COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The Texas A&M Aggies erased a four-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth, but a potential game-winning hit by Blake Allemand was yanked out of the sky by LSU’s Jared Foster and the Tigers claimed the victory in the 10th inning, 5-4, on Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park on Friday evening.
Trailing 4-0 going into the bottom of the ninth, Allemand jump-started the Aggie offense, drawing a five-pitch walk to begin the inning and Patrick McLendon followed with a bloop single into shallow centerfield. An error by LSU centerfielder Andrew Stevenson allowed Allemand to move to third on the play. JB Moss pinch-ran for McLendon at first with runners on the corners and Cole Lankford knocked Allemand in with a sacrifice fly to centerfield to cut the LSU lead to 4-1. A passed ball moved Moss to second and Nick Banks worked a six-pitch walk to drive Tigers’ starting pitcher Aaron Nola from the contest.
LSU closer Joe Broussard entered the game and walked Ryne Birk on seven pitches to load the bases and he uncorked a wild pitch to allow Moss to score and cut the Tigers’ lead to 4-2. Troy Stein struck out swinging with two runners in scoring position for the second out of the inning, but the Aggies got a clutch pinch-hit from Jonathan Moroney who punched an offering into rightfield for a single, driving in both runners and knotting the game at 4-4. Moroney moved to second on the throw home and Jace Statum was intentionally walked to bring Krey Bratsen to the plate.
Bratsen loaded the bases with a seven-pitch walk, bringing Allemand to the plate for the second time in the inning. Allemand connected on a 1-0 delivery for a slicing line drive down the leftfield line. It appeared destined to go over the head of Foster and land safely in the manicured grass, but the defensive replacement who entered the contest in the middle of the eighth inning, launched himself a few feet off the ground with his gloved left-hand and landed prone with ball in mitt for the game saver.
LSU (35-11-1, 13-8-1 SEC) responded with a go-ahead run in the top of the 10th inning when Stevenson beat three tags to score. The Tigers’ lead-off man hit a fading line drive to rightfield where Banks tried to make a sliding catch, but to no avail and the ricochet went towards centerfield allowing the Stevenson to beat out a tag at second for a double. A wild pitch, uncorked by Aggie reliever Ty Schlottmann allowed Stevenson to reach third where he was once again deemed safe on a bang-bang play. Matt Laird then chopped a grounder back to the mound and Stevenson broke for home, sliding in safely as Schlottmann’s throw took catcher Stein to the first base side of the plate for the 5-4 lead.
Texas A&M (28-19, 10-12 SEC) did not go quietly into the night, loading the bases in the home half of the 10th. Moss drew a leadoff walk from Broussard, and Lankford drove a single to leftfield off Zac Person to put two runners on. With a 2-0 count on Banks, Person was pulled for Kurt McCune. Banks flied out on McCune’s first pitch and Birk grounded out to first to put runners on second and third with two outs. An intentional walk was issued to Stein to load the bases, bringing Logan Nottebrok, a defensive replacement in the top of the 10th inning, to the plate. Nottebrok, who has two walk-off home runs on the season, worked the count to 2-2 before flying out to rightfield to end the game.
LSU broke the scoring seal early with a two-out solo home run by Alex Bregman in the top of the first.
Bregman hit an RBI double in the sixth and the Tigers added two more runs in the inning on RBI singles by Conner Hale and Tyler Moore to take a 4-0 lead.
Aggie starter Parker Ray allowed four runs on five hits and two walks while striking out eight in 5.2 innings. Matt Kent worked 3.1 innings of scoreless relief, scattering four hits and striking out one. Schlottmann (0-2) was saddled with the loss, allowing one run on one hit while striking out one in 0.2 innings.
LSU starter Aaron Nola allowed three runs on four hits and three walks while striking out seven over 8.1 innings in the no-decision. Broussard (3-0) earned the win despite allowing five of the seven batters he faced to reach base. He allowed one run on one hit and four walks while striking out one over 0.2 inning. McCune retired three of the four batters he faced, issuing an intentional walk, to earn his fourth save of the season.
Bregman led all hitters, going 3-for-4 with two runs, one double, one home run and one HBP. Stevenson and McMullen added two hits apiece.
The Aggies and Tigers return to action on Saturday with a 12:05 pm game slated for national television on ESPN2.
TEXAS A&M QUOTES
Head Coach Rob Childress
“It was just a great ballgame. Parker Ray competed his tail off. I’m sure just like any other starter he’d like to have two or three pitches back. Nola was outstanding—as advertised. We stayed close enough and in the fight. We got to them in the ninth inning. We had eight incredible at-bats. Allemand hits a ball that sends everybody home happy, and their leftfielder—their defensive replacement—made an incredible play. We had a chance there in the 10th inning. We had a couple guys up there with a chance to get a big hit and walk ‘em off again. It just didn’t happen, but I thought our guys stayed in the fight, competed well, and gave ourselves a chance there at the end.”
On the diving catch in the ninth…
“It was a pretty special catch for them and disappointing for us. Allemand hit that ball good and he was beat, and took a chance, laid out and he made a great play. That’s baseball. For us, the sun is going to come up tomorrow and we have to find a way to win the series.”
On the rally in the ninth…
“We are always going to be in the fight. Our guys play with a chip on their shoulder. They play hard and they empty the tank every time they take the field.”
Junior Infielder Blake Allemand
On Aaron Nola…
“That guy pitched the best game I’ve seen all year. He spotted up every pitch whenever and wherever he wanted. He was mowing us down. I thought we took good hacks, but he’s a good pitcher. We stuck with it and kept grinding. In the ninth inning we were able to string some base runners together and we were able to get him out of the game. Once we got him out of the game I thought we had great at-bats. It didn’t go our way. We might be on Sports Center for the wrong reason, but that guy made a spectacular play. You just have to tip your hat. He made an unbelievable play. That’s just the way it goes some times.”
On the catch by the leftfielder in the ninth inning…
“When I first hit it, I almost ran out of the box with my hand up. I crushed it. I hit it right down the line. As I was running I thought ‘oh he’s going to get there.’ I saw him lay out and I thought he still missed it. That was an unbelievable catch.”
On the mindset going into the ninth…
“We just kept telling ourselves to keep grinding and having good at-bats. We kept fighting and were fortunate enough to get some runs. We had guys in the spot to win the game, but things didn’t fall our way tonight.”