The Texas A&M baseball team saw its conference championship and national seed hopes take a huge step backward this weekend, as they dropped two of three games to Oklahoma State.
A&M took Friday's contest 4-2, while OSU won the final two games 6-4 and 12-11, respectively. The 15th ranked Cowboys improved their record to 31-10 (10-5 in Big 12 play), while the 16th ranked Aggies fell to 32-10 (9-8).
In a weekend set loaded with perplexing plays, unpredictable umpiring, and better drama and acting than Hollywood Boulevard, the series ultimately fell to the team who took the last punch each night.
Friday night saw potential All-American candidate Kyle Nicholson spin another gem through 8 innings, allowing no runs and just four hits while striking out nine during that time. The Aggie offense struck early, as back-to-back-to-back two-out doubles by Blake Stouffer, Kyle Colligan, and Luke Anders netted a pair of runs in the first inning. Darby Brown would score on an error in the 2nd, and Anders would come home in the 6th on a safety squeeze by Parker Dalton.
Those four runs would hold up for the Aggie win, but not before some 9th inning Drama. Nicholson entered the 9th having thrown just 98 pitches, but needed 28 more just to secure the first out. When he left the game, OSU had tacked on two runs and still possessed runners on first and second. Newly installed closer Kyle Thebeau needed just five pitches to finish the Cowboys off and secure his fourth save.
That would be Thebeau's last hurrah for the weekend though, as he allowed two runs in the 9th inning of both Saturday and Sunday's games and found himself pegged with the loss in each one. Every run that Thebeau allowed on the weekend was scored on a two-strike pitch.
The Cowboys struck early on Aggie starter David Newmann on Saturday, earning two runs through two innings off a trio of hits and walks. Newmann was relieved in the third by Freshman Clayton Ehlert, making just his third career appearance. The freshman was outstanding, giving up no earned runs and two hits while striking out three in his first five innings. He would pitch to one batter in the 8th, Tyler Mach, who launched a homer over the LF scoreboard and end Ehlert's day. Kirkland Rivers would proceed to throw a perfect eighth before giving way to Thebeau in the 9th.
Sunday's contest was a four hour marathon that featured a little bit of everything, including the crowning of the newest certified Aggie killer.
Oklahoma State left fielder Ty Wright hit a quiet .500 in the first two games of the series, but left his mark on Aggie baseball lore in the final contest. After walking and scoring in the first inning, plus hitting an RBI single in the 2nd, Wright pulled one of the headiest and possibly least respectful plays in the history of Olsen Field.
With Brian Ruggiano running at first base for Brodie Greene, who had just left the game after being plunked in the cheek, Brandon Hicks unloaded a high fly ball to left field. The wind was blowing 15-20 mph at field level, leaving no question that it would play havoc on balls hit high in the air. Hicks ball appeared to be little more than a moderate fly out, but kept drifting toward the outfield wall. Ruggiano went more than 2/3 of the way to second base while watching the ball come down.
Wright jumped at the wall and landed on his rear, holding his glove up to signify that he had made the catch. Seeing this, Ruggiano turned and retreated for first base, passing Hicks along the way. However, it was shortly discovered that the ball had cleared the OF fence and Wright was working on his first Oscar instead of a web gem. The deception worked though, as technically Hicks passed Ruggiano on the basepaths, making the batter out. Ruggiano would trot around the bases to score to score on Hicks' 350 foot fence-clearing RBI single, but Hicks wouldn't join him on the scoreboard. Wright's taunts to the crowd on his way back to the dugout more than signaled his pleasure with his own play.
The game would continue to be back and forth, with neither side clearing gaining the edge until the 5th inning, when A&M would score four runs to earn their first lead since Friday night. The big shot came with two outs, as Ben Feltner drilled a two RBI triple to the right centerfield wall that hit the wall. Anders would add a solo HR in the 6th to extend A&M's lead to 11-8, a score that would hold up until the 8th inning.
The Cowboys put runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs, and Childress returned to Thebeau again. The sophomore righty would sandwich two strikeouts around a walk, and then gave up a blistering line-drive that went off Ruggiano's outstretched glove at third. Tw runners would score, cutting the lead to one. A&M failed to extend the lead in the bottom half, leaving the door open for 9th inning dramatics.
Thebeau made the cardinal mistake of walking the leadoff man, and had to pay for his mistake just two hitters later. Wright came to the plate and drilled a 1-2 offering well over the wall in deep CF, giving OSU a lead they would not relinquish while also supplying the Olsen faithful with another round of finger pointing and open vocabulary. Thebeau finished the inning off with no more substantial damage, but the Aggies could do nothing better in the bottom half than a Hicks flyout just a few steps short of the wall in straightaway CF.
The Aggies hit .357 and reached base at a .432 clip for the weekend, but stranded a small village (24 runners) on the basepaths. Feltner led the Aggies in hitting, going .667 with two triples, two runs scored, two stolen bases and four RBI. Stouffer threw in a .384 performance with a pair of runs and three RBI, and Greene hit .600 with an RBI and a pair of outfield assists.
A&M returns to action on Tuesday night against Stephen F. Austin. They will play Baylor this coming weekend in a must-win series. Friday night's game will be at the Baylor Ballpark, with the Saturday and Sunday games to be played at Olsen Field.
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