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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

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Good Friday, great hitting: Aggies use offense to secure series over Auburn

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Photo by A Nguyen

Freshman OF Jace LaViolette (17) hits a ground ball during Texas A&M’s game against Ole Miss at Olsen Field on Sunday, April 2, 2023.

Series Game 2
After the Friday, April 7, game was moved to 1 p.m. due to inclement weather, Texas A&M baseball looked to weather the storm and secure the series against the Auburn Tigers in the first game of its Friday doubleheader.
Despite A&M’s bats continuing to stay hot, the Aggie bullpen also continued to struggle, surrendering 10 earned runs on 11 hits in the 10-9 loss to set up the series rubber match later Friday afternoon.
After senior RF Brett Minnich returned to the lineup against Texas on March 28, the A&M offense has found its stride. Averaging only 0.7 home runs per game without Minnich, the Aggies are up to 3.3 home runs per game with him in the lineup, hitting at least three home runs in four of their last six games.
The pitching staff has struggled to end innings so far in the series, as after giving up five runs with two outs in Game 1, A&M allowed five runs with two outs again in Game 2.
The Aggies came out of the gates swinging. After junior 1B Jack Moss and senior 2B Austin Bost drew walks to start the first, Minnich crushed a ball 431 feet over the right field fence to put the Aggies up 3-0 early.
Freshman LHP Justin Lamkin got the Game 2 start, and similar to his last outing against Ole Miss, struggled out the gate.
In the bottom of the first, after getting a strikeout and a flyout, the southpaw could not secure the final out of the inning.
After the second out, Lamkin gave up a single to put two runners on base. Against his next batter, the Corpus Christi native left a pitch over the plate, which Auburn 1B Cooper McMurray took deep to right field to answer Minnich’s home run in the top of the frame.
The Tigers then rattled off three straight hits with two outs to bring home two more runs, giving Auburn the 5-3 lead after one.
Lamkin made it through the second inning unscathed but was relieved by freshman RHP Ty Sexton after giving up a double and a walk to start the next inning. Lamkin pitched just two innings, allowing seven earned runs on seven hits.
Sexton could not limit the damage in the third, allowing the Tigers to score on a wild pitch, double and a sacrifice fly to extend their lead to five.
In the top of the fourth, freshman LF Jace LaViolette brought the Aggies back into the game with one swing, homering to right field, bringing in junior 2B Ryan Targac and cutting the lead to three.
The freshman once again willed A&M within striking distance in the sixth, as after Auburn scored one in the fifth inning, LaViolette sent a ball deep to right field for his second home run of the game, bringing A&M within two runs.
“I’m just not thinking,” LaViolette said. “I’m just going up there and having fun. It’s baseball, I’ve been playing it since I was four. Why’d I start playing this game? Because it’s fun. I had to sit down and talk with some people, and they just told me it was all about having fun.”
Auburn added one insurance run in the sixth, but the Aggies had a chance to tie the game in the ninth.
Junior 3B Trevor Werner led off the inning with a sharp liner that got past the Tigers’ shortstop, then advanced to second after an Auburn balk. Targac singled in the next at bat, putting runners on the corners with no outs as A&M tried to make a comeback.
LaViolette reached first on a fielder’s choice in the next at bat, scoring Werner from third base to cut the lead to two.
Freshman PH Kasen Wells and junior C Hank Bard drew consecutive walks in the next two at bats, loading the bases and putting the tying runs in scoring position.
Junior SS Hunter Haas was almost the hero for the Aggies, singling with the bases loaded with the chance to tie the game. LaViolette came home to score, but Wells was thrown out at home plate as Auburn C Carter Wright tagged him on his back as he slid towards the plate. After review, the play stood, holding the Tigers lead to one.
Moss drew another walk, the Aggies’ 13th of the day, once again loading the bases, setting the stage for Bost to give the Aggies a tie or the lead with a hit.
Unfortunately for A&M, Bost could not capitalize with two outs, as he lined out to left field to give Auburn the Game 2 victory.
Series Game 3
45 minutes after the last out, the Aggies took the field once more for the chance to right the wrongs of Game 2 and claim the series.
Despite late offensive struggles in the first matchup of Friday afternoon, A&M’s bats were quick to capitalize on the lackluster pitching performance from Auburn’s bullpen.
Haas started the rubber match with a single to left field, followed by two consecutive walks to Moss and Bost to load the bases.
LaViolette was then walked, allowing Haas to complete his trip around the diamond for the first run of the game. With a two-run single from Targac, the Aggies were about to take an early 3-0 lead against the Tigers.
The bottom of the first inning saw sophomore RHP Chris Cortez on the mound to start for the maroon and white. Cortez, whose last start had been granted to him during the LSU series in March, looked to shut down Auburn’s offensive tactics and red-hot hitters.
However, the Tigers had other ideas — a series of base hits and walks allowed them to score twice in the frame, allowing the Aggies to maintain a mere one run lead heading into the second inning.
The Fightin’ Farmers would not be discouraged by their diminished lead. Their next time at the plate would be characterized by another bases loaded opportunity, with LaViolette walking in another run and Targac following suit.
Singles from both Moss and senior CF Jordan Thompson increased the lead by two more, and the Aggies quickly widened the deficit and provided Cortez with breathing room, entering the bottom of the frame with a score of 7-2.
After Cortez kept the Tigers from scoring, A&M was able to add an insurance run to its lead with a sacrifice fly ball from Werner, allowing Moss to advance from third base to home plate.
A series of walked batters in the bottom of the third inning led to Cortez being replaced by freshman LHP Shane Sdao. The pitching change provided the Tigers with an opportunity to capitalize on their offensive efforts, preying on Sdao’s struggles to find and maintain the strike zone on the mound.
By the end of the inning, Auburn had scored 4 runs and closed in on the Aggies lead, trailing 8-6.
Despite their best efforts, the maroon and white were not given the opportunity to score again and widen the gap until the top of the fifth inning, in which a well-timed hit from Minnich allowed another run to score.
Werner’s next plate appearance would result in an RBI single and a wild pitch later in the inning would allow him to cross home plate as well, stunning the Tigers with a new 11-6 deficit to conquer.
“We know how capable those guys are,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “They [Auburn] gave us a lot of free base runners and we got the hits when we needed to get them.”
The Aggies would score once more in the top of the eighth inning when junior CF Travis Chestnut stole second and advanced to third on a fielding error.
In a unique turn of events, Auburn’s pitcher, believing the play to be dead, made the decision to discard the ball in the dugout. However, the ball was still live and Chestnut was able to stroll to home plate amidst a defensive scramble to locate the misplaced ball.
Relief pitchers sophomore RHP Brad Rudis and junior LHP Brandon Garcia were able to silence the Tigers’ bats through the innings, with junior LHP Will Johnston closing the game with a scoreless ninth frame.
“I thought Garcia was outstanding,” Schlossnagle said. “I thought he was a big difference in the game.”
The Aggies were able to claim the win and the series with a 12-6 victory, returning home with a newfound two series win streak in SEC play.
“This whole weekend has been huge for us,” LaViolette said. “Obviously, that first game didn’t really go how we wanted it to … but we got the second game of the day.”
A&M returns to action at home on Tuesday, April 11, at 6 p.m. against UTSA. The Aggies then host the Missouri Tigers next weekend, starting on Thursday, April 13, at 6 p.m.

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