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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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A&M edged out in the ninth for 8-7 loss

A Nguyen

Senior OF Jordan Thompson (31) puts his glove up to catch the baseball at Olsen Field on Friday, March 17, 2023.

In a game of back-and-forth momentum and strong winds, Texas A&M baseball took on Tennessee in its second game of a road series in Knoxville, Tennessee on Saturday, March 25. In a contest highlighted by two comebacks, only one was successful as the Volunteers defeated the Aggies 8-7.
To begin play, freshman RF Kasen Wells stepped up to the plate first against Tennessee sophomore starting RHP Chase Burns. The at-bat had a 3-0 count to start before Burns popped up 3-2. Wells popped the ball up the infield, ensuing a race to the bag as Wells beat Burns to the base for a single. Junior SS Hunter Haas, who sat at a .410 at the plate coming into the game, was struck out in three. Wells managed to steal second on a head-first dive to put the Aggies in scoring position as junior DH Jack Moss stepped up with 16 RBIs, looking to make it 17. Moss knocked a two-run home run over the gate to put A&M up first 2-0.
However, nothing was secure for A&M as the Aggies also came out on top in their 10-4 loss on Friday. Both senior 2B Austin Bost and freshman LF Jace LaViolette went down swinging to close out the top of the first inning. Sophomore LHP Troy Wansing started for the Aggies following his tough performance last series against LSU. The Purdue transfer’s struggle continued as his first pitch was an HBP to send the Volunteers on base. A line drive up the middle put two on for Tennessee. Volunteer sophomore 1B Blake Burk hit another line drive up the middle that sent junior SS Maui Ahuna home and kept two Vols on base. The hit put Burk at 13/27 against left-handed pitchers.
Wansing managed to get his first strike out, but with only one out and runners at the corners, the pressure was still on. A line over to third base was saved by a 5-6-3 double play as Haas at shortstop covered second base. The Aggie defense pulled Wansing and the maroon and white out of the first inning, leaving the scoreboard at 2-1.
To start the second, junior 3B Trevor Werner was quickly struck out, meaning all four outs for the Vols so far were strikeouts by Burns. Junior C Hank Bard got a hit out to right field that dropped for a two-out single, but a 98 mph fastball struck sophomore CF Tab Tracy out swinging to close out the top.
Wansing fell behind early in the bottom of the second with a 3-1 count. A hit to left field secured another base hit for the orange and white. Wansing got the first out of the inning on a fastball to the bottom of the zone that the umpire called a strike. After falling behind 3-0, Wansing pulled out a strike but Bard’s throwback to the pitcher ends with an error as the ball gets past Wansing and allows the Vols to steal second. Right after the error, Wansing walked the batter, causing assistant coach Nate Yeskie to make his way out to the mound and the Aggies to head to the bullpen.
Coming out of the timeout, Wansing walked another batter and loaded the bases for Tennessee. Wansing reached ball eight before he threw his first strike, but it was for naught as Ahuna got a hit to the wall for a two-run double to put the Vols in the lead. Wansing was retired before the end of the second and junior LHP Evan Aschenbeck came in to relieve. A pop-fly got the second out for A&M, but Tennessee tagged up to move its lead to 4-2, but another pop-up to Wells ended the inning.
“I don’t like team meetings during the game,” head coach Jim Schlossnagle said in a mid game interview with ESPN announcers Chris Burke and Derek Jones. “I don’t have an A&M degree but last time I checked four minus two does not equal ten so we have to play and just play.”
Burns got another strikeout to mark 14-straight strikes and get the first out of the third inning. Two pop-flies from Haas and Moss closed out the top of the third with no Aggies reaching base. Tennessee had a quick third-inning offense of its own that began with a strikeout and ended with a foul ball caught by Targac.
In the fourth, Bost hit one to left field, but it was caught to send him back to the dugout. LaViolette hit over to first, but a quick base cover by Burns secured the second out. Werner got down early 0-2, but a 98 mph ball went wide, saving Werner; however, the next pitch caught Werner swinging and closed the inning. As A&M continued to struggle on offense, it looked to its defense to keep them in the game.
Tennessee graduate LF Griffin Merrit was caught looking, thinking the pitch was a ball, but Ashenbeck came away with the strikeout to start the bottom of the fourth. A hit was caught by Bost who moved out to left field from second base. Aschenbeck went down 3-0 to start against Ahuna and walked him, but a hit to center field closed the inning and left Ahuna on base.
The top of the fifth goes quickly with the Aggies still sitting in a hitting dry spell, with their last base hit in the second inning. For the Volunteers, a foul popped backward and was caught against the boards by Bard. A grounder to Haas got the second out, but redshirt-sophomore RF Jared Dickey got a single on two outs to give the Vols a baserunner. In a move that left the announcers reeling, Dickey took the lead off the base with his thumb guard in his mouth, garnering Aschenbeck’s attention as well as the Aggies continued to try and check him. However, Aschenbeck got a strikeout to move the maroon and white out of the fifth.
The sixth inning saw the resurgence of the Fightin’ Farmers. After Wells sent a ball to center field and Haas sent it to right field for the first and second out, Moss found himself down 0-2 but slammed a line drive to right field to get a base hit. Like a stack of dominoes, Moss’s hit triggered a succession of triumphs for the Aggie offense. Bost got one to drop in play down the third base foul line to get a double for A&M and put two runners in scoring position. LaViolette got a line down the third base line sending both runners home to tie the game.
