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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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Lamkin strikes out 12 in rubber match win versus Mississippi State

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Photo by Chris Swann
Texas A&M pitcher Justin Lamkin (33) delivers a pitch during Texas A&M’s game against Mississippi State on Saturday, March 23, 2024, at Olsen Field. (Chris Swann/ The Battalion)

Sophomore LHP Justin Lamkin picked an ideal time to pitch the best game of his college career.

Texas A&M baseball entered Saturday’s rubber match with Mississippi State sporting a 2-3 record in SEC play following a series loss to Florida and having split the first two games of the weekend with the Bulldogs. A potential 2-4 conference mark represented an outcome that few around the program would have expected.

So, Lamkin took matters into his own hands in holding Mississippi State to just one run over 7.1 innings in a 6-1 A&M victory at Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park on March 23. The Bulldogs managed just two hits and a walk against Lamkin while striking out 12 times.

“I felt really confident starting off catch play before the game,” Lamkin said. “I had full confidence in all my stuff.”

Lamkin’s performance allowed him to flush a 4.2-inning outing versus the Gators last week that saw the Aggies lose 4-2. The Corpus Christi product took advantage of a loose strike zone by the home plate umpire in nearly doubling Mississippi State’s strikeout average of 6.6.

“Coach Max [Weiner] told us, ‘Don’t go out there and try to strike everybody out, just go out there and make your pitches, dominate the zone and stick to our plan,’” Lamkin said. “They were swinging at outside pitches so I just kept pounding at the outside part of the zone and threw a few inside here and there. It worked out well.”

When Lamkin exited in the eighth inning, he was treated to a standing ovation from a raucous crowd of 7,159 after the longest outing of his career. Over 10 starts in his freshman campaign, he collected a 3-3 record with a 5.92 ERA. He experienced his typical growing pains, but a seven-inning, one-hit showing in the SEC Tournament displayed his potential.

“His offspeed pitches are much improved from last year,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “Last year, he could pitch with just his fastball because he had good ride through his fastball. This year, especially to right-handed hitters for some reason, he hasn’t had great fastball command, and I know he and Max went to work on that this week and he was able to get that fastball in.”

Junior RF Braden Montgomery backed Lamkin up at the plate with a two-home run performance against sophomore switch-pitcher Jurrangelo Cijntje, one of the few ambidextrous pitchers in the nation. Cijntje took his first loss of the year with five runs over 5.2 frames on seven hits, a walk and four punchouts.

While Cijntje was the first switch-pitcher Montgomery had faced in his baseball career, it wasn’t a foreign concept to the Mississippi native. For that, he can thank Richey Hines, the father of Mississippi State junior 1B and high school teammate Hunter Hines.

“Me and Hunter Hines started playing together in travel ball when we were 10,” Montgomery said. “His dad actually throws with both hands and so he would throw us [batting practice] lefty and righty. He always hit me when he was throwing lefty.”

Montgomery didn’t waste time hitting Cijntje, launching a solo shot off the scoreboard in the first inning. His next at-bat saw a similar result with a two-run no-doubter over the visiting bullpen. It complemented one of two doubles on the day for sophomore CF Jace LaViolette and tied the pair for the team-high in long balls with 12.

By Montgomery’s next plate appearance, it was evident the Bulldogs had learned their lesson as coach Chris Lemonis called for an intentional walk.

“It was definitely weird in preparation thinking about [the switch-pitching],” Montgomery said. “I definitely checked with coach Mike [Earley] a lot about, ‘Hey, how sure are we that he’s going to go righty?’ He assured me a few times, but even going into it you still have no clue what decision he’s going to make.”

A&M’s lead was strengthened in the fifth by freshman LF Caden Sorrell’s second big fly of the season and first at Olsen Field. He found himself in the starting lineup for the fourth time with graduate Hayden Schott serving as the game’s designated hitter. Schott made it a 5-0 game in the sixth with an RBI sacrifice fly before the Bulldogs hit the bullpen.

“Super excited for [Sorrell],” Schlossnagle said. “Made a really good defensive play to start the game … Caden’s a super talented player, it’s just [being] a freshman in this league. It’s tough to get going, and maybe that’ll help him get going … We’re still trying to figure things out to give us the best lineup. Depth on the team is always good.”

Freshman 3B Gavin Grahovac’s RBI single in the seventh capped off the Aggies’ scoring and kept the team’s nine hits limited to the 9-1-2-3 batters. Senior C Jackson Appel added two hits and came around to score after a double.

Mississippi State’s lone run came in the eighth from senior 3B Logan Kohler’s RBI single off senior LHP Evan Aschenbeck. With the run charged to Lamkin, Aschenbeck lowered his ERA to 0.76 following 1.2 scoreless frames.

A&M returns to Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park on Tuesday, March 26 at 6 p.m. against Houston Christian.

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