There have been, there are now and there will be people who complain ad nauseam about this team's inability to claim the regular season title in the SEC this year. But the one thing that absolutely cannot be overlooked is the fact that during a home stretch that included three consecutive series against top ten opponents, Rob Childress' Aggies won all three. Through that stretch, they almost assuredly locked themselves up a Top 8 National Seed for the first time in the Childress era, the first time this millennium and the first time since the first year of the Super Regional format in 1999.
Ole Miss came into this series on a serious roll and looking to capture one of those national seeds for themselves. A series win on the road against the No. 2 team in the country certainly would have given them quite the argument. Couple that with an RPI in the top six, and you can see just how tough this series was going to be for A&M.
Two weekends ago, the Ags took two from Vanderbilt, who just so happen to sport one of the best pitching staffs in the entire country. Then they headed on over to Columbia, South Carolina and won two games out of three against a team that had lost just twice all year at home up to that point. How did they follow that up? With a series win over a team that was scratching and clawing their way for an opportunity at a national seed. Does it sting that they didn't end up sweeping a top 10 team to clinch a regular season title? Yes. Yes it does. But after a season that saw A&M rack up its most league wins since joining the country's best baseball conference and almost assuredly lock up its first opportunity to host a Super in 17 years, everything should be just fine.
Now onto our regularly scheduled program:
Thursday: A&M 6, Ole Miss 1
Brigham Hill took the mound for the Ags on Thursday and gave us his best performance in an Aggie uniform. In his seven innings of work, Hill allowed just four hits and issued just one walk. After making quick work of the Rebels by sandwiching two strikeouts around a fly out to left field, he gave up the first hit of the afternoon when Ole Miss 3B Colby Bortles took him deep to left center. The next hitter singled through the left side and eventually stole second, but Hill regrouped and then set down the next eight batters he saw.
With one out in the fifth, Rebels' 1B Will Golsan singled and stole second before Hill struck out DH Holt Perdzock. After walking the nine-hole hitter to put runners at first and second, Hill coaxed an inning-ending ground out off the bat of leadoff hitter Errol Robinson. From there, Hill allowed just one more baserunner in his final two innings of work.
To start the eighth, Hill hit the leadoff hitter with the pitch. Childress then turned to his most dominant arm out of the pen, Mark Ecker, to close out the game. And in typical Mark Ecker fashion, the Rebels tallied just one one hit on the evening.
The Aggie offense started early, when Nick Choruby and JB Moss both singled to start the afternoon. Boomer White moved both runners over with a sacrifice bunt before a Hunter Melton ground out scored Choruby from first to make it 1-0. Ole Miss starter Brady Bramlett stymied Aggie hitters over the next four innings, allowing just one hit from the second inning to the fifth.
The Ags finally got to Bramlett in the sixth when Moss smacked a screaming liner to the left centerfield gap that scored Choruby from first. Moss moved to third on a sacrifice fly to center and then scored when Melton doubled off the top of the wall in right center. The Rebels then pulled Bramlett in hopes that Brady Feigl could stop the bleeding, but Ryne Birk welcomed him to the game with an RBI single to center, making the score 4-1. Nick Banks followed that up with a single of his own, pushing Birk to second. Feigl then threw the ball into center field when attempting a pick off throw at second. Birk moved to third on the error. After a steal of second by Banks, Johnathan Moroney smacked a two-run single to left center that pushed the Aggie lead to 6-1.
Friday: A&M 11, Ole Miss 5
Friday's contest started out with the Rebels racing out to a 3-0 lead in the top half of the opening frame. A&M starter Turner Larkins had issues with his location, and the Rebs took advantage. SS Errol Robinson and RF Ryan Olenek both reached base to kick things off. Then with one out, Larkins issued a walk to the Ole Miss cleanup hitter, JB Woodman, to load the bases. C Henri Lartigue got the Rebels on the board with a two-run single through the right side to give Ole Miss a 2-0 lead before Colby Bortles flew out to Choruby in center, scoring the runner from third to make it 3-0. Larkins lasted just a total of an inning and a third before giving way to Stephen Kolek in the second, who was able to keep the threatening Rebels from extending their lead.
