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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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ANALYSIS: 3 Takeaways from Aggies’ 4-3 win over Houston in Regional championship

Photo by By Alex Miller

Senior Blake Kopetsky’s single in the top of the first gave A&M an early 2-0 lead on Houston.

Sports editor and lead baseball analyst Heath Clary breaks down the Aggies’ 4-3 win over Houston to punch their ticket to the Super Regional. 
1. Two senior outfielders come through in the clutch
Nick Choruby and Blake Kopetsky have been two of the cornerstones of the Texas A&M offense the entire 2017 season, and they each played a pivotal role in ensuring they will play in a Super Regional in their final collegiate year.
Kopetsky made a big play with his bat and glove in the first inning. In the top of the first, with runners on first and second with two outs, Kopetsky hit an 0-2 offering from Houston starter Nolan Bond up the middle and into center field for a two-run single. The hit gave the Aggies a 2-0 lead that they would never relinquish.
In the bottom-half of the frame, Corey Julks drove a deep fly ball to right field with two outs and a runner on first. Kopetsky sprinted back and made a leaping catch against the wall, saving a run and ending the inning. And with Kolek struggling to throw strikes, the Cougars might have had themselves a big inning if not for Kopetsky’s acrobatic grab. The catch allowed Kolek to settle down after some possible first-inning jitters and spin a gem on the mound.
“He painted one on the black away and then in and I’m down 0-2 just doing what I can do to shorten up and put the ball in play with two strikes,” Kopetsky said of his first-inning at-bat after the game. “Luckily it found a hole and scored two runs.”
He also gave one a ride to the warning track in the third and tacked on a single in the sixth.
Choruby, meanwhile, waited until the seventh inning to make his significant impact on the game. At the plate with George Janca on first and two outs, Choruby hit a mistake 2-2 pitch from Bond into the gap in right-center field, plating Janca and putting the Aggies up 3-0.
For the weekend, Choruby went 6-for-12 at the dish with four RBI and two runs scored. Kopetksy, for his part, went 4-for-11 with two runs scored. The two seniors capped off solid weekends with their performances and are going to need to be at their best once against this weekend against Davidson if the Aggies want to advance to their first College World Series since 2011.
2. Kolek engenders April brilliance
Stephen Kolek had struggled in each of his last two starts entering Monday’s game, but he rekindled his April dominance against the Cougars. After a fairly wild first inning where he went to multiple three-ball counts but managed to keep Houston off the board, he started dealing like he did during the middle of SEC play.
He didn’t throw his changeup much, but he commanded his fastball to both sides of the plate, racked up multiple strikeouts with his go-to cutter/slider and also mixed in his curveball to keep the UH hitters off balance.
Houston had knocked the cover off the ball to the tune of nine runs per game, a .339 batting average and 15 extra-base hits in the first three games of the Regional, but Kolek found a way to silence the Cougar bats for much of the afternoon.
Despite Houston’s tremendous offensive production in its first three games, Kolek attacked the zone and let his defense work. He struck out nine while inducing nine flyouts and seven groundouts.
“I was very confident,” Kolek said. “If you don’t come out confident, you’re not going to have success. You’ve got to come out and act like you’re the best pitcher in the country. Just having the mindset and attacking the strike zone and trusting your stuff.”
He scattered three hits over 8.1 stellar innings and did not allow an extra-base hit until he left a fastball up in the zone in the ninth that Corey Julks blasted over the left field fence. Kolek then allowed an infield single that eventually came around to score once he left the game, but the A&M bullpen held on to improve his season record to 4-4.
Bullpen comes through once again
For the third-straight game, the Texas A&M bullpen came through in the clutch. Despite being a question mark for much of the season, the Aggies’ relieving core led by Cason Sherrod and Kaylor Chafin did its job when they needed them most.
Even with Stephen Kolek past the century mark in pitches in the ninth inning, A&M head coach Rob Childress elected to leave him in the game and go for a complete game. Kolek got an out, then surrendered a home run off the bat of Julks and an infield single.
That forced Childress out of the dugout to bring in Kaylor Chafin out of the bullpen. Chafin hit the first batter he faced, then coaxed what looked like a game-ending double play grounder to Janca at third. Janca dropped it as he was trying to touch third base, though, loading the bases with one out.
A Cooper Coldiron RBI single and a Jake Slaughter sacrifice fly pulled the Cougars within one run with two outs, and Childress called for Sherrod to try to record the final out.
Sherrod’s first pitch to Houston leadoff hitter Connor Wong nearly resulted in a walk-off home run but hooked barely foul, and then Sherrod unleashed two filthy sliders to strike Wong out to send the Aggies to the Super Regional. In his two Regional appearances, Sherrod struck out four of the eight hitters he faced.
“You follow us all year and know we’ve gone to the bullpen too early with Stephen,” Childress said. “His record indicates that we haven’t been able to finish for him. I really wanted for him to have the opportunity to finish the game but it wasn’t meant to be.
“Fortunately we made the moves and ended up getting out of the jam. Those two guys were big for us out of the bullpen this weekend.”
Chafin and Sherrod pitched a combined 6.1 scoreless innings in the Regional, with Chafin saving the first two games and Sherrod saving the third.
The Aggies’ starting rotation of Brigham Hill, Corbin Martin and Stephen Kolek has pitched well enough to not require much relief, but the duo of Chafin and Sherrod — as well as hard-throwing righty Mitchell Kilkenny — are three valuable options that Childress can turn to down the stretch.
The three wins propel the Aggies to the Super Regional next weekend, where they will host Davidson at Olsen Field.
“We had a pretty rollercoaster season and it’s a testament to the team that we have that we’ve been able to respond to every bad strike we’ve had,” Choruby said. “The good streaks we have we try to extend them as much as possible. I’m just excited to get to a Super Regional.”

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