Mixed Emotions

The Aggies started the weekend 2-0 for the first time this year in Big 12 play and were just three outs away from the sweep. But a ninth inning collapse has the Aggies' post season hopes of hosting still up in the air.

The Texas A&M baseball team took two steps forward and one step back this weekend, but you sure couldn't tell it from the departing crowd on Sunday afternoon.

The Aggies took the first two games of the series to clinch their first victory in hardball's version of the Battle of the Brazos since 2003, but inexplicably blew a three run 9th inning lead on Sunday with the sweep in sight. A&M took game one in Waco, 12-7, and followed that with a 5-3 victory on Saturday at Olsen Field. Sunday saw the Aggies score six runs in the seventh and another two in the eighth, to take a 12-9 lead, only to allow seven runs in the top of the ninth to hand the game away.

The weekend result improved A&M to 35-11 overall and 11-9 in Big 12 play, currently good enough for a comfortable 4th place standing in the conference and just .005 percent behind 3rd place Oklahoma State.

Though the series win helped elevate the Aggies to a safer place in the conference standings and will ultimately improve the team's RPI for the selection committee, this was a series that should have been swept. Despite the series win, any positive momentum and good vibes from the series were totally blown in the last 20 minutes of the weekend.

Kyle Nicholson took to the hill on Friday night, and was his typical outstanding self. The senior threw seven innings, scattering seven hits while striking out a career high ten batters. Two earned runs would cross the plate off of him, both scored in the bottom of the 6th.

By the time the top of the seventh had ended, A&M had put the game away. A pair of two run homers by Blake Stouffer in the third and fifth and a fourth inning solo shot by Luke Anders helped the Aggies to a 6-0 lead. After Baylor scored their pair in the sixth, and A&M hit into two quick outs in the seventh, the floodgates flew open. The Aggies would get base hits from their next six hitters, capped off by Parker Dalton's three run homer. Baylor tacked on five runs, mostly off a struggling Jason Meyer, but was never really back in the contest.

Saturday's game featured another box-score gem from Aggie starter David Newmann. The junior lefty allowed just five hits in 7.1 innings of work, and struck out seven to earn his seventh victory of the year. That nice looking stat line was based more on grit than stuff, as Newmann fell behind 2-0 to the majority of the hitters he faced and was digging his way out of trouble more often than not. He allowed just three runs, all earned and all scored on a third inning homerun by his roommate at San Jacinto JC. Kyle Thebeau threw a perfect 1.2 innings of relief to earn his 5th save of the season.

A&M would play long ball as well in game two, as Dalton and Craig Stinson each hit solo home runs. Stouffer hit a two-run single in the second, and got caught in a run-down just long enough for Ben Feltner to score from third.

Game three would be the one full of action, drama, elation and finally dismay.

Baylor scored a pair of runs in the first inning off a two-run homer; a round-tripper made possible by a defensive miscommunication between Stinson and Dane Carter that let the third out fall harmlessly between them. A&M wasted no time getting those runs back, as Stouffer hit his third two-run HR of the weekend over the wall in straightaway centerfield, taking the outfielder's glove with him.

A&M hit for two more runs in the second on a beautifully executed double squeeze by Dalton. The play worked so well that Kyle Colligan was around third before the throw to first ever happened, and jogged lightly into home before realizing his confidence was slightly too high and sliding in just before the Baylor tag.

The Bears would then tack on single runs in the third and fourth before exploding in the sixth. With a leadoff error and a parade of hits to come, Baylor would throw five runs up on the board to take a seemingly comfortable 9-4 lead. Three A&M pitchers would throw in the inning before the rally was extinguished.

The two teams traded easy innings before A&M made their big play in the bottom of the seventh. Four hits, an error and two walks later, the Aggies had tied the game up at nine. Feltner delivered an RBI single early in the inning, while Stinson and Ruggiano each hit two-run singles in clutch situations. Dalton then hit a tough groundball to third base and the throw to first would be well late. Daman Aaron would be sent home from second on the confusion, and score the go-ahead run. The Aggies would tack on solo homers from Feltner and Stinson in the eighth before all hell broke loose.

Thebeau began the inning looking for his second straight save, but was soon looking for help. He gave a up a hard line-drive to first base that should have been caught by Stouffer, but the ball flew off his glove into right field. Flustered, Thebeau walked the next hitter and was pulled from the game before more damage could set in.

That damage was just two pitches away, however, as Meyer quickly gave up a deep three-run homer to Ben Booker. A single and strikeout would follow, before Beamer Weems doubled to left field to score the go-ahead (and ultimately the game-winning) run. Baylor threw three more runs on the board against two more Aggie pitchers before their run at the table came to an end. A&M put a small rally together in the bottom of the ninth, but failed to score.

The offensive weekend stat-line was as impressive as any in recent memory. A&M batted .360 on the weekend, hitting nine home runs and reaching base on 43% of their plate appearances. Saturday's nine hits stopped A&M's consecutive double digit hit streak at eight games. The Aggies have had at least ten hits in 22 of their last 26 games. The 27 runs scored in the weekend series is their second highest weekend total for the past three seasons (Kansas 2007). The nine homers ties the school's Big 12 record for round-trippers in a Big 12 series (Nebraska, 1999).



NOTES
Many individuals stood out at the plate for A&M this weekend. Dalton hit .538-2-6 (AVG-HR-RBI) with five runs scored, with Stouffer hot on his heels at .500-2-8 and three runs scored. Stinson also hit .500 with a pair of homers and 4 RBI, trailed closely by Brian Ruggiano (.444-0-3, 2 runs) and Feltner (.428-1-2, 4 Runs).

Stouffer's eight RBI move him to 61 on the season, the second highest total since 1999 (Cory Patton's 67 in 2004). Both Stouffer and Dalton moved into the A&M record books for single season RBI in conference play, as Stouffer sits in fifth overall with 28 and Dalton in tenth with 25. Feltner has now moved into the full season top 10 with 27 stolen bases, good enough for seventh all-time. He needs 15 more steals this year to pass Jason Tyner's record of 41 from 1996.

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