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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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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

A&M falls to Vanderbilt 10-4 in SEC Championship

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Photo by Photo by A Nguyen

Freshman C Max Kaufer (46) runs to first base after hitting a single during Texas A&M’s game against Tarleton at Olsen Field on Tuesday, May 2, 2023.

After an SEC Tournament run in which it looked the best it had all season, Texas A&M baseball’s pitching staff resembled its inconsistent regular season self in a 10-4 loss to Vanderbilt in the championship game on Sunday, May 28. The Aggies allowed just 14 runs over five contests leading up to the title game, but surrendered 15 hits to the Commodores, with four coming in both the second and eighth innings in Hoover, Alabama.
“Super proud of our team, the way we played over the course of the last 11 days,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “Just super disappointed. It’s hard to get in this position when you have an opportunity to win a championship, and then, you know, we thought we were right in the fight, obviously, until [we] just couldn’t get the last out in the eighth inning.”
As the No. 10 seed, A&M was the first-ever double-digit seeded team to advance to the SEC Championship. The No. 4 seeded Commodores posed a formidable threat to the Aggies, entering with the momentum of scoring 19 runs over their past two games. A&M failed to score more than five runs a game in the Tournament, and that offense failed to keep up with Vanderbilt’s hot bats.
Junior RHP Nathan Dettmer’s struggles this season continued as he took the mound for the Aggies. After logging 2.1 innings versus Arkansas on May 24, the San Antonio native gave up four runs on seven hits in 2.2 frames against the Commodores. Sophomore RHP Chris Cortez, amid a disappointing year of his own, took the loss with a run in the sixth.
“Dettmer, he’s proven, you know, last year and years before that he’s capable of doing it,” Schlossnagle said. “He’s just in, really, a season-long funk. Hasn’t come out of it. Whenever he’s called upon, we’ll believe that it’s going to be his first good game.”
Entering the SEC Tournament with a 14-16 conference record, the maroon and white were viewed as a bubble team for the NCAA Tournament by some. The Aggies effectively eliminated any doubt about their status with a Tournament performance that saw them take down the likes of No. 13 Tennessee, No. 5 LSU and No. 4 Arkansas. When the field is announced, A&M can be comfortable with its position as an expected No. 2 seed.
“Just to have kind of our backs against the wall this last week and a half and to get on a run and hopefully take it into next week, that’s special,” junior 1B Jack Moss said. “I’m super proud of these guys. I know how hard we work as a team and collective unit. Just proud to be an Aggie and [we’ve] got to keep it going next week.”
The Aggies jumped on the board in the second inning after junior LF Ryan Targac’s leadoff double. Senior DH Brett Minnich singled to put runners on the corners, and freshman C Max Kaufer’s soft dribbler to the pitcher allowed Targac to dart home and pick up a 1-0 lead.
The Commodores didn’t waste any time responding, and did so in a big way. Freshmen DH Chris Maldonado and 2B RJ Austin notched back-to-back singles in the bottom of the second before senior LF Troy LaNeve went 424 feet deep to right field in his sixth start of the season to put Vanderbilt on top 3-1.
The black and gold padded their lead in the next inning with productive two-out hitting. Senior 1B Parker Noland, Maldonado and Austin laced three consecutive singles, with Austin’s plating Noland for a 4-1 lead as Dettmer’s day came to a close.
A&M got a run back in the fourth with some help from junior RHP Patrick Reilly’s command issues. Senior CF Jordan Thompson began the inning with a single to left field before advancing to second and third and eventually scoring on three wild pitches, the final of which came with two outs.
The Aggies made it a game in the sixth behind the bat of Kaufer. With two outs, senior 2B Austin Bost and Minnich singled before advancing to scoring position on Reilly’s fourth wild pitch of the day. Facing a 2-2 count, Kaufer dropped a single into left field that hung up long enough for the two runners to tie the game at 4-4.
That tie didn’t last long, as the Commodores answered right back in the home half of the inning. LaNeve and junior C Alan Espinal opened the frame with singles to chase the flamethrower Cortez and bring on sophomore LHP Troy Wansing after he closed out the Arkansas win. Wansing struck out his first batter before junior CF Enrique Bradfield Jr. laid down a sacrifice bunt to score LaNeve on a safety squeeze.
A&M found itself with an ideal opportunity to put runs on the board in the top of the seventh, as Moss and freshman RF Jace LaViolette singled to put runners on third and second with one out. However, the Aggies returned to the dugout empty-handed after Thompson grounded into a double play.
Vanderbilt put the game away for all intents and purposes in the eighth with five two-out runs. Sophomore RHP Josh Stewart surrendered a double and a walk before junior LHP Brandyn Garcia was brought on for his third appearance of the week. His wild pitch allowed a run to score before Noland’s RBI single capped his 3-for-5 performance. Sophomore RHP Robert Hogan took over, but did more harm than good with a single and a walk against the two batters he faced, loading the bases.
Senior RHP Carson Lambert relieved Hogan as junior LF Calvin Hewett tagged him for a bases clearing double on a full count. Lambert then induced a popout to end the frame as the Aggies could feel their championship aspirations dwindle away.
“Any time you lose a championship, it’s always tough,” Moss said. “I’m so proud of this team, though, just from being on the road this last week and a half, just to block out all the negativity and criticism that we may have faced, and just to compete and show that we belong on the field with anybody.”
Noland, Maldonado, Austin and LaNeve, the Commodores’ 4-5-6-7 batters, each recorded multiple hits, with Austin being named MVP of the Tournament with six hits and five runs batted in over five games. Moss, Wansing and freshman LHP Justin Lamkin landed on the All-Tournament Team, as Moss went 8-for-22 over six games and Wansing and Lamkin turned in terrific outings on the mound.
“Some people can say it’s a grind, but it’s baseball, man, it’s the thing we all love,” Moss said. “I feel like studying for an economics test is more of a grind than playing all these baseball games. This is fun. This is what professional baseball is.”
The postseason continues for A&M in the Regional round, where the Aggies will be playing on the road at a site announced at 11 a.m. on Monday, May 29. The action begins on Friday, June 2.

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