After heavy rains pushed Friday's contest to Saturday, this series started to feel very similar to last season's set with the Razorbacks. As many will remember, A&M was well on its way to a series win on that Saturday, when they were up by five runs and the rains came. They postponed the rest of the game to the next morning, and go figure, Arkansas came back to win that game. The Razorbacks then took game three to clinch the series.
This weekend, the Ags jumped out to an early lead in game one, only to be overtaken later in the game. Familiar feelings seemed to be creeping in around the Aggies. Thanks to some extra-innings heroics from Hunter Melton in game two and a sparkling performance by Kyle Simonds in game three, however, A&M was able to take the three game set.
Saturday, Game 1: Arkansas 9, A&M 5
The Ags jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning on the back of a two-out, three-run home run by Ryne Birk. With this three-run cushion in his pocket, Brigham Hill made quick work of the Hogs, setting them down in order with two strikeouts and a groundout.
Come the bottom of the second, however, Hill allowed a leadoff double to the Arkansas cleanup hitter before a throwing error by Boomer White put runners at second and third with one out. The next hitter doubled in those two runners to make it 3-2.
A&M got one of those runs back in the top of the third via Boomer White's third home run of the season, but the lead was short-lived. After a leadoff single in the bottom half of the third, Hill gave up a two-run home run to Arkansas' Carson Shaddy to tie the game at four apiece.
The game would remain tied until the bottom of the sixth, when Andrew Vinson replaced Hill. Vinson struck the leadoff hitter to start the frame, but loaded the bases with a single, a double and a walk. A sacrifice fly to center scored the runner from third to make it 5-4 Arkansas, with the runner at second advancing to third. The next hitter then tripled over the head of Nick Choruby in center, scoring two more runs. Ryan Hendrix came on in relief of Vinson after Vinson issued another walk. With runners at the corners, Hendrix gave up an RBI single to left field to make it 8-4.
With just three guaranteed at bats left, the Aggies would need to work rather quickly to chip away at the four run deficit they were facing. In the seventh, Austin Homan singled and JB Moss walked to put runners at first and second with no outs and Nick Banks stepping up to the plate. He grounded into a double play, and the Ags were left with a runner at third and two outs. Homan would eventually score on a wild pitch, but that would be the extent of their scoring for the remainder of the game.
Saturday, Game 2: A&M 11, Arkansas 8
A&M would once again race out to an early lead with two runs in the top of the first inning via a bases loaded walk to Birk and an RBI sacrifice fly by Michael Barash. In the bottom half of the inning, however, Jace Vines surrendered that lead very quickly by allowing five runs in just two thirds of an inning. Mitchell Kilkenny came on in relief with two down and quell any further threat. The game was 5-2, Arkansas after the opening frame.
The game remained 5-2 until the fourth, when Barash led off the inning with a double to left field. A Banks ground out would move Barash over to third before he came home on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Jonathan Moroney, making it 5-3.
Arkansas would get that run back in the bottom half of the fourth with an RBI single to right field to make it 6-3. Cason Sherrod came in to replace Kilkenny and got A&M out of the inning without any more damage.
With two outs in the fifth, the Ags loaded the bases with two singles and a walk. Nick Banks then deposited a 3-1 pitch over the right field wall for a grand slam that gave the Ags the lead, 7-6. Both teams would add a run in the sixth to make it 8-7.
Mark Ecker came in to pitch with two outs in the sixth, and outside of a single he gave up to the first batter he faced (that also scored Arkansas' seventh run of the ballgame), he was excellent. He then set down the next seven in a row.
In the bottom of the ninth, however, Ecker allowed a leadoff single. Banks misplayed the ball in right field, allowing the runner to advance to second. Ecker struck the next two hitters out, but a pinch-hit single scored the runner from second to tie the game at eight. Ecker got the next hitter to fly out to end the inning.
Ecker came back out in the bottom of the tenth and dominated once again, sandwiching two strikeouts around a fly out. In total, Ecker threw a career high 73 pitches in 4.1 innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits, no walks and eight strikeouts. It was an absolutely outstanding outing for Ecker.
In the top of the eleventh with one out, Boomer White reached first on an error by the Arkansas first baseman. Hunter Melton then conjured up a bit of road Olsen Magic and cranked a 3-2 pitch over the wall to left to put the Ags up 10-8. They would add one more run in the frame via an RBI single by Barash to make it 11-8.
Turner Larkins came on in the bottom of the eleventh and recorded his first career save by sandwiching two strikeouts around a fly out.
Sunday: A&M 6, Arkansas 2
After playing 20 total innings of baseball on Saturday, both teams were running low on available arms to throw in game three. A&M desperately needed a long, solid outing from Kyle Simonds. What did he give them? His first career complete game.
Arkansas got the scoring going in this game with one out in the second. With runners at the corners, Carson Shaddy of the Razorbacks singled to bring the runner home from third. Simonds then struck out the next hitter before inducing an inning-ending groundout to first.
After that, Simonds threw six shutout innings, while scattering five hits and a walk. One huge reason for his success was that he retired the leadoff hitter in every inning until the ninth, when Shaddy led off the inning with what turned out to be an inconsequential home run to right-center. Two fly outs and a strikeout later, and Simonds completed his first career complete game and saved Rob Childress from having to use any more arms in his bullpen.
The Ags got their scoring going in the fourth, when Boomer White doubled home Choruby with one out, tying the game at one run apiece. A strikeout and a walk later, Barash doubled home two more runs to put the Ags on top 3-1. Banks followed that up with an RBI of his own, singling Barash home to make it 4-1.
A&M added some insurance in the sixth, via a Joel Davis RBI single, and in the ninth, with White's second RBI double of the game.
The Aggies had a Wednesday night game scheduled against Incarnate Word, but with next weekend's series with Vanderbilt being moved up to Thursday due to TV restrictions, that game was canceled.
The Ags will be back in action on Thursday against the Commodores, so be on the look out for that series preview later this week.