KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Texas A&M Aggies used a four-run ninth inning to post an 8-4 win over the Tennessee Volunteers on Friday evening at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The victory clinched the series win for the Aggies.
With the score knotted at 4-4 and one out in the top of the ninth, Daniel Mengden drew a five-pitch walk and was replaced at first by pinch-runner JB Moss. Brandon Wood popped a bunt up to the pitcher for the second out of the inning. With the coals of a ninth-inning rally smoldering, Krey Bratsen threw kindling on the fire with a single through the right side of the infield to put runners on the corners. Jace Statum drew a walk to load the bases.
Reliever Trevor Bettencourt was called on to face Mikey Reynolds to put out the fire. Reynolds roped a ball to the hot corner and third baseman Taylor Smart made a diving stop to keep it from going down the leftfield line. Smart got up to his feet, but didn’t have a play at any base and Moss scored the go-ahead run on the infield hit. Blake Allemand followed with a single in the gap in left centerfield to drive in two runs for the 7-4 lead. Cole Lankford capped off the rally with a single through the left side of the infield to knock in Reynolds for the four-run lead.
The Volunteers were active early with two runs in the bottom of the first inning. Will Maddox singled down the leftfield line to start the frame. The Aggies appeared to have Maddox caught wandering off first base, but Lankford went to make the tag at first while Maddox continued on to second base for the steal. After AJ Simcox struck out looking, Scott Price reached on a four-pitch walk. Ethan Bennett struck out swinging for the second out of the inning, but the Volunteers pulled off the double steal to put two runners in scoring position and Christin Stewart bounced a single up the middle to drive in both runners for the 2-0 lead.
With one out in the top of the second, Troy Stein blasted a 1-0 offering off the leftfield foul pole for a solo home run, trimming the Vols’ edge to 2-1.
The Aggies knotted the game at 2-2 in the top of the third when Bratsen hit a gapper to left centerfield for a leadoff double and scored when Statum punched a double into right centerfield gap.
Tennessee (21-30, 7-20 SEC) reclaimed the lead in the third. Price hit a leadoff single to right field and Bennett drew a four-pitch walk to start the inning. A wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position and Stewart drove in Price with a sacrifice fly to rightfield for the 3-2 lead.
Texas A&M (30-24, 13-15 SEC) staked claim to its first lead of the game in the top of the eighth. Bratsen stroked a leadoff single to rightfield and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Statum. Reynolds hit a wall-banger to the gap in right centerfield for an RBI triple. Allemand drew a walk to put runners on the corners and Lankford punched a single through the right side of the infield to score Reynolds for the 4-3 lead.
The Volunteers did not go quietly into the night, mounting a rally in the eighth. With one out, Bennett reached on an infield single off reliever AJ Minter. A groundout by Stewart advanced Bennett to second with two outs. Aggie closer Jason Jester was called on to stop the rally. He got ahead of Smart with a 0-2 count, but Tennessee third baseman fouled off seven pitches before knocking a single through the left side of the infield. Leftfielder Brandon Wood made a perfect through home, but Stein was unable to hold onto the ball at home allowing Bennett to score, tying the game at 4-4.
After the Aggies’ four-run ninth, Tennessee loaded the bases, bringing Price to the plate as the tying run but Jester got him to ground out to first base to end the game.
Bratsen led the Aggies attack going 3-for-4 with two doubles and three runs. Reynolds went 2-for-5 with one triple, two runs and two RBI. Lankford went 2-for-5 with two RBI.
Eight different players accounted for the Volunteers eight hits. Stewart had three of Tennessee’s four RBI.
In his fourth career start, Parker Ray allowed three runs on five hits and four walks while striking out four over 6.2 innings. Jester (3-3), who suffered just his second blown save of the season, earned the win giving up two hits and one run over 1.1 innings.
Drake Owenby (2-1) was saddled with the loss giving up three runs on two hits and two walks while striking out one over 1.1 innings. Tennessee starter Nick Williams tallied a career-high with 10 strikeouts. He yielded four runs on five hits and two walks over 7.1 innings.
Texas A&M will go for its third SEC series sweep of the season on Saturday when they play the Volunteers at 12 pm Central.
TEXAS A&M QUOTES
Senior shortstop Mikey Reynolds
On his clutch RBI hits in the eighth and ninth innings: The big reason I was able to get those big hits was all the work that Krey (Bratsen) and Jace (Statum) did. They worked hard to get on base and move runners over.
On his triple in the eighth: I had just struck out the last two times up, so I just didn’t want to do that again, especially with Krey (Bratsen) in scoring position. I wanted to get a pitch to drive and put it in play.
On his go-ahead hit in the ninth: As a hitter you don’t want to be the one that makes the last out with bases load. I got a good pitch to hit. I thought it was going to be an extra-base hit, but you have to give their third baseman credit for making a great play to keep it from going into the corner.
Junior outfielder Krey Bratsen
On how big the win was: This was huge. It gives us a chance for the sweep. At this point we need to keep accumulating as many wins as possible to position ourselves for a regional.