Ninth-inning Rally Comes Up Short for Aggie Baseball at Fullerton

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FULLERTON, Calif. – The Texas A&M Aggies mounted a late charge, but it came up short in a 7-6 loss to the No. 8 Cal State Fullerton Titans at Goodwin Field on Sunday afternoon.

The Maroon and White fell behind 6-0 early, but showed their lumber showed life in multiple rallies down the stretch. The Aggies lost despite registering a season-high 15 hits on the afternoon. Mitchell Nau led the hit parade, going 3-for-5 with one double, one run and three RBI. Cole Lankford went 3-for-5 with three RBI. Jace Statum batted 3-for-4 with two runs. Mikey Reynolds had a pair of hits to extend his consecutive game hit streak to 16 games.

Trailing 7-4 in the top of the ninth, Statum and Reynolds both singled up the middle off Fullerton closer Michael Lorenzen to start the inning. After JB Moss was caught looking at a full-count pitch for the first out of the inning, Blake Allemand drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases. Nau hit a laser back up the middle to plate a pair of runs and cut the lead to 7-6.

Jonathan Moroney flied out to rightfield for the second out of the ninth. Lankford swung at strike three, but a passed ball allowed him to reach first and load the bases. Troy Stein swung at a first-pitch offering and grounded out to third for the final out of the game.

In the first two innings of the game, the pitching staff was haunted by eight free passes offered to the Titans with seven walks and one hit batsmen as the Aggies fell into a hole they were unable to dig out from.

Fullerton (13-3) was gifted a pair of runs in the bottom of the first, scoring two runs without the ball being put in play. Richy Pedroza drew a five-pitch walk and Carlos Lopez was hit by a pitch to start the inning. Aggie starter Rafael Pineda threw two balls to Matt Chapman before being relieved on the mound, just nine pitches into his outing.

Grayson Long came in from the bullpen and sandwiched a pair of balls around a strike to load the bases. Long struck out Lorenzen looking for the first out of the inning. Anthony Hutting drew a five-pitch walk to drive in Pedroza for the 1-0 lead. Long fanned Greg Velazquez for out two, but walked Jared Deacon to plate another run. The frame ended when Chapman was picked off wandering off third base.

The Titans inflated the cushion to 5-0 in the bottom of the second. Austin Diemer bounced a single past the out-stretched glove of a diving Aggie second baseman Charlie Curl through the right side of the infield. Keegan Dale sacrificed Diemer to second with a bunt. Pedroza hit what looked like a routine ground ball down the first base line, but it ricocheted off the sack, over the head of Aggie first baseman Cole Lankford and into the A&M bullpen in foul territory for an RBI double. Lopez followed with a single to leftfield to drive in Lopez for the 4-0 lead. After a pair of walks loaded the bases, Hutting knocked in a run with a groundout to second base to cap the rally.

Fullerton added early insurance in the home half of the third. With one out, Dale hit a wall banger to centerfield for a triple and scored when Pedroza laced a double into the gap in right centerfield for the 6-0 advantage.

Texas A&M (10-7) chipped a run off the lead in the top of the fourth. Nau launched a ball to leftfield that hit the wall a few feet shy of a home run and ended up with a double. Lankford followed with a single through the left side of the infield to drive in Nau and cut the lead to 6-1.

The Aggies cut the lead to two runs in the top of the fifth inning. Statum deposited a single into right centerfield and Reynolds drew a walk to start the inning. Moss popped a bunt up down the third base line, but the Titans catcher was unable to come up with the diving catch and Moss ended up with a bases-loading single. After Allemand struck out swinging for the first out, Nau hit a single to leftfield to drive in Statum. Moroney flied out to the shortstop in centerfield for the second out of the frame, but Lankford followed with a two-run single to rightfield to cut the lead 6-4. Lorenzen saved at least one run and ended the inning when he dove with full extension to rob an extra-base hit from Stein for the third out.

Titans tacked on what would prove to be an important run in the bottom of the seventh inning. Greg Velasquez dropped a single down the leftfield line to start the inning. David Olmedo-Barrera pinch-ran for Velazquez at first base and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Deacon. Diemer flied out to rightfield for the second out of the inning, but Dale was issued a wlalk to keep the rally alive and Pedroza knocked a single through the left side of the infield to drive in Olmedo-Barrera for the 7-4 advantage.

Pedroza proved to be the biggest menace at the plate, going 3-for-4 with two runs, one double and three RBI as the Titans registered nine hits, eight walks and two hit batsmen.

Pineda (1-2) was saddled with the loss for the Aggies. He allowed two runs on two walks and one hit batsman.

Grahamm Wiest (2-1) picked up the win for Fullerton. He yielded four runs on nine hits and one walk while striking out seven over 5.0 innings.

The Aggies return to Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park on Tuesday to start a five-game homestand. A&M hosts Houston Baptist in a 6:35 pm contest.

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