HOUSTON—The Big 12 champion Texas A&M baseball team saw its season come to an end on Sunday night with a 6-5 loss to Rice in NCAA Houston Super Regional action before a stadium record-tying crowd of 5,368 fans at Reckling Park.
Catcher Adam Zornes was the hero for the Owls, as his two-out, two-run home run to left in the eighth erased a 5-4 Aggie lead and proved to be the game winner.
A&M finished the season with a 46-19 overall record after capturing the school’s third Big 12 regular-season championship and the first back-to-back regional titles in school history. The Owls improve to 47-13 and will face either Fresno State or Arizona State next weekend at the College World Series.
“It was a tough, hard-fought game,” A&M coach Rob Childress said. “We had opportunities early where we left a couple of free runs out there. It was just a heck of a game but we weren’t able to finish it. I’m not going to apologize for being one of the last 16 teams in the country playing. I’m very proud of our players, every single one of them.”
A&M struck first in the bottom half of the third off Rice starter Mike Ojala. With runners at the corners and no outs, Kyle Colligan doubled over the head of left fielder Aaron Luna to bring home catcher Kevin Gonzalez from third. One out later, Jose Duran’s groundout to second plated Brodie Greene from third and gave the Aggies a 2-0 lead.
Following a walk and base hit issued to the first Owl batters of the game by Aggie starter Barret Loux, the freshman settled in and retired the next nine in a row. However, Rice took advantage of an error and hit batsman in its half of the fourth to tie the contest. With one out and the two runners on, shortstop Rick Hague doubled into the left field corner to score both Diego Seastrunk and Luna.
Darby Brown began the A&M fourth with a hard single through the right side of the infield. After a walk and sacrifice bunt, Brodie Greene delivered an RBI single to right to score Brown and give the Aggies a 3-2 lead.
Following a pitching change and a walk that loaded the bases, Dane Carter drove a 1-1 pitch into the corner in left field to score two and make the score 5-2. The ball hopped over the bullpen fence in foul territory down the line, holding Kyle Colligan at third and Carter at second with his 16th double of the year. A&M would load the bases again but Colligan was thrown out trying to steal home to end the threat.
The Owls and Hague would battle back and cut the lead to one with a pair in the top of the sixth.
With runners at first and second and one out, a pickoff attempt to second base by Gonzalez bounced into center field to move both runners into scoring position. Hague came through again, chopping a ball at short that bounced high over the head of Duran and into center field to score two.
Aggie closer Travis Starling (8-2) entered the game in the seventh with two on, no outs and a 2-0 count to designated hitter Jeremy Dodson. Starling was able to throw out Dodson at first by a half step on a sacrifice bunt and, after an intentional walk loaded the bases, punched out first baseman J.P. Padron on a 1-2 pitch for the second out.
The next batter, Seastrunk, hit a hard grounder behind the bag at first. Anders blocked the ball with his body, then flipped to Starling covering to retire the Owl third baseman by half a step and preserve the one-run lead.
Brodie Greene finished with two hits and two runs scored to lead the way offensively with seven of the Aggie starters recording at least one knock.
Loux was strong in his final start of the year, although he did not factor in the decision. The freshman allowed six hits and two earned runs over six innings of work.
Rice reliever Bryan Price (4-4) picked up the win, giving up one hit over 2 1/3 scoreless innings.
The game marked the final played by seven A&M seniors—Dane Carter, Blake Stouffer, Blake Rampy, Kirkland Rivers, Ben Feltner, Darby Brown and Daman Aaron. The group combined to lead the Aggies to a pair of conference titles and 94 wins over the past two seasons.
“This is a very special group of seniors,” Childress said. “Some of them have been here two years, some of them four and five. They have given us everything they had since the day they showed up, and they are leaving here men. They didn’t get a chance to go to Omaha, but they’re a huge part of the foundation that has been laid for when we get there. This isn’t a one- or two-year deal. We’re going to kick that door in at some point, and that will be our goal every single year—to get to Omaha and be the last team standing.”
TEXAS A&M POSTGAME NOTES:
• Texas A&M finished with 46 victories for only the seventh time in the 106-year history of the program…the Aggies put together back-to-back years of at least 46 victories for the first time since 1998 and 1999.
• Kyle Thebeau set a school record with his 33rd appearance of the season on the mound…he bested the mark set by Hart Hering (36) in 2006…Thebeau’s 79 career appearances rank him fourth all time, eight shy of the school record (86, Chris Russ, 1998-01).
• Texas A&M now leads the all-time series between the schools, 175-91-2.
• Sunday’s Reckling Park crowd of 5,368 tied the stadium record that was set on Saturday afternoon…the top three crowds at Reckling (including 5,234 on June 9, 2007) have all came in games against Texas A&M.
• Game-time temperature was 88 degrees with mostly sunny skies and winds in from left center at five to 10 miles per hour.