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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Kolek’s dominance leads Texas A&M to series win over No. 11 Auburn, 3-1

Photo by Photo by: C. Morgan Engel

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

Entering Texas A&M’s Sunday rubber match against No. 11 Auburn, Stephen Kolek had been struggling. He got moved back a day in the rotation last weekend and he had seen his ERA rise nearly three runs in the last three weeks.
He exorcised those past demons against the Tigers though, delivering eight sparkling innings to propel the Aggies to a 3-1 win, clinching their first SEC home series win of the season.
“He was fabulous today, and I couldn’t be more proud of him,” A&M head coach Rob Childress said of Kolek after the game. “For him to get us eight [innings] today was a pretty special performance. His stuff was outstanding, and he wasn’t going to be denied.”
Childress had relied on his bullpen pretty heavily in the past two games — relievers combined to throw nine scoreless innings on Friday and Saturday — which made it even more crucial that Kolek give the Aggies a quality start.
He did just that, scattering six baserunners over eight innings, striking out seven and walking only one.
Kolek was very economical with his pitches, especially early in the contest. He needed only eight pitches to retire the side in order in the first inning, which allowed him to settle in and produce a masterful start.
“I always love quick starts; that’s what I’m shooting for every time,” Kolek said. “Just trying to get quick innings, see how fast I can get off the field. To start off the game like that was nice.”
He had all four of his pitches working, including a cutter and changeup that had been mostly absent in his past three starts, and commanded the bottom-half of the strike zone like he did when he was effective at the beginning of the season.
“He was unbelievable,” said second baseman Braden Shewmake. “Every one of his pitches he could throw for a strike and he was locating unbelievably. That’s the best I’ve seen Kolek in a long time and that’s what we all expect from him day in and day out because we know how good he is.”
The Aggies gave Kolek ample run support via three RBI singles, two of which came off the bat of Shewmake. The freshman infielder snuck a grounder up the middle in the first inning to score Nick Choruby and then turned a hanging breaking ball into a run-scoring hit to right field in the fifth, plating Austin Homan.
Walker Pennington tacked on another insurance run in the sixth, lacing a single up the middle to score Hunter Coleman, who led off the inning with a double down the left-field line.
Kolek allowed minimal traffic in the fifth and seventh innings but induced 6-4-3 double play balls in both to keep the Tigers off the board.
With his pitch count at 100 after seven, Childress let Kolek come out to the mound for the eighth. Despite the high pitch count he was still pitching well and Childress wanted to ride the hot hand as long as possible. Kolek proceeded to surrender his lone run of the ball game in that inning on an RBI single by Bowen McGuffin, and Childress went to the mound for a visit but decided to let Kolek finish the inning.
Kolek said he wanted to stay in the game and that he did not have to talk his coach into letting him.
“His stuff was good, and it wasn’t like they were barreling him up,” Childress said. “I told him that was his last hitter and he got us off the field.”
Kolek’s effectiveness and efficiency was crucial to the Aggies’ success. He had the Tigers swinging early in the count, which kept the defense on its toes, and his five 1-2-3 innings allowed the offense to get back in the dugout and score more runs.
“You have all the momentum when you’re in the dugout and when you’re at the plate,” Shewmake said. “So when you can get off the field quick, it makes it seem like they’re in the field forever and they get tired. It’s nice.”
It was also nice for Kolek, who overcame his recent struggles and the emotions that come with his dad battling cancer to put the Aggies in the win column in what was a pivotal game.
“I definitely owed [a good start] to the team and I owed one to myself as well,” Kolek said. “My dad’s going through cancer right now and I figured if he can handle chemo I can handle a little bit of pressure on the mound, so I had a point to prove today.”
With the win, the Aggies have now defeated top-15 SEC opponents in each of the past two weekends and have won seven of their last nine games. They will return to the diamond with a 6:30 p.m. home contest with Abilene Christian on Tuesday, April 11. 

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