COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The Texas A&M Aggies capitalized on a strong pitching performance by junior Rafael Pineda to stave off a series sweep by the Auburn Tigers, winning Sunday’s finale 4-1 on Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park.
Pineda (3-2) scattered six hits and one walk over 7.2 innings, allowing one run while striking out three.
Jason Jester entered with runners on the corners and the potential tying run at-bat with two outs in the eighth and induced an inning-ending fly ball. He retired all three batters he faced in the ninth to earn his eighth save of the season.
Texas A&M (20-13, 6-6 SEC) pounced on the Tigers early with a run in the bottom of the first inning. Mikey Reynolds drove a single up the middle to start the inning and with the hit-and-run on, Krey Bratsen laced a single through the spot vacated by the shortstop covering second base to put runners on the corners. Blake Allemand plated Reynolds with a sacrifice fly to centerfield for the 1-0 lead. The rally was snuffed out when Cole Lankford grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Auburn (19-13, 3-9 SEC) evened the score at 1-1 in the top of the fourth inning. Jordan Ebert’s fading line drive eluded the glove of a diving Brandon Wood down the rightfield line for a leadoff triple. Cullen Wacker followed with a single up the middle for the equalizer.
The Aggies reclaimed the lead in the home half of the fourth. Allemand rattled a hit into the corner down the leftfield line for a leadoff double. After Lankford flied out to right centerfield and Wood struck out swinging, Jonathan Moroney hit a wall-banger to centerfield for an RBI triple, giving A&M a 2-1 advantage.
The Maroon and White tacked on insurance runs in both the sixth and seventh innings. In the sixth, Allemand singled up the middle, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored when Lankford drove a double to the gap in right centerfield. In the seventh, Mitchell Nau was hit by a pitch to start the inning. The mercurial JB Moss pinch-ran for Nau, stole second base, moved to third on a groundout by Troy Stein and scored on a passed ball for the 4-1 lead.
Will Kendall (0-3) was tagged with the loss, yielding two runs on five hits while striking out five over 5.0 innings.
Allemand paced the A&M offensive arsenal, going 2-for-2 with one walk, one sacrifice fly, one double and one RBI.
The Aggies return to action on Tuesday with a 6:35 pm contest against the Sam Houston State Bearkats on Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park.
TEXAS A&M QUOTES
Head Coach Rob Childress
On the starting pitching: “Our starting pitching was outstanding. Raffy (Rafael Pineda) got us into the eighth inning and was really good. The bullpen was good and we played great defense behind him. When those two things happen, you’re going to have a chance to win. We had two great starts this weekend before we had to hand it off to the bullpen. We very easily could have won the series. We found a way to win today and get us back to .500 in league play. We just have to continue to move forward.”
On the message to the team: “’Whatever it takes’ was the message today. We needed to find a way to win today. Our guys played really well. They all played at a high level in all facets of the game. This was a huge boost for us.”
Texas A&M Starting Pitcher Rafael Pineda
On the team performance: “It was a great game. We all grinded as a team. We needed to win. Coach told us the other day that our success was going to be determined by how we handled our failures. We didn’t split apart as a team. We all got after it today as a team and did our job.”
Texas A&M Third Basemen Blake Allemand
On the team performance: “We played pretty well the last couple of games. We just had a few innings get away from us that made the difference in the game. We had a lot of confidence coming in here today. We’ve been hitting the ball hard. We came out confident that we could get the job done today.”
On getting off to a fast start: “Getting off to a fast start really helped us. Raffy (Rafael Pineda) really pitched his butt off out there. We were able to get on the board early and then pad the lead late in the game to solidify it.”