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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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Horns downed in Omaha

Photo by Photo by Robert O’Brien

The Texas A&M baseball team celebrates advancing to College World Series on Saturday, June 11.

Fresh off first-game losses for both Texas A&M and Texas, the Lone Star Showdown reached the biggest stage it had ever seen in baseball — the College World Series.

“The atmosphere, the fans love it,” Texas’ senior designated hitter Austin Todd said. “We love it too. It’s good for the game. Whenever we have that three-game series in the SEC, the fans are going to pack the stands.”
And with the pair of historic rivals facing a loser-goes-home situation in Omaha, Neb., the energy between the two teams reached an all-time high, this time in front of 24,056 fans at Charles Schwab Field, with national title dreams on the line.

When the lights shine brightest, the stars are expected to burn brightly, but for A&M on Sunday, June 19, it took more than star play to down the Longhorns. The Aggies’ three All-SEC batters hit for a combined 3-for-11. But on the biggest stages, you need more than just star power to win, and the Aggies got plenty of support from its supporting cast en route to their 10-2 win to send Texas packing back to the capital.

“The Aggies were better than us today,” Texas coach David Pierce said.

The game opened with a walk and a single given up by junior righty Micah Dallas, setting up Texas’ single-season home run record holder and junior first baseman Ivan Melendez up to bat with runners on first and third with no outs. In an unfortunate situation, Dallas methodically handled the situation, striking out Melendez in five pitches.

The Aggies didn’t entirely escape the situation unscathed, though, as Todd hit a line drive down left field to score sophomore centerfielder Douglas Hodo III before Dallas could conclude his opening inning.

A&M took three straight outs in the bottom of the first, setting Texas back at bat for the second inning. Dallas racked up his third strikeout, but sophomore right fielder Dylan Campbell reached first base after an error from A&M third baseman Trevor Werner. Campbell’s on-base speed proved to be a problem, stealing second, taking third off a groundout and then running home for an unearned run from a Hodo RBI double. Dallas closed out the inning with no more bleeding, but A&M was down 2-0.

At the bottom of the second, the Aggies showed signs of life as five straight batters reached base, with both sophomore second baseman Ryan Targac and senior catcher Troy Claunch reaching home plate to tie up the score. The floodgates were opened, and Werner decided he wanted in on the action, smacking an RBI single to left-centerfield and scoring two junior outfielders — right fielder Brett Minnich and centerfielder Jordan Thompson. After a four-run inning, the Longhorns pulled sophomore lefty Lucas Gordon in favor of sophomore righty Jared Southard who closed the inning.

“I feel like I performed about the same [before and after the second inning],” Dallas said. “After the first inning, I knew I had my stuff, and I knew I was going to be effective. Stuff just turned around after the second inning … it was really about sticking to the game plan.”

With the scoreboard reading 4-2, Texas put up its first goose egg on the scoreboard, setting A&M back up to bat. Consecutive outs put Texas in a strong position, but things got weird following a Targac walk. After Claunch got a hit, Texas had a fielder’s choice, tossing the ball to first. An error, though, left the ball free near the Texas dugout. As Melendez chased after it, he accidentally kicked the ball out of play into the dugout, allowing Claunch to reach third and Targac to reach home. Southard picked up a strikeout to leave Claunch stranded and end the third inning 5-2.

Dallas left Austin’s team scoreless for the second consecutive inning, bringing A&M back up to bat, and to lead off for the Aggies, Thompson hit a double to give the Longhorns an early threat. Senior shortstop Kole Kaler hit a sacrifice fly, advancing Thompson to third base, setting up sophomore first baseman Jack Moss for an expletive-ladened RBI single, giving Thompson his second run of the day. Texas switched pitchers again, opting for freshman righty Andre Duplantier II to close out the fourth.

After another scoreless inning from the Longhorns, the Aggies smacked three straight singles off two pitchers as Texas continued to dig into its bag, sending out its fourth pitcher — freshman lefty Luke Harrison — in five innings. Thompson, who was 2-for-2 with a pair of runs and RBIs at that point, was walked by Harrison, scoring Targac for his third run, a 7-2 score. Kaler grounded out for a double play that scored Claunch before Werner grounded out to end the fifth.

“Pitching, defense and timely hitting is what it’s all about,” A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle said.

At the top of the sixth, Dallas gave up back-to-back singles before being pulled for senior lefty Jacob Palisch. Palisch picked up right where Dallas left off, snagging back-to-back strikeouts on the mound. Pinch-hitter sophomore Mitchell Daly was walked after an eight-pitch at-bat, setting up Melendez with two outs and three loaded bases. Palisch, not one to back down, stood up to the occasion, pitching his third strikeout of the inning. The Aggies didn’t do anything offensively to follow, though, picking up its first scoreless inning since the first.

“That was a super easy decision [to substitute in Palisch],” Schlossnagle said. “The game’s in question. Our season’s in doubt. You had to go to him right there … He did an awesome job.”

As Texas went scoreless for the fifth inning in a row, Targac put up his fourth run of the game in the bottom of the seventh. After being walked, he took second base off of an error, advanced to third off a Thompson single and stole home while the Longhorns’ defense was focused on Thompson stealing second. Freshman righty Brad Rudis took to the mound for the Aggies in the eighth, holding Texas scoreless once again before a double from junior designated hitter Austin Bost scored senior left fielder Dylan Rock for the 10-2 lead. Rudis retired the Longhorns in the top of the ninth, sealing the deal for A&M.

“It’s a lot of fun, but at the end of the day, it’s about playing the same game and playing a nameless opponent,” Dallas said. “There is a little extra oomph behind it when it’s Texas. Look at the fanbases. There is some genuine hate on both sides.”

“I know it’s a big deal, but I’d rather win a national title,” Schlossnagle said later in the press conference. “I think it’s more for fans … I’d rather have beat Oklahoma.”

The Aggies will face the loser of Oklahoma-Notre Dame on Tuesday, June 21 at 1 p.m., as A&M’s dreams for its first baseball championship live to see another day. The pitcher for A&M is undecided, Schlossnagle said.

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