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

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

The Battalion

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A&M walks off Sam Houston State 9-8 to enter SEC play undefeated

Photo by CJ Smith
Sophomore OF Jace LaViolette (17) signs “love” as he rounds second during A&M’s games against Rhode Island on Friday, March 8, 2024, at Olsen Field. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)

Two days after No. 4 Texas A&M baseball beat Rhode Island behind a walk-off single, some of the Olsen Magic still lingered at Blue Bell Park as the Aggies took on Sam Houston State.

Sophomore 2B Kaeden Kent took walking off in the literal sense as he drew ball four from senior RHP Chandler David with the bases loaded in the ninth inning to secure a 9-8 victory for A&M on Tuesday, March 12. The matchup with the Bearkats served as the team’s final tune-up before SEC play begins this weekend at Florida.

Adding to the deja vu of the midweek contest was Sam Houston’s ferocious comeback in the later innings. On March 10, Rhode Island scored 11 runs over the sixth and seventh innings to capture the lead after A&M previously led 7-0. On Tuesday, the Aggies built up an 8-3 edge by the fifth inning before the Bearkats tied it in the eighth.

Before the Aggies could face the challenge of taking on the Bearkats on the diamond, they first had to keep from overlooking the ballclub an hour east. Sam Houston opened the season with a series win over Oklahoma State and came to College Station fresh off a sweep of Texas State on the road.

“I know it sounds coachy, we’re trying to make every day Opening Day,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “I heard somebody on the radio say this morning that this game meant more to Sam Houston than it did to Texas A&M. I told our team that and they all called that the BS that it is. Every game means something to us, whether it’s Sam Houston or Florida.”

After junior RHP Chris Cortez was welcomed with a game-tying solo home run off the bat of junior C Walker Janek to begin the eighth, he faced the minimum in the top of the ninth to keep the game knotted at 8. A&M didn’t have to do much in the bottom of the frame, as a walk, hit batter and junior SS Ali Camarillo’s single set the stage for Kent’s walk off.

“I was just trying to do anything I could to get on base,” Kent said. “I don’t think it’s any different whether you start or whether you come off the bench, you’re always prepared to go into the game. The preparation is always the same.”

The Aggies’ walk-off differed from the way in which they had built up their lead earlier in the game, featuring four doubles and three home runs. Sophomore CF Jace LaViolette didn’t wait long to set the tone, crushing a solo blast 470 feet to center field in the first inning.

A&M was only walked six times in the matchup, yet made sure to take advantage of them. Junior RF Braden Montgomery and senior 1B Ted Burton followed LaViolette’s long ball with a base on balls before senior C Jackson Appel poked an opposite-field single to plate Montgomery.

Senior DH Ryan Targac, making his return to the lineup for the first time in 10 days, built the lead to 3-0 with help from senior 3B Jeffrey David’s fielding error.

The second inning saw the Aggies take another power surge to double their lead. Following redshirt freshman 2B Justin Vossos’ leadoff walk, freshman 3B Gavin Grahovac added to the fireworks with a 463-foot shot to left-center field that brought the pair home. Not to be outdone, LaViolette made it back-to-back jacks with his ninth round-tripper of the season, this one sailing over Section 12 in right-center.

Jeffrey David atoned for his error with an RBI double in the third inning that bit into A&M’s lead at 6-1. The run was credited to freshman RHP Isaac Morton with three walks and three strikeouts over two innings to start the game.

The Aggies cycled through six relievers during a game in which Schlossnagle said he hoped to experiment with several arms out of the bullpen. However, the use of those pitchers likely came more out of necessity than he would have hoped.

“It felt like we were having tryouts tonight,” Schlossnagle said. “Just needed to find out in the games. The analytics of the pitch are awesome, but the hitter is gonna tell us how good the pitcher is … We have to find a right-handed pitcher that has something on the ball. Since I came to A&M, that’s what I’ve been searching for … We have the arms, now we’ve got to find the strikes.”

Senior 2B Easton Loyd’s two-run single cut the A&M lead in half at 6-3 in the top of the fourth, but a Montgomery RBI single and an RBI fielder’s choice off the bat of graduate LF Hayden Schott preserved the Aggies’ five-run advantage.

Those five runs, though, proved to not be enough. After beginning the sixth with a punchout, junior RHP Eldridge Armstrong III allowed three consecutive singles in his second appearance of the year. Schlossnagle turned to sophomore RHP Peyton Smith for damage control, but instead received a grand slam from junior RF Malachi Lott.

With the season-high 7,342 in attendance getting flashbacks to the Sunday scaries, Janek’s solo shot completed the Sam Houston comeback. The Aggies, though, used what little they had left in the tank to reach the finish line.

“The guy I’m super proud of tonight on the pitching staff is Chris Cortez,” Schlossnagle said. “The guy’s been through a lot here, and he knows what the expectations are. No one has higher expectations than him. To come in, give up a homer to tie the game but then just continue to throw strikes.”

A&M now carries a 17-0 mark on the road to the Sunshine State against the No. 8 Gators. The Aggies are one of just two undefeated Division I teams, the other being Florida State. Coincidentally, the Seminoles defeated Florida on Tuesday, 12-8.

The series begins on Friday, March 15 at 5:30 p.m. in Gainesville, Florida. Redshirt sophomore RHP Ryan Prager, the reigning National Pitcher of the Week by Perfect Game, is expected to start.

“Next game, I’d say we win by a little bit more than a walk-off,” Camarillo said. “A win is a win, and we’re not really worried about what happened tonight.”

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About the Contributor
Luke White
Luke White, Sports Editor
Luke White is a senior telecommunication media studies major and sport management minor from Round Rock, Texas. He has served as head sports editor since May 2023.
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