After a truly disappointing trip to Knoxville a week ago, it was easy to look at A&M’s remaining schedule and see the late-season collapse we’ve all become accustomed to in most Aggie sports. With top-ranked Florida and Top 10 Arkansas still looming on the docket, dropping a series to Tennessee was a worst case scenario event. This is especially true when you consider that A&M was squarely in the hosting conversation. Now the Aggies had to head out to Starkville to face a Mississippi State team that seemingly found their stride, winning four consecutive games against Top 10 teams. Dropping that series with two of the best teams in the league (and the country, at that) still on the schedule could mean falling out of contention for an at-large NCAA bid altogether.
Naturally, the Aggies responded with their first SEC road series victory of the season. They scored at least six runs in all three games and played relatively clean baseball in the field. Save an uncharacteristic, six-run outing from John Doxakis, the pitching staff threw well enough to get the sweep. Nolan Hoffman continues to dominate, while Kaylor Chafin enjoyed a resurgent weekend out of the bullpen, allowing just one run in 5.1 combined innings.
With the series win A&M moves to 32-12 overall and 11-10 in the SEC; two games behind Arkansas in the SEC West. They also find themselves back in the hosting conversation, but there is still a lot of work to do.
- The Aggie offense scored five runs from the sixth inning on in Friday’s game to come from behind and snag the series opener. Facing a 3-1 deficit, A&M got an RBI groundout from Will Frizzell in the sixth, and a game-tying solo homer from George Janca in the seventh. Then in the eighth, another RBI groundout from Frizzell and a two-run single from Janca staked the Aggies to a 6-3 lead.
- Mitchell Kilkenny took the mound for A&M, and he wasn’t at his best. That said, he gave the Aggies a quality start, allowing three runs on six hits, two walks, and four strikeouts in six innings. It was just the third time all season that he allowed three or more earned runs. Unfortunately, it was also the second such outing in a row. With the competition set to ratchet up in the coming weeks, that is a trend that Kilkenny needs to buck.
- Bonus note: the Ags played error-free baseball!!!
- John Doxakis was definitely off his game on Saturday. In just three innings, he allowed six runs on eight hits, no walks, a hit batter, and three strikeouts. Dox made it through the first two frames without too much trouble. He hit State’s Jake Mangum with a 1-1 offering to lead off the game before allowing a bunt single to the two-hole hitter. From there, Dox set down seven hitters in a row. With one out in the third, State loaded the bases with three consecutive singles. Dox then coaxed a double-play ground ball to third that should have ended the inning without damage, but Michael Helman’s relay to first was thrown wide. State’s first two runs of the game scored on the play, and the flood gate swung wide open. Four straight hits for the Bulldogs scored the final four runs of the inning, and State was out to a 6-0 lead.
- The Bulldogs tacked on two more in the fourth to make it 8-0 before A&M was able to muster any offense. A one-out, three-run homer from Michael Helman cut the deficit to 8-3 in the fifth. The Aggies plated two more in the seventh to trim the deficit to 8-5, but State answered in the bottom half of the inning with three runs of their own.
- Stephen Kolek was on the hill for the Ags, as he looked to atone for a difficult start in Knoxville a week ago. He battled through five innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on eight hits, two walks, and a strikeout. Kolek’s one real mistake on the mound was a 2-1 pitch he left middle-out in the second inning, and State’s second baseman took the pitch deep to right for his first homer of the season. Then with two outs in the inning, he coaxed a routine fly ball to left that was dropped by Aaron Walters, which allowed a run to score. His final allowed run came in the third when a two-out ground ball found a hole between first and second, scoring a runner from second. Kolek only allowed a handful of hard-hit balls on the afternoon, and he kept the Aggies in the game.
- The A&M offense got started in the first inning when Will Frizzell smacked a single up the middle to score Braden Shewmake. They answered State’s two runs in the second with a crooked number of their own in the top of the third. With two on and two out, Cole Bedford singled to left field, scoring Hunter Coleman from second to tie the game at 1-1. State’s left fielder threw the ball away, which allowed the runners to move up to second and third. Zach DeLoach followed with an RBI single down the line in right, putting runners at the corners. Bedford then scored on a passed ball, pushing the A&M lead to 4-2.
- Clinging to a one-run lead through six, A&M used some more late-inning offense to put the game away. They scored one in the seventh on a balk, and then two more in the eighth to make it 7-3.
A&M returns home on Tuesday night to take on Prairie View A&M for their penultimate midweek contest of the season. Prairie View is 12-29 on the season, but just 8-26 against D1 opponents. Their Warren Nolan RPI currently sits at 292 out of 297. First pitch is slated for 6:32 pm. See y’all at Olsen!