COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The Texas A&M Aggies rallied to defeat the Columbia Lions, 8-7, in 11 innings Tuesday night on Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park.
Mitchell Nau’s three-run pinch-hit blast with two outs in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game helped A&M push the game into extra frames. Cole Lankford provided the walk-off double with one out in the 11th inning. The Aggies pushed across seven runs with two-outs and overcame a 5-1 deficit in the fifth inning to improve to 15-7 on the season.
Nick Banks paced the offense, going 4-for-5 with two runs scored and one RBI. For the second time in a week, the freshman came up a leg shy of the cycle, this time failing to log a long ball. Cole Lankford and Blake Allemand each added two hits.
A&M starter Tyler Stubblefield took a no-decision despite struggling out of the gate, yielding three runs, four hits and a walk in the top of the first. Jordan Serena led off the inning with a double to right-center on a ball that Banks lost in the sun and was driven in on a single by Aaron Silbar the following at-bat. Robb Paller singled through the left side before both runners advanced into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by Gus Craig. A two-out, bases-loaded single by Mike Fischer drove in a pair, staking Columbia to a 3-0 lead.
The Aggies timely two-out hitting narrowed the deficit in the bottom of the second. Banks singled up the middle before Logan Taylor stroked a double to deep right-center, scoring Banks from first. The rally was quickly quelled, however, on an infield popup by Jace Statum.
The Lions threatened in the top of the third, getting runners to second and third, but Matt Kent induced a groundout to second to stifle the rally.
Columbia would add a pair of runs in the top of the fourth on a two-run homer run down the rightfield line by Paller, pushing the score to 5-1.
Texas A&M managed another two-out rally in the bottom of the fifth. Statum singled to left before Columbia starter George Thanopoulos hit Patrick McLendon, his third hit batsmen of the night. With a 1-0 count, Allemand drove a single back through the infield to score Statum from second, narrowing the Lions lead 5-2. Lankford would ground out to second to end the Aggies rally.
The Maroon and White produced their third two-out rally of the night in the sixth. Troy Stein pushed a single through the right side. After a strikeout, Banks tagged a triple off the top of the wall in straightaway centerfield, scoring Stein from first and cutting the lead to two.
A&M would plate a run for the third-consecutive inning in the seventh. Statum drew a leadoff walk and McLendon singled through the left side, but Statum was picked off from second. With two outs, Lankford laced a double into the rightfield corner, scoring McLendon from second.
The Lions added an insurance run in the eighth on a leadoff walk by Fischer and a one out double to left by Will Savage off A&M reliever Andrew Vinson. With runners on first and second, the Lions hit and run attempt was successful on Ty Schlottmann as Paller placed a single past the third basemen covering the bag, allowing Serena to score on the play.
After back-to-back strikeouts to start the bottom of the eighth, Banks turned a single into a double on a ground ball through the left side before Taylor drew a six-pitch walk to bring the tying run to the plate. Called on as a pinch-hitter, Mitchell Nau tattooed a 3-1 pitch to the right of the scoreboard for a three-run homer to tie the game off Columbia reliever Thomas Crispi. The Aggies would put the go-ahead run in scoring position in the frame, but a flyout to center halted the surge.
Columbia’s Savage legged out an infield single with one out in the 10th, but a nifty pickoff move by Jason Jester followed by a lineout to the shortstop in shallow center ended the threat.
Jester pitched 2.0 innings, yielding only one hit and striking out three while Corey Ray (2-0) pitched a perfect 11th inning on his way to the victory.
Banks continued his hot-streak in the bottom of the tenth, legging out an infield single on a chopper to shortstop, but was later cut down trying to steal second to end the frame.
In the 11th, Allemand drove a one-out single back through the box before Lankford doubled on an 0-2 pitch to left-center, scoring Allemand from first and giving the Aggies the 8-7 comeback victory.
Stubblefield started the game for the Maroon and White before surrendering three runs on five hits and one walk over two innings. Matt Kent pitched 2.2 innings, allowing two runs on three hits and striking out a pair in relief. Jason Freeman went 1.1 perfect innings, striking out one before AJ Minter retired the side in order in the seventh.
Zack Tax (1-2) took the loss for Columbia, giving up three hits and one run over the final 2.1 innings. Paller led the Lions offense, going 3-for-6 with three RBI and two runs scored, including a home run.
Texas A&M will be back in action again this weekend when it welcomes SEC-foe Florida to College Station for the first time since the 2007 season. First pitch on Friday is slated for 6:35 p.m. To learn more about the baseball team, visit AggieAthletics.com and follow @Aggie_Baseball on Twitter.
Head Coach Rob Childress
On the win…
“I told our team I’m very proud of them. There have been a lot of moments that have made me proud this year, but this one is probably my proudest moment. For us to play a game like that, one that we were down early and came back to win was very important. It’s big for us to find a way to do that. We stayed positive. We chipped away in the sixth, seventh and eighth. We found a way. There were a lot of heroes tonight. I could talk about what we didn’t do, but I’m going to talk about what we did do. We showed a lot of courage tonight and I’m proud of our guys.”
On Tyler Stubblefield’s start…
“The way this game is played now, it’s all about who has the ball in their hand to start the game. We had a miscommunication in right field to start the game. I’d like to think Tyler’s good enough to get off the field without that happening. We made a mistake in the fourth inning and they grabbed the momentum back. It’s about individual battles throughout the course of the game. They won them early, but we won them when it mattered.”
On Mitchell Nau’s pinch-hit home run…
“We needed something big to happen. Mitchell came up and got us a big hit. Seven of our eight hits were with two outs. We showed a lot of toughness tonight on getting hits when it mattered with two outs.”
On the team’s performance…
“I don’t even know what to say about tonight. It was unreal. There were some major emotional swings tonight, but everyone did their part. I don’t know how many pitchers we used and how many guys we got in and out of the game was awesome. This was great to be a part of.”
On the offense scoring runs…
“We just got tired of it as an offensive staff. We didn’t have a good weekend at Auburn and the way the game started wasn’t good. We took it personally as a unit to put the game on our shoulders.”
On scoring the game winning run…
“I didn’t know Coach Sawyers gave me the stop sign until I got up from scoring. I put my head down and started chugging as soon as I got to second base. Luckily it worked out, otherwise it would’ve been a boneheaded play.”
On the win…
“It was a hard-fought game for us with the way it started. I’m proud of the guys for battling and grinding at the plate. The pitchers did a great job of continuing to put up zeroes. We were fortunate enough to come back and get the win.”