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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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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)
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June 16, 2024

Aggies survive scare, top Houston 4-3 to advance to Super Regional

Sophomore+Stephen+Kolek+threw+8.1+innings+in+a+winning+effort+against+Houston%2C+striking+out+nine+batters.
Photo by By Alex Miller

Sophomore Stephen Kolek threw 8.1 innings in a winning effort against Houston, striking out nine batters.

HOUSTON – When Connor Wong ripped the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the ninth inning down the left field line, it appeared the junior catcher may have delivered the game-winning home run for Houston.
The cut, however, curved a few feet foul, giving Texas A&M a sigh of relief.
“When he hit it, I thought it was gone,” Houston head coach Todd Whitting said after the game. “It had a pretty good hook on it. I thought that thing might hit the top of the wall.”
Three pitches later, Cason Sherrod caught Wong swinging to seal the Aggies’ (39-21) 4-3 win over the Cougars (42-21), as A&M won the Houston Regional Monday afternoon at Schroeder Field.
“You knew we were going to make it interesting,” Whitting added. “That’s how we roll.
“The way we fought back – I didn’t feel like we lost the game, just thought we got beat.”
Houston chased A&M starter Stephen Kolek three batters into the ninth after the sophomore right-hander allowed a one-out home run to Corey Julks, who jumped on a first-pitch fastball and sent it over the left field fence.
“We’ve gone to the bullpen at times too early with Stephen, his record indicates that we haven’t been able to finish for him,” A&M head coach Rob Childress said of keeping Kolek in for the ninth. “I really wanted him to have an opportunity to finish that game, just wasn’t meant to be.”
Even with the dependable Kaylor Chafin in for relief, A&M could not quite close out the Cougars. Chafin loaded the bases before Cooper Coldiron brought home Grayson Padgett on a RBI-single to left field.
Nick Slaughter cut the Aggies’ lead to one on the next at-bat with a sacrifice fly to right field, plating pinch runner Landon Etzel. With right-handed batter Wong coming to bat, Childress pulled Chafin in favor of Sherrod.
After Sherrod’s scare, the junior slammed the door shut, picking up a save and sent A&M to its third straight Super Regional.
“Sherrod, you think about him a couple years ago, you were scared to get anywhere close to a bullpen, afraid you might get hit in the head,” Childress said. “Here he is out there in one of the biggest moments throwing strikes.”
At the time, it seemed that Baine Schoenvogel’s pinch-hit home run in the top of the ninth was a cherry on top, but in the end, the junior’s whammy proved to be pivotal.
“Schoenvogel came in and hit a big pinch-hit home run,” Childress said. “It certainly proved important in beating a very, very good University of Houston club.”
Kolek (4-4) was stellar through his first eight innings of work, allowing just three hits. The junior right-hander tossed a total of 8.1 innings, giving up two runs on three hits, striking out nine to a lone walk.
“You always want to do well on a big stage,” Kolek said. “To have that kind of performance today, it really felt good to get that one in there and get us into the Supers.”
The Aggies’ attack began early, notching two in the top of the first. After working two runners into scoring position, Blake Kopetsky put A&M ahead with a two-RBI single up the middle, plating Nick Choruby and Cole Bedford.
“First inning, he painted one on the black away and then in,” Kopetsky said. “Just doing what I can do to shorten up with two strikes. Luckily I found a hole and scored two runs.”
Houston starting pitcher Nolan Bond (2-1) settled into a groove after his frustrating first, as the sophomore right-hander scattered three hits over the next five innings.
“That was my first career start, obviously a little bit of jitters out there,” Bond said of his outing. “Once I got it rolling, I felt good from there on out. Got my pitches working and went after hitters.”
Bond’s starting debut would come to an end in the seventh though, after Choruby tanked a RBI-triple into the right centerfield gap to score George Janca from first – giving the Aggies a comfortable 3-0 lead.
On the flip side, the Cougars struggled at the dish during the middle innings, as Kolek retired 10 of 11 from the fourth to eighth innings.
With the win, A&M will host Davidson in next weekend’s Super Regional. The Wildcats upset No. 2 North Carolina twice, sweeping the Chapel Hill Regional.
Just one week after making the tournament fields as one of the last four teams in, the Aggies are gifted with a chance to make Omaha at their own place.
“We got back to the hotel [last night] and we were watching [Davidson-UNC] as a team down in the lobby and we all kind of went crazy and started yelling,” Kopetsky said. “The clerks at the desk were kind of wondering what we were doing… It’s a great opportunity that we get to host Supers.”

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