COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Cole Lankford delivered the endgame in the ninth inning, allowing the Texas A&M Aggies to capitalize on a complete-game effort by Daniel Mengden in a 3-2 win over the No. 5 LSU Tigers on Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park on Saturday.
The victory came on the heels of a 10-inning, 5-4 win by LSU in the series opener Friday evening. Texas A&M improved to 29-19 on the year and 11-12 in SEC play. The Tigers dropped to 35-12-1 overall and 13-9-1 in SEC action.
Knotted at 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Krey Bratsen put the steaks on the grill, driving a 0-1 offering over the glove of a leaping LSU second baseman and into right-center for a leadoff single. Blake Allemand worked a seven-pitch walk from Tiger reliever Kurt McCune. After falling behind 0-2 in the count, Patrick McLendon slapped a single into rightfield to load the bases.
LSU made a defensive change, bringing Kramer Robertson as a fifth infielder as McCune was set to face Lankford with bags full of Ags. Lankford got ahead of the count 3-1 and poked the fifth pitch into centerfield where it landed comfortably safe between the two remaining Tiger outfielders, knocking in Bratsen with the walk-off single.
Mengden hit a bump in the road in the fourth, allowing two sun-aided runs in the frame, but cruised down the stretch, retiring 15 of the 16 batters he faced in the last five innings, including the last 14. Mengden (4-6) tossed his first complete-game of the season, allowing two runs on five hits and one walk while striking out five.
After Mengden fanned a pair to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the top half of the first inning, the Aggies drew first blood in the home half of the inning. Allemand poked a single into centerfield to start the frame, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by McLendon and scored when Cole Lankford snaked a single through the right side of the infield to stake A&M to a 1-0 lead.
The Aggies took advantage of a Bermuda triangle double in shallow right centerfield by Nick Banks in the top of the second. The A&M freshman blooped a ball into no-man’s land and rightfielder Mark Laird was unable to make a leaping stab on the ball after centerfielder Andrew Stevenson and second baseman Conner Hale abandoned their efforts. Banks moved to third on a wild pitch and scored when Ryne Birk stroked a first-pitch offering into shallow right-center for the 2-0 advantage.
LSU benefitted from the elements to even the score in the fourth. With one out, Kade Scivicque hit a ball to the warning track in left-center for a double. Conner Hale followed by lofting a lazy fly ball down the rightfield line. Aggie rightfielder Banks lost the ball off the bat and made no move to pursue. The only thing preventing the inside-the-park-home run was the hustle of first baseman Lankford who tracked the ball down and kept Hale to the RBI triple. Hale scored the equalizer on a wild pitch, tying the game at 2-2.
A double play would end the frame for LSU and the Tigers would get just one man on base the remainder of the game.
The Aggies pounded out 11 hits and were issued seven walks. Lankford went 3-for-4 with one walk and two RBI. The game-winning hit marked the third walk-off of the season for Lankford who hit an 11th-inning RBI double in A&M’s 8-7 win vs Columbia and delivered an RBI single in the 11th inning of the finale against Florida to clinch the series.
Texas A&M left multiple runners on base in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings before winning the game in the ninth. Entering the ninth inning, the Aggies were foiled by nine runners left on base and three double plays.
Jared Poche’ was left with no-decision despite the solid start for LSU. He allowed two runs on seven hits and five walks while striking out three over 7.0 innings. He did not allow a run in his last five innings. The loss was hung on McCune (2-2) who yielded one run on four hits and two walks over 1.0 innings.
Laird and Hale each had two hits, accounting for four of the Tigers’ five hits.
The Aggies and Tigers return to action for the rubber match on Sunday with a 1:05 pm game slated for national television on ESPNU.
TEXAS A&M QUOTES
Head Coach Rob Childress
On not bunting in the ninth...
“We wanted to let Cole have that at-bat. (Patrick) McLendon stayed in there and flipped the ball over the first baseman’s head to keep the inning going and give Cole (Lankford) the chance to be the hero. I couldn’t be more proud of the guys staying in the fight. We give up two runs and let them come back and tie it. We didn’t crumble or crack. (Daniel) Mengden was fabulous today. I thought he competed his tail off. Got out of the first and third no out jam in the first. A leadoff double doesn’t score, and then he settled in. He was fantastic after that.”
On building momentum from last night...
“That’s what we talked about before the game today. It would have been easy for us to go home with a 4-0 loss last night and say, ‘Hey, just tip your hat to (Aaron) Nola. He’s one of the best in the country.’ But, we left with something. We didn’t leave with a win, but we left with some momentum. Got into their bullpen, made a run at them, and if not for the number one play on SportsCenter we might be 2-0. But, we’re not, and I was proud of our guys.”
On Cole Lankford’s play today...
“He’s just winner, and I’m glad he’s on our team. He’s a great kid. He’s a great baseball player, and a special human being.”
On evening the series...
“I felt like we were going to get a break at some point with (Daniel) Mengden throwing the way he was and keeping us in the fight. We haven’t dug deep into our bullpen. We’ve had a couple of pretty good starts. We’ll do whatever we have to do to find a way to win tomorrow.”
Junior pitcher Daniel Mengden
On the overall performance...
"I got in a little bit of a jam in the first couple innings. I left a couple pitches up, but I got out of it. I knew our guys were going to come through with the win."
On the two-run fourth inning by LSU...
"I was a little bugged about it. Mother Nature and the sun will get you some times. They tied it up after that. That's how the game goes sometimes. Some things go your way and others don't. We kept our composure and got out of the inning. We kept putting up zeroes. We almost scored a couple runs down the stretch, but we pushed them across in the end."
On Cole Lankford...
"With nobody out and the bases loaded, we all knew the game was over with Cole at the plate."
Junior first baseman Cole Lankford
On the game-winning hit...
"He threw me a fastball. I got a good pitch to hit. I was set up by my teammates earlier in the inning."
On Daniel Mengden...
"Daniel was awesome. He pitched great. That's what we expect out of him every time he's out there. He had an awesome performance."