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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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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Fightin’ Farmers outplayed

Photo by Photo by Kyle Heise

A child celebrates a scored run with bubbles against Seattle U at Blue Bell Park on Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023.

As cars packed the streets of College Station for what would be a night of Aggie court triumphs and diamond defeats, Texas A&M baseball took to Olsen Field for a mid-week matchup against the Lamar Cardinals which ended in a 7-4 Aggie defeat.

“We got outplayed in every phase of the game,” head coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “We got out hit. They made better pitches than we made … Obviously, the three-run homer was a big play. I never felt like we really pressured them.”

As the first pitch was thrown by junior pitcher Wyatt Tucker, the Aggies looked in tough shape with the first at-bat ending in the first walk of the night. After a bunt by junior right fielder Jack Schell to get on base, three consecutive outs saved A&M and left two Cardinals on base. When the maroon and white hit offense, they faced a quick turnaround with a one-two-three performance. 

The beginning of Lamar’s strategy to knock their way to a win one-by-one began with a bunt from senior second baseman Kirkland Banks to get on first. The Aggies’ first double-play of the game kept the Cardinals from getting on the board, but the momentum had already shifted to Lamar. 

The bottom of the second began with freshman right fielder Jace LaViolette getting walked on a 4-2 count. The momentum seemed to be teetering on the edge of a cliff when junior third baseman Trevor Werner stepped up to the plate, but a fielder’s choice kept LaViolette from reaching second and later senior center fielder Jordan Thompson’s at-bat was cut short by Werner getting thrown out at third.

The nickel-and-dime strategy continued into the third inning with a grounder to third base from Cardinal senior designated hitter Ben MacNaughton. The throw to first from Werner to junior first baseman Jack Moss was overthrown, allowing MacNaughton to get on base. Tucker had his first strikeout of the night but immediately walked on the next at-bat causing assistant coach Nate Yeskie to come infield for a timeout. Freshman catcher Max Kaufield showed inexperience when a pitch to the dirt got behind him and second and third were stolen. Senior first baseman Josh Blankenship exhausted his at-bat with six fouls; Tucker finished the third inning with 43 pitches.

Thompson hit the brakes on the Cardinals’ momentum with a home run to left field to open the bottom of the third and set off the bubble brigade. Through the soapy haze, Kaufield came up to the plate and continued the pressure with a walk and a stolen base. Moss lifted a ball to center field to gain an RBI and send Kaufer home but ended the inning after a tag battle between first and second.

“I got a hanging slider and it felt pretty good off the bat,” Thompson said. “I knew it was gone from the get-go, especially with the wind howling 30 miles an hour up there.”

By the end of the third, the hopes of the Aggie crowd returned as A&M held the only runs on the board. As the sky grew darker, the Cardinals shone brighter. 

To start the fourth inning, Schell slammed a hit to center-left field that bounced off the scoreboard and was originally called a double by officials. However, a challenge from the Cardinals overturned the call and ruled it a home run to add a run for Lamar. The second double-play of the night for A&M came to get Banks and junior third baseman Ethan Ruiz off base. With two outs on the board, Lamar continued to pressure A&M until Tucker advanced junior center fielder Tanner Wilson on a hit-by-pitch. After 3.3 innings, Tucker was pulled and replaced by freshman pitcher Ty Sexton, but the ball kept rolling in favor of the Cardinals. Wilson stole a base and then was sent home to add another run and tie the score. 

The bottom of the fourth featured a Lamar pitching change to senior pitcher Landon Odom and a continuing lack of offense for the maroon and white. The Aggies got a break in the top of the fifth, with their second one-two-three inning. On offense, A&M found some footing as a hit-by-pitch, grounder and two walks got two Aggies home and built on their lead. However, two runners were left on base as the inning finished when LaViolette was struck out looking. 

The sixth inning leveled both teams as neither dugout was able to make any aggressive moves on defense or offense. In the seventh, the Cardinals slammed the nails into the Aggies’ proverbial coffin. The mound changed once more as senior pitcher Matt Dillard entered the game and immediately walked the first at-bat. After one strikeout and a pop-fly to right field that fell just right, Blankenship hit a grounder to third and an unsuccessful fielder’s choice sent one runner home and left runners on second and first. Dillard sat with two on base as Schell approached the plate once more. 

The smack that came off the bat could be heard from the third-base bullpen, as the heads of the Aggie pitchers warming up whipped to the sound.

Schell launched a bomb to left field bringing in the runs and lofting the Cardinals to a 6-4 lead. Schlossnagle was forced to pull another from the bullpen as Dillard was quickly sent to the dugout. The Aggies managed to close out the inning without sacrificing another run but Lamar’s brakes had already been cut. 

In the bottom of the seventh and the innings that remained, A&M was unable to get things started on offense and the merry-go-round of Aggie pitchers gave up one last run in the eighth to cement the 7-4 loss.

“The only way to figure out who to trust in our bullpen is to throw them out there,” Schlossnagle said. “Sometimes they’re hard lessons to learn.”

The defeat stains A&M’s previous 3-0 record following its opening weekend series against Seattle University. While the Aggies did prevail with a 9-3 victory in the 2022 season against Lamar, they did face challenges at the beginning of the previous season, going 7-4 in their first 11 games. 

With four games until the Fightin’ Farmers will face other ranked opponents, Thompson said they plan to keep pushing forward.

“We know we’re gonna get punched in the face,” Thompson said. “We have a target on our backs from last year. So, one thing I learned is to keep on pushing because of all the hardships I know the returning guys went through last year.”

The Aggies will return to Olsen Field for the second weekend series of the 2023 season against Portland University. The first game will take place on Friday, Feb. 24, set to begin at 6 p.m.

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