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The Battalion

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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Photo by Hannah Harrison
Texas A&M Aggies utility Gavin Grahovac (9) bat flips after hitting a grand slam during Texas A&M’s game against Mississippi State on Thursday, Mar. 21, 2024, at Olsen Field. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)

Former Texas A&M baseball third baseman Trevor Werner’s departure to the professional ranks last summer left a vacancy at the hot corner that the Aggies hadn’t experienced in two years, given the veteran’s 89 starts at the position over the past two seasons.

It was one of a number of positions to fill entering the 2024 campaign, yet coach Jim Schlossnagle and his staff hit the transfer portal to fill just about each one.

Third base was the exception, as it was left to freshman Gavin Grahovac. In hindsight, it’s easy to see why Schlossnagle and Co. had faith in the California native to fill the spot now without Werner’s presence.

The key to Grahovac’s game is that he doesn’t play like a freshman. Freshmen typically don’t have four home runs through four games of SEC action. Rarely do they rank third on a top-10 team in batting average and home runs and second in runs batted in.

But that’s Gavin Grahovac.

He smashed two long balls for five RBIs in a 6-3 A&M win over No. 21 Mississippi State on Thursday, March 21 at Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park. Redshirt sophomore LHP Ryan Prager contained the Bulldogs’ bats with 6.1 innings of no earned runs as the No. 7 Aggies improved to 2-2 in conference play.

Grahovac’s tools bear similarities to Werner’s as a 6-foot-2 ballplayer that can hit for power while making nifty plays at third. His defense isn’t perfect, as evidenced by his third inning error, but his potential is what makes him a hot commodity.

Being Grahovac’s first year on campus, there was no overlap between himself and Werner on the same roster, but that didn’t stop the latter, now in the Kansas City Royals system, from imparting some guidance on his successor.

“Opening day, I got a long text from him, not handing the torch down, but just giving me those words of wisdom, telling me what it’s like to really be part of this Olsen Magic and what the 12th Man really does for us,” Grahovac said. “Everything he’s said has been correct and it’s been so much fun to be a part of. He’s been a good role model for me since I got here.”

The work by Grahovac at the plate provided a cushion for Prager to do his work on the mound. With just four hits and a walk coupled with eight strikeouts, he picked up his fifth win of the season while lowering his ERA to 1.67.

Prager’s outing served as a bounce-back from the six runs he allowed over 2.1 frames against Florida last week. The Gators tagged him for his first earned runs of the season, snapping a streak of 23.2 innings.

“It’s always good to play again,” Prager said. “The problem with being a pitcher and more importantly, starting, is you have to wait that week. Just really happy that we got the game in tonight and continued to stick with our plan.”

The first inning served as a microcosm of Prager and Grahovac’s performances despite the rain-delayed start time. Prager got the party started with the rare feat of four punchouts in a frame after sophomore RF Dakota Jordan reached first on a dropped third strike. It only took two pitches for Grahovac to make his mark, sneaking a solo shot over the left field fence for an early lead.

The early deficit didn’t phase sophomore RHP Evan Siary as he sat down 12 Aggies in a row. In the meantime, the Bulldogs took advantage of Grahovac’s error with back-to-back-to-back singles plating a pair of unearned runs in the third.

Siary’s productive effort proved inconsequential after a five-run fifth by A&M. Senior 1B Ted Burton’s leadoff single chased Siary in favor of freshman LHP Nolan Stevens before a single and a walk set the plate for junior SS Ali Camarillo’s RBI single. His line drive deflected off the glove of senior CF Connor Hujsak, plating a run and loading the bases.

Much like his first home run, Grahovac again needed just two offerings to do damage. He one-upped his first homer by clearing the scoreboard altogether for a grand slam that put the Aggies on top for good.

“We always talk about ‘team first, team last,’” Grahovac said. “If I can get something going for the team and guys continue to do what they’re doing, it’s going to be a successful season for us, for sure.”

A&M and Mississippi State return to Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park on Friday, March 22 at 6 p.m. Junior RHP Tanner Jones is slated to get the start on the mound with a 1-0 mark and 4.76 ERA.

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