COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The Texas A&M Aggies fell behind early and were unable to erase a 9-0 deficit in Saturday afternoon’s 10-5 loss to the Auburn Tigers on Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park.
The Tigers drew first blood in the top of the first inning. Ryan Tella was issued an eight-pitch walk to start the frame and moved to third with a pair of groundouts. Garrett Cooper slapped a single through the right side of the infield to plate Tella for the 1-0 lead. Auburn would eventually load the bases with a walk by Damek Tomscha and a single by Jackson Burgreen, but the Tigers were unable to pad the lead as Blake Austin bounced into a fielder’s choice groundout to the shortstop.
Three home runs keyed a five-run third inning Auburn. Cullen Wacker and Cooper hit back-to-back home runs to start the inning, with both sending shots over the rightfield fence. With one out, Burgreen singled to leftfield chasing A&M starter Grayson Long from the game. With Kyle Martin on in relief, Austin hit a first-pitch offering off the bottom of the scoreboard in leftfield for a 5-0 lead. Dan Glevenyak was hit by a pitch, moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Sam Gillikin, advanced to third on a balk and scored when Tella bounced a single up the middle to inflate the cushion to 6-0.
Auburn (19-12, 3-8 SEC) padded the lead with three more runs in the top of the fourth. Wacker singled down the rightfield line and Cooper singled to the gap in right centerfield to start the inning. A sacrifice bunt by Tomscha pushed both runners into scoring position. Burgreen hit a grounder to second base to plate Wacker and he reached base on a fielding error by Charlie Curl. A sacrifice fly by Austin scored Cooper and after Burgreen stole second base, Dan Glevenyak knocked him in with a single up the middle for the 9-0 lead.
Texas A&M (19-13, 5-6 SEC) broke the scoring seal in the bottom of the fourth inning. Krey Bratsen was hit by a pitch and Blake Allemand singled to centerfield, putting runners on first and second to start the inning. Cole Lankford singled off the glove of starting Auburn pitcher Michael O’Neal and Bratsen scored when O’Neal’s ill-advised throw bounced past the first baseman. With runners on the corners, Brandon Wood hit a sacrifice fly to centerfield, plating Allemand and cutting the Auburn lead to 9-2.
Auburn kept the offensive pressure up in the top of the seventh. With one out, Tella singled up the middle and stole second base with two outs. Wacker followed with an RBI single up the middle to stake the Tigers to a 10-2 advantage.
The Maroon and White responded with a run in the home half of the seventh. Mitchell Nau drew a six-pitch walk to start the inning and a single by Troy Stein put runners on the corners with no outs. Pinch-hitter Logan Taylor struck out looking, but Mikey Reynolds laced a single through the right side of the infield to drive in Nau and cut the margin to 10-3. A groundout by Bratsen and fly out by Allemand stopped the rally.
The Aggies mounted a late rally in the ninth, but it came up short. Troy Stein reached on an infield single and was replaced at first base by Logan Taylor who bounced into a fielder’s choice groundout. After Mikey Reynolds struck out for the second out of the inning, Bratsen flared a single into centerfield and Taylor moved to third on a passed ball to put runners at the corners. Allemand roped a single to rightfield to knock in Taylor and Lankford drove a single to centerfield to score Bratsen and cut the lead to 10-5. The contest ended with wood flying out to rightfield.
Long (3-1) was strapped with the loss for Texas A&M. He allowed four runs on five hits and two walks while striking out two over 2.1 innings. After Martin allowed five runs, including three earned, over 1.1 innings, Corey Ray came on to coagulate the bleeding, holding Auburn to one run on three hits and one walk with one strikeout over 4.1 innings. Ty Schlottman worked a scoreless ninth for A&M allowing one hit, but inducing an inning ending double play.
O’Neal (6-2) earned the win for Auburn. He allowed three runs, two earned, on six hits and one walk while striking out one over 6.0 innings. Trey Cochran-Gill earned his second save of the season, yielding two runs on five hits while striking out two over 3.0 innings.
Lankford paced the A&M offense, going 3-for-5 with one double and one RBI. Allemande, Bratsen and Stein had two hits apiece.
Wacker and Cooper led the Auburn hit parade with three apiece. Wacker went 3-for-5 with one home run, two runs and two RBI. Cooper went 3-for-5 with one home run, two runs and two RBI. Tella was 2-for-5 with one walk, two stolen bases, two runs and one RBI. Burgreen went 2-for-4 with one walk, two runs, one stolen base and one RBI.
The Aggies will look to stave off the sweep on Sunday as the third game of the series at Blue Bell Park is slated for 1:05 pm.
TEXAS A&M QUOTES
Head Coach Rob Childress
On overcoming early struggles on the mound
“Well, it all starts on the mound. You’re only as good as the guy who has the ball in his hand when the game starts, and their guy was better than our guy was today. Grayson (Long) earned that opportunity to start last week, and had trouble commanding his fastball today. When he threw it over the plate, he made them pay. We were one move too late in the bullpen; I thought our third and fourth guy we went to today were outstanding. Corey Ray has been outstanding for the last two weeks, and we’ve got Ty (Schlottmann) out there. I thought he was sharp in the ninth. We hit a lot of balls hard. I felt like from an offensive standpoint, the last two days have been really great days. We don’t have two wins to show for it, but we’re doing some positive things from the baseball side of things. This sport is one that will rip your heart out, and it will test your resolve. We’re obviously being tested right now, but we’re going to brace it, get better, and come out tomorrow and try to find a way to get a win.”
On Kyle Martin’s struggles
“It’s all confidence to me right now. Obviously it’s some mechanical things. He’s not executing his pitches or commanding his fastball, and that’s the bottom line. He’s making mistakes over the plate and teams aren’t missing them, and we’ve got to get him right between the ears and right mechanically. We’re counting on him and need him, and we’re going to get him back.”
Sophomore first baseman Cole Lankford
On losing concentration after struggling on the mound
“Yeah, I guess you could say it is, but I think that is just an excuse. I don’t think that’s what happened. We made some errors, but that’s baseball, that’s what happens. We’re going to get some rest and come out and play our hardest with an intensity that we hope they can’t match tomorrow. “
On support from dugout
“The guys never lose faith. The guys in the dugout always have our back. This team is always together, it’s not split up. It’s not pitchers, it’s not guys in the dugout, it’s not offense; it’s all of us together and we’re one team. It’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint. Sometimes there’s a bump in the road, but it’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish.”
Sophomore pitcher Corey Ray
On defense backing up his pitching
“I was able to throw some strikes, and I had a great defense playing behind me today, and they were playing pretty well. I was trusting Coach Childress and his pitch call.”