COLUMBIA, S.C. – The Texas A&M Aggies fell behind by five runs early in the contest and were unable to erase the deficit in a 6-4 loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks on Friday evening at Carolina Stadium.
The Gamecocks pounced on the Aggies early with five runs in the bottom of the first inning. Graham Saiko and Max Schrock each drew walks from A&M starter Kyle Martin to start the frame. Joey Pankake bounced into a fielder’s choice grounder at short to retire Schrock at second and put runners at the corners. LB Dantzler plated the first run of the inning with an infield single to second, sending Saiko home. Connor Bright scored Pankake with a single up the middle. Chase Vergason loaded the bases with a single through the right side of the infield and Grayson Greiner was issued a base on balls to give South Carolina a 3-0 lead and chase Martin from the game.
Matt Kent relieved Martin on the mound and got Gamecock designated hitter Kyle Martin to line out at first. The frame ended when Tanner English laced a double down over first base and down the rightfield corner, plating two for the 5-0 lead before Greiner was thrown out at home.
Texas A&M (18-10, 5-3 SEC) got on the scoreboard in the top of the fourth inning. Mikey Reynolds hit a single to leftfield and moved to second when the Gamecock leftfielder Saiko misplayed the ball. After Krey Bratsen lined out hard to the shortstop for the first out of the inning, Blake Allemand hit a grounder to shortstop Pankake whose throw couldn’t find the glove of first baseman Dantzler for an error, putting runners on the corners. Troy Stein hit a potential double-play ball to Gamecock second baseman Schrock, but he bobbled before throwing to second, allowing Stein to reach first on the RBI fielder’s choice, cutting the lead to 5-1.
South Carolina (21-6, 4-4 SEC) pushed the lead back to five runs in the bottom of the fourth. With one out, Saiko hit a gapper to left centerfield for a single and moved to second on a groundout to second base by Schrock. Pankake drove in Saiko with a single to leftfield, staking the Gamecocks to a 6-1 advantage.
Texas A&M trimmed the lead to 6-3 in the top of the seventh inning. Daniel Mengden drove a leadoff single to centerfield and was replaced at first with pinch-runner Jace Statum. Mitchell Nau hit a wall-banger to leftfield, putting two runners in scoring position. Logan Taylor knocked in both runners, roping a double to the right centerfield gap, cutting the margin to three runs.
The Aggies mounted a ninth-inning rally, but it came up short. With one out, Nau smoked a ball at the shortstop who was strapped with the error on the tough play and Brandon Wood followed with a single to leftfield to put a pair on. After Taylor struck out for the second out of the inning, Reynolds roped a single down the leftfield line to push Nau across and cut the lead to 6-4. With runners at the corners, Bratsen struck out looking to end the contest.
Martin (2-4) was saddled with the loss for Texas A&M. He allowed five runs on three hits and three walks in 0.1 innings of work.
The Aggies got solid relief from Kent and Corey Ray. Kent allowed just one run on six hits while striking out one over 3.2 innings. Ray worked 4.0 scoreless innings, scattering two hits while striking out six.
Nolan Belcher (5-2) earned the win. He allowed four runs, two earned, on seven hits while striking out nine over 8.1 innings. Tyler Webb earned his 10th save of the season despite giving up two hits over 0.2 innings.
Reynolds went 2-for-5 with one run and one RBI and Wood went 2-for-4 to lead A&M’s offense.
Vergason and English led South Carolina’s offense with three hits apiece. Vergason went 3-for-4 with one run. English went 3-for-4 with one double and two RBI.
The Aggies will look to stave off the three-game sweep on Saturday with a 12:30 pm Central game at Carolina Stadium.