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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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California dreaming: Aggies dominate Titans and advance to winner’s bracket

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Photo by Photo by Ishika Samant

Freshman OF Jace LaViolette (17) gets pushed in a cart after a home run during the 8th inning during a game vs. Alabama on Friday, May 12, 2023 at Blue Bell Park.

Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.

After becoming the first double-digit seed to reach the SEC Tournament championship, the Aggies shifted their eyes out west to Palo Alto, California. In Game 2 of the Stanford regional, A&M did what it does best against the Cal State Fullerton Titans. The Aggies — who ranked second in the nation in walks drawn coming into the weekend — drew 12 walks to help cruise to a 12-7 victory. 

The Aggies’ opponent is no stranger to postseason play. Although having not made a regional since 2018, The Big West champion Titans have made 41 tournament appearances, 18 College World Series and have won four national titles since their establishment in 1975.

Junior LHP Will Johnston — who had emerged as a starter late in the season — got the start on the mound for A&M. Despite success in his last outing against LSU, the southpaw struggled in his outing against Cal State Fullerton.

After escaping trouble in the bottom of the first, the Roanoke native gave up a double off of the outfield wall by sophomore Fullerton 2B Maddox Latta to start the second inning. A fielding error from junior SS Hunter Haas put runners on the corners, and a bunt pushed down the right-field line by freshman Fullerton DH Eli Lopez drew first blood for the Titans.

Cal State Fullerton did not stop there, as junior SS Jack Haley roped a double down the left-field line to drive home another run. A dribbling infield single put runners on the corners, and a fielder’s choice let Haley come home to stretch the Titans’ lead to three. 

Johnston then attempted to pick off senior Fullerton 3B Zach Lew at first base, but the pitch went wild, allowing Lew to advance to second. This was all coach Jim Schlossnagle needed to see, as Johnston was swiftly replaced by freshman LHP Shane Sdao. The southpaw went only 1.2 innings, allowing three runs on three hits.

Despite the quick deficit, A&M wasted no time responding. Senior CF Jordan Thompson got the bottom of the second inning started with a walk, then a shallow single by junior LF Ryan Targac was mishandled by sophomore Fullerton CF Moises Guzman, allowing both Targac and Thompson to get in scoring position with no outs.

Senior 2B Austin Bost drew another walk to load the bases, but senior DH Brett Minnich chased an off-speed pitch low and away to give the Aggies their first out of the inning. Freshman C Max Kaufer redeemed his upperclassman in the next at-bat with an RBI single back up the middle, shortening the lead to two for Cal State Fullerton.

Haas showed off more plate discipline in his next at-bat, drawing another walk to shrink the deficit to one and keep the bases loaded. The runs continued to pour as junior 1B Jack Moss singled up the middle next, scoring two and giving A&M its first lead at 4-3.A sacrifice fly from junior 3B Trevor Werner stretched the lead to two, and the Aggies answered the Titans’ three-run top of the second with a five-run bottom of the inning.

A&M got déjà vu in the third, as the Aggies yet again had bases loaded with Minnich up to bat with no outs. The Colleyville native did not miss this time, singling to right field to drive home two runs, and Kaufer again followed with another RBI single to balloon the lead to 8-3.

Not satisfied with a five-run lead, A&M tacked on three more in the fourth inning. After drawing his third walk of the night, Thompson was able to easily trot home, as Targac sent a towering moonshot deep into the woods behind left field to score two. Later in the inning, Haas scored Bost on a high fly ball that was misplayed in left field for a double, tacking on three more runs to give A&M a comfortable 11-3 lead.

The Aggies were able to stretch their lead not only because of their bats, but because of the pitching effort from Sdao. The Montgomery native went four complete innings, holding Cal State Fullerton without either a run or a hit on 59 pitches.

Things seemed like they may get interesting in the top of the eighth inning. Replacing sophomore RHP Brad Rudis, freshman RHP Ty Sexton took the mound, but ran into trouble. After Latta flew out, junior Fullerton C Cole Urman and sophomore PH Colby Wallace both singled, putting two runners on. Junior PH Brendan Bobo then chopped a swinging bunt down the left-field line. Sexton attempted to get Bobo out at first, but the throw went wild, bouncing off of Cal State Fullerton’s first-base coach, scoring one.

The second out of the inning came after senior LF Carter White scorched a line drive right back to Sexton, which he quickly secured. The Montgomery, Texas native still could not limit the damages, as Lew hit a two-out single in his next at-bat, scoring two and cutting the A&M lead to just four. A flyout deep to right field from junior LF Caden Connor gave the Aggie fans in attendance a scare, as the ball traveled all the way to the wall before Thompson secured it to end the inning.

Senior RHP Matt Dillard came in the ninth inning and finished off the Titans for good, securing three strikeouts and setting up a Saturday date with the host of the regional, the Stanford Cardinal.

The first pitch will be at 9 p.m. at Sunken Diamond in Palo Alto, California. The game can be streamed on ESPN+.

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