In the bottom half of the second, the Ags loaded the bases with one out. With the nine-hole hitter, Austin Homan, at the dish, Ole Miss starter David Parkinson coaxed a grounder right to the third baseman, who threw out the runner at home to cut off a run. Then with two outs, Choruby hit a routine ground ball to second, and Rebs 2B Tate Blackman booted the easy grounder, which allowed the runner from third to score. With the score now 3-1, the Aggie bats came alive. JB Moss then singled two more runs home to knot the game at three apiece before Boomer White launched his fourth home run of the season over the wall in left to put the Ags ahead, 6-3.
The Rebels added single runs in the fourth and fifth to make things interesting, but Andrew Vinson came on in the fifth with nobody out to replace Kolek. Vinson then did Vinson things. You know Vinson things. They're those things when he comes in and gives up one hit over five shutout innings, while striking out eight. He was absolutely, positively dominant.
The rest of the scoring for the maroon and white came in the form of two two-spots, one in the fourth and one in the seventh, and one final insurance run in the bottom of the eighth. In the seventh, Moroney utterly annihilated one onto the roof of the Rec (seriously) with Banks on second. Holy Moroney.
Saturday: Ole Miss 3, A&M 2
This game was exciting from the first pitch from Kyle Simonds all the way until Errol Robinson's throw to second for the final out of the game. At no point did either pitching staff succumb to the many big inning threats from both teams' offenses. The contest was exactly what you'd expect from two teams who so badly wanted that win on the final day of the regular season.
Ole Miss scored first in the second inning. JB Woodman led off the inning with a single and then stole second base. Henri Lartigue followed that with a single of his own to put runners at the corners with nobody out. Simonds got Bortles to foul out to Melton for the first out of the inning, but Ryan Olenek snuck a ground ball past Simonds and into center, scoring Woodman from third to make it 1-0.
In the fourth, Ole Miss 2B Tate Blackman singled to lead things off. Simonds then coaxed a double play ground ball to Melton at first, but Homan's throw back to first to complete the twin killing was offline. The runner advanced to second on the error. Simonds got the next hitter to ground out to second, with the runner at second advancing to third on the play. Colby Bortles then chopped a ball deep in the hole at short, and Homan was unable to throw him out at first. The runner at third scored, extednding the Rebels' lead to two.
The Ags added a run of their own in the fifth. Homan led the fifth off with a seven-pitch walk and moved to second on a Choruby sacrifice bunt. Next up was JB Moss, who singled to left and moved Homan over to third. Homan scored one batter later, when Boomer White hit a sacrifice fly to center.
The Rebels came back in the top of the sixth with their third and final run of the ball game. Simonds allowed a lead off double before being replaced by Mark Ecker. Ecker got the next two hitters to fly out to Choruby in center, but both fly outs were deep enough to advance the runner, with the run scoring on the second fly ball.
The game remained 3-1 until the bottom of the seventh. Homan smacked a one out double to left center, but Choruby then lined out to the shortstop for the second out of the inning. Moss followed that up by singling down the left field line on the first pitch of the at bat, scoring Homan from second to cut the Ole Miss lead to one.
Finally in the bottom of the ninth, the Ags got something cooking with one out against Ole Miss closer Wyatt Short. Choruby reached on a bunt single before both Moss and White walked to load the bases. Unfortunately, the Aggies weren't able to conjure up any Olsen Magic. Melton fouled out to first base for the second out, and Birk grounded into a fielder's choice to end the game.
This has been one hell of a regular season from the Aggie Baseballers. The best thing, however, is that this season is far from over. With the win on Friday, A&M clinched a first round bye in the SEC Tournament, so they'll get an extra day of rest before taking on either Vanderbilt or Misour... Okay, yeah, the Ags will get another shot at Vandy on Wednesday at 9:30 am in Hoover. Do the thing, Ags.