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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Bullpen can’t hold lead as Aggies fall to Kentucky, 7-6

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Photo by Photo by: C. Morgan Engel

Sophomore pitcher Stephen Kolek pitched 8 innings Sunday against Auburn, allowing five hits and one run. 

Calling Saturday’s SEC contest between Texas A&M and Kentucky a back-and-forth affair would be an understatement.
The game had it all: There was an hour-long inning, several lead changes, a couple of video reviews and a bevy of high-intensity situations. But at the end of the day, an RBI squeeze bunt by Kentucky’s Zach Reks propelled the Wildcats to a 7-6 win in front of 5,796 fans at Olsen Field.
“I was proud of the way we competed today — much better today from a competitive standpoint than yesterday,” Rob Childress said after the game. “Certainly disappointed in the loss and that we didn’t give Stephen Kolek a better fate.”
With Kolek dealing on the mound, the Aggies controlled a 2-0 lead until the top of the seventh. That’s when things started unraveling. Kolek only faced two hitters over the minimum through six scoreless innings, but Kentucky started the seventh with consecutive hits and an RBI sacrifice fly. Another single by Kole Cottam chased Kolek from the game, as Childress called on freshman lefty John Doxakis to squash the Wildcats’ rally.
The only batter Doxakis faced, pinch-hitter Luke Heyer, hit an RBI single up the middle, which meant Corbin Martin entered the game for the Aggies to try to preserve the 2-2 tie. Martin struck out the first batter he faced, then walked nine-hole hitter Connor Heady on a payoff pitch that barely missed the top of the strike zone.
Martin quickly got two strikes on Marcus Carson, but then surrendered a two-run single to right that gave the Wildcats a 4-2 lead.
“We just didn’t get it done out of the bullpen, bottom line,” Childress said. “Each guy we went to wasn’t able to get us a hold, wasn’t able to get us off the field.”
The Aggies answered right back, though, with a four-spot of their own in the bottom of the frame. Walker Pennington began the rally by tomahawking a high fastball to the wall in left-center field for a double, and pinch hitter Baine Schoenvogel followed by beating out a ground ball to second base. Then Austin Homan hit what looked like a double play ball to shortstop, but Kentucky second baseman Joey Bellini spiked the throw to first, allowing Homan to advance to second on the throwing error.
George Janca plated Homan moments later with an RBI single to left field to give the maroon and white a 6-4 lead that they would ultimately relinquish.
Childress went to Landon Miner to try to protect the new lead, but the freshman allowed three of the four Wildcats he faced to reach base. Next up was Cason Sherrod, who again got a two-strike count on the hitter only to allow a two-run single to right field to tie the game.
“It’s incredibly frustrating,” Childress said of the bullpen struggles. “We’ve got some awful talented guys that are trying to figure some things out and having good sequences, good at-bats, but are unable to put together good innings.”
The bullpen woes saddled Kolek with a no-decision, and his final stat line of three runs in 6.1 innings looks worse than he actually pitched. Two of those runs were runners that relievers inherited and couldn’t keep from scoring. In all, he struck out two batters and induced a whopping 10 groundouts, including three double plays.
“It’s no fun, but we still have to trust them,” Kolek said. “If they don’t get the job done this time we’ve got to have faith in them that they’re going to do it next time. We’ve got to put it to bed and come out tomorrow.”
In the ninth, Carson led off Kentucky’s half of the frame with a double to left field and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt, setting the stage for the game’s most pivotal play. With two strikes, Reks laid down a squeeze bunt that trickled toward the pitcher’s mound. Sherrod pounced on it and threw a strike to Cole Bedford behind the plate, but Carson was called safe as he slid in just ahead of the tag. It was a bang-bang play that was sent to further review by the umpires, but the safe call was confirmed and the Wildcats grabbed the lead.
The Aggies went down in order in the ninth inning to cement their third consecutive defeat.
Braden Shewmake gave A&M its first lead of the ballgame in the fourth, when he connected with a hanging breaking ball from Kentucky starter Zach Logue, sending it over the wall in right field for his third homer of the season. Shewmake said that even though they couldn’t close out the victory, it was encouraging to see the offense put up six runs after being shut out Friday night.
“We swung the bats a lot better today,” said Shewmake, who went 2-for-4 on the afternoon to raise his batting average to a team-leading .411. “It’s one step at a time. We gave ourselves a chance to win today, we just didn’t get it done.”
The Aggies’ run in the sixth came on an RBI double by Bedford. He hit a grounder up the middle that looked like it should have been a single, but the sophomore catcher hustled out of the box and slid in safely with a double.
Texas A&M will do its best to avoid a sweep Sunday with Mitchell Kilkenny on the mound. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. and the game can be seen on SEC Network +.
“We’ve got to put it to bed and come out and play tomorrow,” Shewmake concluded. “If we play the way we can play, more often than not we’re going to be on the right end of things.”

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