COLLEGE STATION, Texas – No. 11 Texas A&M scored a run in the ninth and had runners on first and third when the final out was made Saturday night as No. 21 Louisiana-Lafayette defeated the Aggies, 5-4, in the winner’s bracket game of the NCAA Regional at Olsen Field.
Blake Stouffer doubled with one out and Craig Stinson lifted a high fly to left which appeared to have the distance to tie the game. Left fielder Jeffries Tatford made a leaping catch, robbing Stinson and recording the second out.
Luke Anders then doubled to score Stouffer and Kyle Colligan reached on and error by shortstop William Long. Dane Carter grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the game and send the Aggies into an elimination game Sunday at 1 p.m. against Ohio State. The winner plays Louisiana at 7 p.m.
The Buckeyes (38-23) defeated Le Moyne (34-19), 6-5, in 10 innings Saturday afternoon in the first elimination game of the tournament.
With the loss Aggies, dropped to 45-17 while the Cajuns improved to 45-15. A&M must defeat Ohio State and Louisiana twice to advance to the Super Regional round.
After A&M starter Kyle Nicholson retired the first four men he faced via groundout, Nolan Gisclair belted his 13th home run of the year, a liner over the wall in left, to give the Cajuns a 1-0 lead after two innings.
A&M had a golden opportunity in the top of the third but failed to capitalize. With the bases loaded and no outs, Louisiana starter Hunter Moody struck out Stouffer, coaxed Stinson to pop out to shallow right, and fanned Luke Anders to end the threat and preserve the one-run lead.
In the fourth A&M scored twice to take a 2-1 lead. Colligan hit his ninth home run of the year on the first pitch of the inning to tie the game. Brodie Greene walked, was sacrificed to second by Parker Dalton, and scored when Brian Ruggiano chopped a double down the left-field line.
The Aggies had another golden opportunity in the top of the sixth but could not cash in. With runners on second and third and one out, Ruggiano missed on a squeeze bunt attempt and Colligan was tagged out between third and home in a rundown. Moody proceeded to strike out Ruggiano to end the inning.
Stouffer blasted his 10th home run of the year with two outs in the top of the seventh to increase the Aggie lead to 3-1.
The dinger chased Moody from the game after allowing three runs on eight hits. He struck out a season-high nine batters and walked just one.
A pair of walks – the only two of the game from Nicholson – and a single to left by Gisclair loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the seventh. After Matt Hicks struck out, Scott Hawkins delivered a two-RBI single to center and Matt Casbon singled to left to plate the go-ahead run.
Jonathan Lucroy hit his 18th long ball of the year in the bottom of the eighth, in what proved to be an important insurance run.
Nicholson (11-2) threw all eight innings, allowing five runs on seven hits.
Cajuns’ reliever Andrew Laughter (3-1) threw the final 2 1/3 innings to earn the win.
Texas A&M head coach Rob Childress
“I thought it was a great ballgame. Both teams competed very hard. The starting pitchers did an outstanding job. I thought Kyle Nicholson got off to an incredible start. He had a week off last week, and just came out and competed his tail off. When you look back at the game you see our missed opportunities. We put pressure on them early with the short game. We had runners on first and second and don’t get them in. We had the bases loaded in the third inning with the middle of the order coming up and we don’t even get a sac fly. That hurt us. I thought Kyle got a little tired in the seventh and gave up the two leadoff walks that got them back in the game. I’m proud of the way we competed. We got after it and they had to earn those last three outs.
Texas A&M starter Kyle Nicholson
“The first time through the lineup I wanted to go get them mainly with my sinker and fastball. The second and third time through they hadn’t seen everything so I mixed in the curve to keep them off balance. It worked for me.
Texas A&M first baseman Blake Stouffer
“There’s no time to put your head down. There’s still a lot of baseball to be played. We’ve got to pull ourselves together tomorrow and play for our lives. There’s no time to feel sorry for yourself.
Louisiana–Lafayette head coach Tony Robichaux
“Tonight was a quality baseball game between two very good teams. (Starting pitcher) Hunter Moody has been good for us all year, and their guy (Kyle Nicholson) was outstanding. He kept the ball down, and he did a great job.
“Our M.O. has always been to try and pitch and play good, solid defense and take the pressure off the hitters to where somewhere along the way, the hits we do get mean something. Again our bullpen stepped up again. Andrew (Laughter) came in and got the job done. The plays that (Jeffries Tatford) made in left field were outstanding. We have to play very good if we are going to try to win.”
ULL left fielder Jeffries Tatford (on his catch at the fence in the ninth inning)
“I couldn’t hear anything. Usually outfield communication is pretty easy, but I couldn’t hear anything. I really put it in my mind that I wasn’t going to worry about the wall, just run to the wall and luckily, it just fell in my glove. I was just worrying about going and getting the ball. You couldn’t hear anything because of the crowd. They were hostile all night, and communication would be the key, but you couldn’t hear anything. My forearm was definitely over the wall, but once I felt it hit my palm (I knew I made the catch).”
ULL Winning pitcher Andrew Laughter
“When I come into the ballgame, my job is to keep them right where they are at and give our team a chance to come back and win. I had good command. I felt like I was throwing real well. We got out of that inning, and we managed to score three runs, and I know all I have to do is relax and get six outs. Basically, once we got that lead, I felt very strongly that I was going to be able to hold them there, and then (Jonathan) Lucroy hit another home run. It gave me a little more confidence and made me a little more relaxed out there.”