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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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The Battalion May 4, 2024

‘Olsen Magic Strikes Again’

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Photo by Robert O’Brien

Freshman LHP Shane Sdao (38) pitches from the mound during Texas A&M’s game against Texas at Olsen Field on Tuesday, March 28, 2023.

Texas A&M baseball is no stranger to a walk-off win, nor is Olsen Field a stranger to a little bit of magic.
On a cloudy Sunday afternoon, both of these things played a role in the maroon and white’s series win against Ole Miss.
The Aggies’ rubber match against the Rebels began under the pretense of urgency, with both teams struggling to scavenge wins within the SEC. Plagued with pitching struggles and offensive inconsistencies, leaving the ballpark with a Sunday win would result in the first conference series win for one of the two competitors.
Leaving without a win would mean digging the team further into the loss column and potentially depleting its morale.
So naturally, the Aggies and the Rebels were both playing with an insatiable hunger.
After much deliberation from the bullpen and varying hypotheses from fans, freshman RHP Shane Sdao was given control of the mound to begin the game. Sdao’s start was announced less than an hour before the first pitch of the game was thrown, and less than a week after his most recent appearance in A&M’s loss to the University of Texas on Tuesday.
“I was just hoping Sdao could get through the lineup one time,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said.
In each game of the series, the Rebels drew first blood by scoring in the top of the first inning. They continued the trend on Sunday, where two runners were able to reach home safely on a series of well-timed hits and errors from the Aggies’ defense.
Though A&M was unable to score in the bottom half of the frame, junior 1B Jack Moss’ base hit moved his hit streak to 14 games.
The second inning saw a more comfortable Sdao, successfully falling into a rhythm and finding the strike zone against the Rebel batters. Despite the 1-2-3 inning, Ole Miss would not be deterred for long — a solo home run in the third widened the gap to 0-3 and sent Sdao back to the dugout.
Coming in for relief was sophomore RHP Brad Rudis, who successfully navigated the Rebels lineup and finished the inning to bring the Aggies back to the plate.
“He kept us in the game, we were close,” Schlossnagle said. “It went about the way I expected it to.”
With a solo home run of his own, junior C Hank Bard was able to put the maroon and white on the board and breathe life back into the crowd of Aggie fans.
The game was locked at 1-3 entering the bottom of the fourth, where Moss would lead off the inning by collapsing at the plate after taking a ball to the shin on a strong swing. After a moment of eerie silence fell over the ballpark, he was able to return to his feet and finish his at-bat.
Following the moment of concern, senior 2B Austin Bost singled to left field, sending senior RF Brett Minnich to the plate. Minnich, making a triumphant return to the lineup and playing in his first series of the season after an injury opening weekend, already had two home runs on the weekend.
With one swing of his bat, he made it three — and he tied the game while he did it.
“It’s like he never left,” junior DH Ryan Targac said. “He came back in the lineup and did his job.”
Rudis was replaced by junior LHP Evan Aschenbeck at the top of the fifth frame, who loaded the bases and escaped the inning with a double play. The game remained tied at 3-3 until the bottom of the sixth inning, in which a slew of pitching changes, walks and base hits loaded the bases for the Aggies.
A battle at the plate from freshman LF Jace LaViolette resulted in a walk, and a run was able to cross home plate for A&M to take a 4-3 lead.
Aschenbeck’s prowess on the mound allowed the maroon and white to maintain their lead in the seventh and eighth inning, despite the batters inability to begin an offensive attack and widen the deficit.
“He throws strikes and he commands his pitches,” Targac said. “Evan went up there and he did his job — that’s all we ask.”
However, the Rebels were able to strike in the top of the ninth frame, after Aschenbeck was replaced by junior LHP Will Johnston with a runner on third base. A deep fly ball to center field was caught at the wall by sophomore OF Tab Tracy, flashing the glove to keep Ole Miss from taking the lead with a home run.
“That dude is a crazy athlete,” Aschenbeck said. “Watching him make that catch — it was a game changer, it was huge.”
Despite Tracy’s save, the sacrifice-fly ball allowed one run to score, tying the game at 4-4.
“I just knew they tied the game right there because it was deep enough,” Tracy said. “I was a little upset … looking back, it almost saved the game.”
The tie was short-lived, as the bottom of the ninth began with Targac stepping up to the plate. A solo home run off of his bat would end the game and provide the Aggies with their first conference series win.
“It left the yard and the place went crazy — Olsen magic strikes again,” Aschenbeck said.
Targac, who has faced a slew of offensive struggles in the last handful of games, ended his drought in dramatic walk-off fashion.
“I was so glad to see him rewarded,” Schlossnagle said. “He’s such a great kid, he’s such a great teammate … that’s why he’s in there — he’s capable of changing the game with one swing.”
A&M will face off against Texas State University at home in a mid-week matchup on Tuesday, April 4, starting at 6 p.m. Afterwards, the team will hit the road for a three game series against Auburn beginning on Thursday, April 6, at 7 p.m.

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