The Aggies kicked off their SEC schedule over the weekend, welcoming the Vanderbilt Commodores (16-5, 1-2) to Aggieland for just the second time ever. The Dores came into the series a consensus top five team, including three No. 1 rankings (D1Baseball, Baseball America, and NCBWA), which meant A&M had a massive opportunity in front of them. Vandy’s outstanding offense versus the Aggies’ dominant pitching staff looked to be the highlight of the weekend, but it was A&M’s timely hitting (what?) that ultimately carried the Ags to victory.
It was no secret to anyone that has followed Aggie Baseball this year that the offense has, to put it nicely, left a lot to be desired. The prime example of this came in their midweek game prior to the Vandy series, as they took on DBU. With three runs already home in the seventh to cut DBU’s lead to 5-4, the Aggies had runners at the corners with nobody out. And in excruciating fashion, they were unable to bring the tying run home in a game they wound up losing by that same score of 5-4. With the nation’s top team looming, the Ags could not afford to come up empty in situations like that one.
Lo and behold, a similar scenario presented itself to the Aggies in the first game against the Commodores. Having already brought home two runs to cut Vandy’s lead to 5-4 in the seventh inning, A&M had a chance to tie the game with a runner on third and one out. We’ve all seen this movie before. The next two batters struck out to end the Aggie threat. It seemed as though A&M was destined to forever be just 90 feet away. Then something changed.
Vanderbilt held a 7-2 lead in what looked to be an easy win to seal the series in game two. The Aggies then conjured some Olsen Magic, responding with a five-spot in the eighth to tie the game at seven apiece, before walking it off in the ninth to steal game two. The Ags rode that momentum into the series finale, and took the series two games to one. Could this be the launching point for A&M’s offense? Vandy’s pitching staff certainly hasn’t been the league’s best to this point, but the Aggies haven’t really been able to hit any pitching, much less an SEC staff. This weekend was a big statement series win for the Ags.
- For the second straight week, John Doxakis was a bit off his game, allowing two runs on six hits, two walks, two HBPs, and six strikeouts. Dox was better in this one than in his previous start, but Vandy had a runner reach second base in each of Dox’s five innings. Despite only allowing the two runs, his pitch count reached 96 after the fifth. Against an offense that came into the weekend scoring almost nine runs/game, you couldn’t have asked for much more.
- It was a frustrating night at the plate for A&M. Down 1-0 in the first, the Ags answered with a run to tie things up, but they had an opportunity to get much more. Logan Foster, Braden Shewmake, and Mike Hoehner all walked, loading the bases with one out. Will Frizzell then grounded out to short, scoring Shewmake from third. Ty Coleman followed that up with a four-pitch walk to load the bases once again, but the Aggies would settle for just the one run. After Vandy took a 5-1 lead in the sixth, the Ags made things interesting. They scored three runs in the sixth and seventh to cut the deficit to 5-4. As I mentioned earlier, however, A&M was unable to bring the tying run home from third with less than two outs. That could have changed the outcome of the game completely, but Vandy scored a run in each of the eighth and ninth to put this one away.
- Asa Lacy took the ball in this one, and he was outstanding in the first four innings. Through four, Lacy allowed just a walk and a single. In the fifth, however, Vandy’s offense pounced. A leadoff double followed by a full-count walk put two runners on for Vandy SS Ethan Paul, who then put the Dores on the board with his third homer of the season to make it 3-0 Vanderbilt. Lacy faced just three hitters in the sixth, giving up back-to-back singles and a walk to load the bases with no outs. Chandler Jozwiak came on in relief of Lacy, but two of the runners would score on a single to left, closing the book on Lacy. In all, Lacy allowed five runs (all earned) on six hits, three walks, and six strikeouts.
- Jonathan Ducoff and Cam Blake were the heros of game two. With the Ags down 7-2 in the eighth, Ducoff pinch hit for Zach DeLoach with the bases juiced and one out. He then shot a single through the left side, scoring two to cut the deficit to 7-4. After a Bryce Blaum walk loaded the bases once again, Blake lined one to center. The centerfielder dove and missed the ball, allowing it to roll all the way to the wall. Three runs came around to score, and Blake ended up at third base with a bases-clearing, game-tying triple. Then with a man on second and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Ducoff sent the Aggies home happy with a little Olsen Magic, singling home the winning run.
- Christian Roa made his second consecutive Sunday start in this one, and he was magnificent. In his longest career outing, Roa scattered three hits and two walks in seven innings of shutout baseball. He also struck out seven along the way. It’s safe to say that the Sunday rotation slot will not be “TBA” when the Aggies head to Lexington next weekend.
- Offensively, the Aggies used a couple of crooked numbers to put Vanderbilt away, scoring four in the fourth and three in the seventh. Braden Shewmake kicked off the scoring in the fourth with an RBI triple down the right field line. A Mikey Hoehner groundout would score Shewmake to give the Aggies a 2-0 advantage. A two-out single from Ty Coleman and a throwing error by the Vandy thirdbaseman put runners at second and third. Ducoff brought them both home with a double down the line in left to extend the lead to 4-0 (another big hit??).
The Ags took on Rice last night in the friendly confines of Olsen Field. The Owls (8-15, 0-3), now under the tutelage of first-year HC Matt Bragga, have not had a very good start to the season. Still, it will always be fun to beat Rice at baseball. They arrived in Aggieland presumably with an extra bit of fire after being swept at the hands of FAU over the weekend. The Owls have shown flashes this season, knocking off then-No. 15 Baylor 6-3 and run-ruling then-No. 18 TCU 12-2 down at the Shriners College Classic. Other than that, however, it’s been rough.
As is the case with most midweek contests, it was a Johnny Fullstaff kind of day for both sides. Freshman LHP Chris Weber made his fourth start of the year (yes, A&M started another lefty lol), and he pitched well; in 2.2 innings, Weber allowed a run on just one hit and two walks, while striking out five. Three more lefties (Chandler Jozwiak, Dustin Saenz, and Kyle Richardson), Mason Cole, and Brandon Birdsell combined to go the rest of the way, limiting the Owls to two more runs on just two more hits.
Offensively, Ty Coleman got things started in the first with a two-out, three-run WHAMMY off of the scoreboard in left on the tenth pitch of the at bat. Jonathan Ducoff continued his hot-hitting ways in the fifth, singling through the left side to bring home two more Aggie runs.
The Aggies will hit the road this weekend, as they head to Lexington to take on the Kentucky Wildcats (14-7, 0-3). UK’s record to this point is slightly misleading. They were swept at then-No. 3 Texas Tech on the second weekend of the season, and they drew LSU in Baton Rouge to open SEC play, where they were swept as well. Aside from those series, the Cats’ only true blemish on the season came in a midweek loss to Boston College back on March 6. Should be a fun one!