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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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Texas A&M pitcher Chris Cortez (10) reacts during Texas A&M’s game against Oregon at the NCAA Bryan-College Station Super Regional at Olsen Field on Saturday, June 8, 2024. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
One step away
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“Never out of the fight”

Photo by A Nguyen

Junior INF Jack Moss (9) focuses on catching the baseball to get an out at Olsen Field on Friday, March 17, 2023.

In the game of baseball, one swing of the bat can shift the energy of the entire ballpark.
In the bottom of the eighth inning of Sunday afternoon’s matchup between Texas A&M and Louisiana State University, the swing of junior pinch hitter Stanley Tucker’s bat did exactly that, when his bases loaded single stole the lead from the Tigers and snuffed out their chance for the sweep against the Aggies.
A&M entered the third game of its first SEC series of the season with a 0-2 record, hoping to finish the weekend with a win to escape a sweep from No. 1 LSU and its powerhouse of red-hot hitters. After being shut out on Friday night and losing an offensive battle on Saturday, A&M aimed to get more runners on base and across home plate.
In order to accomplish this, however, the Aggies would need a reliable starting pitcher on the mound –– and sophomore Chris Cortez was chosen for the job.
Plagued with ball control struggles, facing off against LSU’s powerhouse of hitters proved to be a difficult task for Cortez in the first inning, in which he loaded the bases with two consecutive walks and a fielding error on a single to the mound. The Tigers continued to attack Cortez and his trouble locating the strike zone, scoring four runs to take the lead early.
“Those guys are great hitters against anybody,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “It’s hard to get them out if you don’t throw over the plate.”
Despite junior first baseman Jack Moss’ first home run of the season providing the Aggies with offensive pressure in the bottom of the first frame, Cortez’s struggles continued into the second inning, allowing the Tigers to score again.
With a score of 1-5, Cortez exited the game and freshman Justin Lamkin took his place on the mound in hopes of stalling LSU’s offensive momentum. Lamkin, who had just pitched against the University of Houston earlier in the week, was quick to get to work and escape the inning.
“My arm felt good going into it,” Lamkin said. “I got a lot of arm care, a lot of treatment … I felt really good.”
With Lamkin dealing, he was able to keep the Tigers from widening the deficit and gave the Aggies a chance to battle back.
With a wild pitch in the bottom of the third inning, freshman third baseman Kaden Kent was able to score a run for the maroon and white –– and LSU’s lead moved to 2-5. The lead would continue to diminish through the bottom of the fifth, when freshman catcher Max Kaufer entered the game and received a walk to start the inning.
Tucker, who then entered the game to replace sophomore Tab Tracy in the outfield, singled past third base to put two runners on base for junior shortstop Hunter Haas.
“Stanley’s such a beloved guy, and he brings a lot of energy to the team –– we need that right now,” Schlossnagle said.
With a swing of the bat, Haas hit a double that not only put the Fightin’ Farmers within one run of the Tigers, but also reinvigorated the crowd of Aggie fans, many of whom had gone quiet following LSU’s early lead.
“We don’t back down,” Lamkin said. “We keep fighting, no matter what the past two days were or what happened.”
Now with a 4-5 score, it was up to Lamkin and the Aggies’ defense to prevent the Tigers within reach in the top of the sixth frame. Using a combination of infield talent to handle a ground ball, a strikeout from Lamkin and an impressive diving catch from Tucker in center field, they were able to keep the inning scoreless.
“We never flinch –– we’re always playing together, we’re always focused,” Tucker said. “No matter what inning, we’re never out of the fight –– Justin Lamkin proved that today.”
Lamkin’s time on the mound came to an end in the top of the seventh inning, when he walked the lead-off hitter on four pitches –– it was the first walk he had issued all afternoon, and it would be his last. He returned to the dugout to a standing ovation from Aggie fans.
“For that guy, two times in a week, to pitch us to two wins –– it’s awesome,” Schlossnagle said. “I certainly knew he was capable of it.”
Sophomore pitcher Robert Hogan would take Lamkin’s place in an attempt to continue shutting down the Tigers offensive power. However, his time leading the charge was short lived, as he walked the first batter he saw and hit the next. Coming to replace him was junior pitcher Will Johnston, who was tasked with ending a bases loaded, no-out charge from LSU.
A pop fly to deep right field would allow one run to score for the Tigers, but Johnston was able to limit the damage and leave the top of the seventh frame with a score of 4-6.
The Aggies were unable to score in the bottom of the frame, and Johnston worked hard to ensure that the Tigers also did not receive any scoring opportunities in the top of the eighth.
In the bottom of the eighth frame, the maroon and white were finally able to rally.
Senior designated hitter Austin Bost led off the inning with a single through center, followed by junior second baseman Ryan Targac being hit by a pitch. After freshman outfielder Jace LaViolette was walked, the bases were loaded the Aggies with no one out.
The offensive attack saw the return of junior third baseman Trevor Werner, who has not seen play in almost two weeks due to a hamstring injury. Despite being met with a standing ovation and deafening cheers from Aggie fans, Werner was unable to make contact with the ball, and he struck out swinging.
After two strikeouts, freshman outfielder Kasen Wells entered the game and was issued a walk, resulting in Bost rounding third and scoring for the Fightin’ Farmers.
With a score of 6-7, Tucker approached the plate for his second at-bat of the day. With one swing of his bat, his base-hit scored LaViolette and Targac, giving the Aggies a 7-6 lead over the Tigers.
“I’m so blessed to be able to have a performance like that … my little brother and my family can look up to me,” Tucker said. “It’s very special to me.”
Haas then singled, sending Wells home and giving the maroon and white a lead of 8-6.
A quick and scoreless top of the ninth inning concluded the game, and the Aggies were able to avoid the sweep and move to 1-2 in SEC play. Most of all, they were able to instill a new sense of confidence in the team after dropping its first two matchups against LSU.
“It says a lot about the character of our team,” Schlossnagle said. “We’re down a bunch of players and we have guys like Tucker coming in there and giving you a little bit of a spark.”
A&M will conclude its homestand with its third matchup against Rice University on Tuesday, March 21, at 6 p.m. before going on the road to face another SEC competitor, the University of Tennessee, in a three-game series starting on Friday, March 24, in Knoxville, Tennessee.

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