Continuing the aggressive play, LaViolette went in motion and grabbed third base to try and take the lead. Werner’s at-bat featured two checked swings that were called safe and kept him in play with a 1-2 count. The count was full as both Aggies and Volunteers screamed from their dugouts. Burns walked Werner, placing runners at the corner for A&M. Targac stepped up, Burns sitting at 92 pitches with no one in the Tennessee bullpen. The count got to 3-2 and Targac was walked to load the bases.
Before he could reach his 100th pitch, Burns was retired and relieved by senior LHP Kirby Connell. With bases loaded with two outs, freshman PH and C Max Kaufer came in on his 18th birthday. Full count, Kaufer took ball four as Connell walked in LaViolette to give A&M the lead. A bobbled catch by the Vols, allowed all Aggies to tag up one and add another run to the board. Tucker came in to pinch hit and quickly went down 0-2 but stayed in the game for a full count. Tucker knocked one to third base but the throw to first was successful to close the inning and save the Vols from further damage.
The bottom of the sixth started with a walk by Aschenbeck. Tennessee brought in a pinch runner on first, but Schlossnagle came out of the dugout and retired Aschenbeck. The performance marked the most pitches in an outing for the junior with 67 pitches. Sophomore RHP Brad Rudis came in with Kaufer behind the plate and Tucker moved to CF after the changes on offense. Rudis started off strong with a strikeout in the first at-bat and a 6-4-3 double play got A&M out of the bottom of the sixth.
Volunteer junior RHP Zach Joyce came in in the seventh to try and get the Vols out of the inning, but Haas hit a line drive to right field to get on base. A passed ball allowed Haas to move to second and get to scoring position. Moss slammed a hit down in the corner of right field for an RBI double as the Aggies took a three-run lead. Joyce was quickly retired and replaced by junior RHP Andrew Lindsey, the third pitcher since the sixth inning for Tennessee. Bost stepped up to his at-bat with an aggressive approach going down 0-2 and striking out on a breaking ball. A fastball struck out LaViolette and Werner as Lindsey shut down the Aggie offense.
At the bottom of the seventh, Ahuna sent one high to right field, but it was caught as the wind continued to affect play for both teams. The Vols hit a grounder past second base to get a base hit. Burk got a line drive, but Targac secured the ball in a wild dive and re-righted to get the tag just before Burk reached first. However, a pitch to the dirt allowed Tennessee to steal third and garner a stronger scoring position. Redshirt-sophomore CF Hunter Ensley knocked an RBI single just over the glove of Haas to add a run for the Vols.
Rudis went down 3-0 early with one runner on first and Dickey got the ball to drop allowing a run to score and getting a triple; the hit kickstarted the Volunteers’ comeback. Rudis was retired and junior LHP Will Johnston relieved to close. Tennessee brought in freshman PH Dylan Dreiling, who sat 0-4 against left-handed pitchers, but his record would cease to matter when a wild pitch allowed Dickey to come home and tie up the score at seven runs. A&M was saved from further damage by a strikeout from Johnston.
To start off the eighth, Targac lined to first for an easy play for Tennessee. Kaufer got ahead 3-0 but grounded it to the shortstop for a quick out at first. Thompson gets an HBP, bringing in Tucker who goes down 0-2 and is struck out swinging. A quick one-two-three inning for the Aggies.
By the bottom of the eighth, the teams were 3-8 and 3-6 for A&M and Tennessee, respectively, with runners in scoring position. Johnston was hit off the bat and recovered to get the first out. Ball four walked a Volunteer as Ahuna stepped up to the plate again, looking to trigger the same momentum he did in the second. Ahuna grounded to Werner whose throw got the play at second, but the play was too slow to get the out at first. Ahuna tried to steal second but was caught as Johnston and Targac got the ball to Bost for the tag and picked Ahuna off to end the inning.
A&M and Tennessee headed into the ninth, still tied up at seven runs. Haas took ball four to get a lead-off base for A&M. Moss has a single, a double and a home run as he steps up for his at-bat in the ninth but came up short as he popped it left and Ahuna tracked it across the field for the catch and the first out. Lindsey was retired and relieved by senior RHP Camden Sewell to close as both teams relied on their bullpen to find their way out of the game. Tennessee tried to pick off Haas at first, the call was reviewed but he was ultimately called safe. Bost grounded to third base, but a double play by the Vols shut the door in the top of the ninth.
Johnston walked the leadoff hitter to start the bottom of the ninth, a mirror performance of the top. However, a pitch to the dirt that passed Kaufer allowed sophomore 2B Christian Moore to move to second. A sacrifice grounder to first got one out but Moore tagged up to third. The Aggies intentionally walked the next batter to have Vols at the corners and open the door for a double-play opportunity to get them out of the ninth. However with Dickey next at-bat, junior C JD Gregson came in to catch only for Dickey to send a sac-fly to center field allowing Moore to go home for the win.
The loss puts the Aggies down 2-0 in the series, a position they are familiar with following the series against No. 1 LSU the previous weekend. A&M will look for a similar ending to this series as it ends its matchup in Knoxville with the final game on Sunday, March 26. The first pitch is set to be thrown at 12 p.m.

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