunting would allow, Florida’s pitcher twitched his knee on the mound for a balk, allowing all runners on base to advance. As Chestnut crossed the threshold to home plate, the Aggies took the lead and the series with a 3-2 walk-off win.
“We’re just proving to ourselves that we can take on any team in the country — it gives us that edge and a little bit of confidence going into the rest of the year,” Werner said.
A&M baseball will return to action at Olsen Field on Tuesday, May 9, at 6 p.m., where it will face the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley before its final home SEC series of the season against Alabama begins on Friday, May 12, at 6 p.m.

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