The win handed the best-of-three weekend series to the Aggies, who bounced back after Friday night’s 5-3 loss in 11 innings to score a 5-4 victory on Saturday.
Texas A&M (17-8, 3-3 SEC) got the leadoff man aboard in the 11th inning when pinch-hitter Nick Banks bounced a single through the left side of the infield. Jace Statum pushed Banks to second with a sacrifice bunt. After Patrick McLendon struck out for the second out of the inning, Troy Stein drew a four-pitch walk, driving reliever Aaron Rhodes from the contest. Danny Young came in from the bullpen and served up three balls to Lankford before filling the count with a pair of strikes. Lankford fouled off the next two pitches before punching the eighth offering over the glove of a fully extended Florida first baseman, AJ Puk, for the walk-off single.
The Aggies jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. McLendon continued his hot stretch by leading off the frame with a double just past the glove of the diving Gators third basemen. A groundout to the right side by Lankford allowed McLendon to move to third before Mitchell Nau singled through the left side, giving A&M the early edge. Jonathan Moroney followed with a hit-by-pitch and Blake Allemand singled into left-center, but Nau was cut down at the plate trying to score from second.
Florida pushed across the equalizer in the top of the third. Josh Tobias drew a seven-pitch walk to lead off the frame and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Aggie starter Tyler Stubblefield struck out Richie Martin for the second out, but Casey Turgeon drove an 0-2 single into left to tie the game.
The Maroon and White retook the lead in the fourth. Allemand led off the frame with a single to right and Taylor sliced a double into the left field corner, plating Allemand from first. Krey Bratsen followed with a bunt single, but consecutive infield popups and a flyout to right would strand the runners at the corners.
The Gators responded in the following frame. Justin Shafer and Tobias each singled to open up the inning and advanced 90-feet on Buddy Reed’s sacrifice bunt. Shafer would eventually score on a groundout to third by Martin. Stubblefield would strand the runner at third by striking out Turgeon.
A&M would seize the lead again in the bottom of the inning. Lankford and Nau each singled to right and center, respectively, to open the frame. After a flyout to left and an infield popup, Taylor hit chalk down the right field line on his way to a double, scoring Lankford to grab the 3-2 edge and chasing Florida starter, Bobby Poyner, from the game. The Aggies would strand runners at second and third to end the inning.
Aggie closer Jason Jester came in to close out the game in the ninth, his third appearance of the weekend, but was unable to earn the save. Taylor Gushue singled though the left side of the infield to start the frame. Ryan Larson spelled Gushue at first as a pinch-runner and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by pinch-hitter Zack Powers. Braden Mattson laced a single through the right side of the infield to put runners on the corners. Shafer pushed the game-knotting run across with a perfectly placed bunt down the first base line for a single. Jason Lombardozzi drove Jester from the contest with a pinch-hit single to leftfield.
AJ Minter came in from the bullpen to face Buddy Reed with the swamp full of Gators and came out with all of his limbs as he got Reed swinging and Aggie catcher Troy Stein caught Mattson wandering off third base for the double play
Lankford went 3-for-6 with one run and one RBI to lead the Aggies who pounded out 15 hits. Taylor went 2-for-5 with two doubles and two RBI. Nau, Allemand and Bratsen each added two hits.
Stubblefield was solid in his first weekend start, yielding two runs on five hits and two walks while striking out three in 6.0 innings. Parker Ray came on in relief in the seventh and retired all six batters faced, including three strikeouts, before giving way to Jester. Minter (1-0) allowed two hits, but retired two runners on the basepaths as he only faced eight batters with three strikeouts in 2.2 innings to pick up the win.
The Aggies shed crocodile tears for Rhodes (2-1) who was strapped with the hard-luck loss in a heroic relief effort. He allowed one run on three hits and one walk while striking out six in 6.0 innings. Poyner allowed three runs on 11 hits and one strikeout in 4.2 innings in the start.
Texas A&M wraps up its five-game homestand on Tuesday when the Aggies welcome the Sam Houston State Bearkats to Blue Bell Park for a 6:35 pm contest. To learn more about the team, visit AggieAthletics.com and follow @Aggie_Baseball on Twitter.
TEXAS A&M QUOTES
Head Coach Rob Childress
“Every game that you play in the SEC is a war. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, they were all battles. Sullivan does such a great job, and he has a very talented team. I’m really proud of our bunch. After losing a heartbreaker on Friday, to show enough courage and toughness to come back and win the series says a lot about our group.”
On Lankford’s walk-off hit…
That left-hander has good stuff, and he stayed in the fight long enough. He finally put the good part of the bat on the ball, got the big hit and was the hero.
Sophomore Relief Pitcher AJ Minter
On the situation in the ninth…
“I was just controlling what I could control—being a part of the team, doing what I can do and throw strikes. It was a tough situation, but it came out to be a good thing.”
Junior First Baseman Cole Lankford
On the game…
“We needed that win more than anything. Pitching kept us in the game, everyone got big hits, everyone did their part and it was an awesome team win today.”