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The Battalion

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Aschenbeck’s extended relief guides A&M to 9-7 win over Auburn

Texas+A%26amp%3BM+pitcher+Evan+Aschenbeck+%2853%29+delivers+a+pitch+during+Texas+A%26amp%3BM%E2%80%99s+game+against+Arizona+State+on+Friday%2C+March.+1%2C+2024+at+Globe+Life+Field.+%28Chris+Swann%2FThe+Battalion%29
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Texas A&M pitcher Evan Aschenbeck (53) delivers a pitch during Texas A&M’s game against Arizona State on Friday, March. 1, 2024 at Globe Life Field. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)

Senior LHP Evan Aschenbeck entered the sixth inning of Thursday’s game between Texas A&M baseball and Auburn in a situation that likely would have other relievers wanting to stay in the bullpen.

Such instances, though, have become part of the routine for the Brenham product.

The Aggies had cut their lead to 6-4 after a throwing error allowed a run to score, with the bases remaining loaded with no outs. With Auburn’s top hitter in senior LF Mason Maners due up, coach Jim Schlossnagle called Aschenbeck’s number for the 10th time this season.

The first plate appearance went about as good as Aschenbeck could have hoped by striking out Maners. But things took a turn for the worse as another throwing error on a double play attempt plated a pair of runners, knotting the score at 6.

Aschenbeck shook off the misfortune, inducing a groundout to get out of the jam. For the next three innings, the Aggies’ offense stepped up while the Tigers didn’t have many answers. A&M added a few more runs to tilt the seesaw of momentum in its favor in capturing a 9-7 win at Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park on March 28.

Closing the final four innings of a close game is enough to make any reliever sweat, but it’s become Aschenbeck’s specialty this season. With five punchouts, the win marked the fifth outing of his that went 3.2 innings or longer, with the Aggies capturing a victory in each one.

“What more can be said about the guy that hasn’t already been said?” Schlossnagle said. “The biggest decision I have to make all weekend, every weekend is when we’ve got to use him. That’s why, always on Fridays, we’re trying to do it with somebody else in the middle of the game.”

The win served as a testament to Aschenbeck’s workhorse ability, upping his record to 4-0 with a sub-1.00 ERA. His 27.2 innings pitched this season stand third-most on the team and first among those used primarily in relief. It’s a continuation of 2023, when he accrued an 8-1 mark and a 3.46 ERA over 26 appearances.

“He’s all-time pitcher, like when you’re a kid,” Schlossnagle said. “Aschenbeck can do anything, but he can’t pitch again tomorrow, that’s for sure.”

While it may have been par for the course for Aschenbeck, redshirt sophomore LHP Ryan Prager recorded a bogey as three runs over 4.1 frames added a no-decision to his 5-0 record and raised his ERA to 2.21.

Yet when Prager faltered on the mound, A&M’s bats picked it up at the plate. Junior RF Braden Montgomery delivered the game’s first blow on a two-run homer in the opening frame, giving him the upper hand on sophomore CF Jace LaViolette in the friendly battle for most home runs on the team with No. 13.

“I’ll tell him everyday that if he doesn’t keep hitting homers, he’s got no chance,” Montgomery said. “I don’t like to not put my best swing on a fastball, so I went out there and just kind of did what I was able to do.”

That didn’t mean LaViolette would let Montgomery do all the scoring. A leadoff double in the third inning put LaViolette on board before coming around on senior C Jackson Appel’s RBI sacrifice fly.

In the fourth, Auburn proved that its bats made the trip. Sophomore C Ike Irish’s leadoff single led to sophomore CF Chris Stanfield’s double, ultimately giving way to a game-tying three-run home run off the bat of Maners.

The Aggies have been adept at jumping to early leads, and they did just that in the brand-new ballgame. Graduate DH and clubhouse comedian Hayden Schott led off the bottom of the frame with a solo shot that just snuck over the right field wall before senior 2B Ryan Targac and junior SS Ali Camarillo were issued walks.

“I’m sure he’ll be unbearable on Twitter tonight,” Montgomery joked.

A&M took advantage of the free passes with a pair of RBI singles from freshman 3B Gavin Grahovac and LaViolette to recapture the three-run edge.

The catfight continued into the sixth as the Tigers roared back with another three-spot in the sixth. Two singles and a walk chased junior RHP Chris Cortez with junior RHP Josh Stewart entering to do damage control, but a potentially incredible backhand snag of a line drive went in and out of the latter’s glove.

In a complete 180, Stewart’s errant throw home plated a run and got him the hook from Schlossnagle. Enter Aschenbeck, who found himself comfortable in an otherwise stressful situation.

“It’s really not always fun to come in with the bases loaded, but with my role, it’s gonna happen and it’s my job to pick the guys up and throw strikes, get outs,” Aschenbeck said. “If I can just get in there and execute pitches, you can’t ask for anything else.”

If Aschenbeck was the cleanup crew, the A&M lineup was full of first responders. Auburn’s free passes came back to bite it in the home half of the sixth as Appel was hit by a pitch to score a run before senior 1B Ted Burton’s RBI walk. Schott earned more Twitter content by following it up with an RBI sacrifice fly for a 9-6 lead.

Irish’s solo homer in the seventh restored life to the Tigers’ dugout in a game where no lead felt safe, but Aschenbeck gave the Tigers little reason to cheer afterwards.

“It’s just executing pitches,” Aschenbeck said. “I have full trust in coach Max [Weiner], both him calling pitches, me executing pitches. We have a bunch of trust built up. Just going through hitters, it’s just making pitches, it’s nothing to hide. Just got to get out there, throw strikes and go pitch by pitch.”

A&M will go for the series win over Auburn on Friday, March 29 at Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park at 6 p.m. Junior RHP Tanner Jones is slated to toe the rubber at 1-1 and a 4.70 ERA.

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About the Contributor
Luke White
Luke White, Sports Editor
Luke White is a junior 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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