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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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A&M snaps three-game skid with 5-4 win over Portland

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Photo by Kalena Agpasan

Freshman INF Kaeden Kent (3) swings to hit the ball during Texas A&M’s game against Portland at Olsen Field on Friday, Feb. 24, 2023.

From a team and individual standpoint, freshman right fielder Jace LaViolette’s double couldn’t have come at a better time.
The Texas A&M baseball team found itself facing a potential fourth-straight loss and at risk of being swept as it took on Portland on Sunday, Feb. 26, at Olsen Field. The Aggies had simply been out-played in the previous three games as they struggled to produce offensively. In the third game of the series, the maroon and white didn’t necessarily have trouble getting runners on base, but had trouble bringing them home to score, stranding ten baserunners on the day.
Many players have faced slow starts to the season, as well. Junior shortstop Hunter Haas has essentially been the lone bright spot in the lineup, as the Arizona State transfer entered the contest batting .381. On the other hand, veteran hitters such as junior first baseman Jack Moss, junior second baseman Ryan Targac, junior third baseman Trevor Werner and senior designated hitter Austin Bost came in hitting .238, .143, .143 and .095, respectively. LaViolette carried an average of .190.
Given the circumstances, it was clear that the Aggies needed a victory as all get-out. A&M entered the bottom of the ninth trailing 4-2, looking for its first dose of “Olsen Magic” in 2023. Sophomore pinch hitter Tab Tracy got the Aggies going with a single to begin the inning before Haas worked a four-pitch walk. “Ball 5” chants poured down from the crowd of 6,347, and the cheering only got louder when Moss singled up the middle to plate a run and bring A&M within 4-3.
Two batters later, LaViolette laced a 1-2 offering down the right field line, where it rolled to the corner as Haas scored the tying run. Junior right fielder Christian Cooney threw the ball to his cutoff with junior pinch runner Travis Chestnut sprinting home. Graduate catcher Nich Klemp didn’t field the throw home cleanly, allowing Chestnut to slide in for the winning run, securing a 5-4 A&M win.
“Hitting is the toughest part of the game,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “It can snowball on you so fast. You really need just one big hit, which, maybe this’ll be it, to kind of get you going.”
After falling behind 4-2 after four innings, the Aggies’ bullpen kept the squad in the contest. Sophomore starter Chris Cortez pitched five innings of four run-ball, allowing three hits, five walks and six strikeouts. Junior lefty Evan Aschenbeck then entered the game in relief with two runners on in the sixth, leaving the frame unscathed en route to a debut lasting four scoreless innings with three hits allowed with four strikeouts.
“You’ve got to start thinking of [Aschenbeck] in a lot of different roles,” Schlossnagle said. “He’s thrown strikes since he’s been here, but, honestly, we’ve gotten great swings on him. He’s never touched 92 mph. So, you don’t know until you put him in a game. Every single game has so much value. It’s not tryouts, but in some ways, it kind of is.”
The Blinn transfer’s scoreless outing was another welcome change for A&M after its relievers gave up an average of five runs over the past three games. After being credited with the win in his first outing as an Aggie, Aschenbeck may be turned to as a set-up man going forward.
“I’ve been practicing this, doing mental reps and staying in the game,” Aschenbeck said. “That’s what you have to do if you’re not getting playing time, just stay in the game, and you’ll get called.”
A&M found itself in a favorable spot early on, as Moss lined a single and Werner doubled to put the pair in scoring position with just one out in the first, but the following two batters struck out to end the frame. The Pilots were the ones that struck first, as junior designated hitter Tristan Gomes belted a three-run shot off the batter’s eye in the second inning to put Portland up 3-0 early on.
The Aggies responded in the bottom of the frame, as freshman left fielder Kaeden Kent doubled off the centerfield wall to score Targac from first base and make it a 3-1 game. A&M added another run in the third, as Werner reached third on a deep fly ball dropped by the right fielder. Two batters later, Bost hit an RBI groundout to score him. With each A&M run, a cannon was fired beyond left field to ring in the debut of the team’s Corps of Cadets-themed uniforms.
In the top of the fourth, the Pilots grew their lead back to two runs at 4-2 after junior third baseman Jake Tsukada scored after a wild pitch by Cortez. Neither squad reached the scoreboard again until the Aggies’ comeback in the bottom of the ninth, although both teams threatened with multiple runners on base.
“Even in the locker room after those first two games, we just had to believe in each other and just stick with it and know that, one through nine [in the lineup], if you don’t get the job done, somebody else behind you is going to come up and get it done for you,” LaViolette said after his 3-for-5 showing. “You just have to believe in that and believe in yourself and believe in all your brothers. Man, did we want to win. Oh, we wanted to win.”
A&M will return to the diamond on Tuesday, Feb. 28, to take on Houston Christian at 6 p.m. at Olsen Field. The Huskies, coached by 15-year MLB veteran Lance Berkman, have yet to win a game this season.

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