Considering the roll that the Aggies were on in their last eight games, this series was an odd one. A&M had scored at least 10 runs in seven straight games. Every part of the engine was firing on all cylinders. No pitching staff seemed like they were any match for the Ags. At least until the Tide strolled into College Station.
The Alabama pitching staff limited the A&M offense to a combined 10 runs on the weekend, and yet the Aggies were able to take two of three games from the Tide. Alabama actually outscored the Aggies 11-10 on the weekend, which makes the outcome all the more odd. So how did the Ags win the series? With a couple of shots of Olsen Magic.
Friday: A&M 4, Bama 3
The beginning of the first inning on Friday was business as usual for the Ags as they looked to continue their seven game 10+ run streak. Brigham Hill mowed through the Bama hitters in the top of the first via a groundout and two strikeouts. Then in the bottom of the inning, JB Moss hit a leadoff single, followed by a walk by Nick Banks. Boomer White then doubled down the left field line, driving in Moss to make it 1-0 A&M. A Hunter Melton SAC fly then brought in a run before Ryne Birk brought home run number three of the inning via a groundout to short to make it 3-0.
To begin the second inning, the Tide clean up hitter reached on an error by Boomer White. With one out, an error by Brigham Hill allowed the runner to score to make it 3-1 Aggies.
No one else would score until the top of the sixth inning, when a two-run home run by Bama RF Chandler Taylor tied the game at three. Hill hadn't given up hardly any hard contact until Taylor's long ball. The game remained tied into extras.
Then in the bottom of the tenth, Michael Barash was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. He was moved to second on a Joel Davis sacrifice bunt before a Ronnie Gideon walk put runners at first and second with one out. Shortstop Austin Homan then conjured up a bit of Olsen Magic and shot an 0-2 pitch into left field that scored Barash to win the game for the Aggies.
The Aggies used three pitchers in this game. Brigham Hill threw six innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits and two walks, while striking out seven. Andrew Vinson came on in the seventh and threw two perfect innings; striking out the side in the eighth. Mark Ecker then came on in the ninth and threw two scoreless innings of his own, while allowing just two hits and striking out two of his own. Outside of that one mistake pitch to Bama's RF by Hill that went for a game-tying home run, this was one of the best pitched games of the year by Rob Childress' staff.
Saturday: Bama 7, A&M 4
Jace Vines toed the rubber for the Aggies for the third straight Saturday, and he pitched pretty well. He worked around a one-out single in the first, before giving up an unearned run in the second on a throwing error by Austin Homan. The game remained 1-0 until the fourth, when Vines gave up back-to-back doubles, making the score 2-0.
After another set of back-to-back doubles in the sixth that pushed the Tide lead to 3-0, Vines was lifted for Mitchell Kilkenny. Kilkenny got one out in the sixth before being replaced by Ty Schlottmann. A wild pitch with the bases loaded scored a run, and a throwing error by Barash allowed another run to score to push the lead to 5-0.
The Bama lead remained 5-0 until the top of the ninth, when Chandler Taylor's second two-run home run in as many days, this time off of Kaylor Chafin, extended Alabama's lead to 7-0.
The Ags made a little noise in the bottom of the ninth by scoring four runs to make the game a bit interesting. Ronnie Gideon, pinch hitting for Homan, walked to lead off the inning. JB Moss followed that up with a single to left center. Nick Banks then walked to load the bases, at which point Bama elected to bring in their closer, Thomas Burrows, who had not allowed an earned run yet this season. Boomer White then grounded out to short, bringing in run number one for the Ags. Melton then singled, bringing home run number two. Following a Ryne Birk strikeout, Barash singled to bring home two more runs to make the score 7-4. That fourth run was the first earned run that Burrows had allowed all year. Unfortunately for the Ags, Jonathan Moroney, who pinch hit for Joel Davis, then grounded out to end the ball game, evening up the series.
Sunday: A&M 2, Bama 1
Remember the days of Sunday Runday? Yeah, me neither. Both starting pitchers, Bama's Nich Eicholtz and A&M's Kyle Simonds, pitched very, very well, both allowing just one earned run. Then each teams' bullpens held serve, with Bama's Brock Love and Jon Keller recording an out without giving up a run after Eicholtz's seven sparkling innings and A&M's Andrew Vinson throwing four innings of one-hit baseball.
The Aggies struck first in this game in the third inning. Homan laced a single to center field with one out following a Gideon strikeout. Then Moss crushed a double to the left centerfield wall that scored Homan, putting the Aggies ahead 1-0.
In the top of the sixth inning, Simonds walked the first two batters to put runners on first and second with no outs. Vinson came on to face the Tide's three-hole hitter, who laid down a bunt that Vinson fielded and threw to third for out number one. He then gave up a single to center, allowing the runner at second to score and tying up the game at 1-1. The runner at first advanced to third on the throw back into the infield to put runners at the corners with one out. Vinson induced very weak contact from the next hitter, which he fielded and threw to Melton at first. The runner at third broke home to try to score the go-ahead run, but he was gunned down at the plate by a strong throw to Barash by Hunter Melton.
The game remained tied heading into the bottom of the ninth. Birk led off the inning with a walk, before being sacrificed over to second on a bunt by Barash. In order to preserve the tie, Bama turned to their stud closer, Burrows, again. Childress countered with a pinch hitter in Moroney, who singled to right center, bringing Birk in from second base and winning the ball game. More Olsen Magic!
This Tuesday, the Aggies welcome the Mavericks of UT Arlington (22-19). This past weekend, the Mavericks took two of three at Troy. Earlier this season, they took down TCU in Fort Worth, 4-3. This is a scrappy team that can beat you if you don't bring your A game to the ballpark.