COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The Texas A&M Aggies rode a madcap four-run eighth inning to score a come-from-behind win over the No. 16 Ole Miss Rebels, 9-6, in the regular-season finale on Saturday afternoon. The triumph staved off the series sweep on Senior Day at Blue Bell Park.
Trailing 6-5 in the bottom of the eighth, Krey Bratsen got the rally rolling with a five-pitch walk to lead off the frame. Ryne Birk then slapped a single into centerfield and both runners moved into scoring position when Auston Bousfield made his first error of the season. Bratsen was erased on a fielder’s choice grounder to short by Jace Statum, but Bratsen stayed in the rundown long enough for Statum to race to second. The Rebels were trying to intentionally walk Cole Lankford to load the bases, but ball four resulted into a wild pitch, allowing Birk to score the game-tying run.
With runners on the corners and one out in the bottom of the eighth of the 6-6 game, the wheels came off the wagon for Ole Miss on a potential inning ending double play hit to Austin Anderson at the hot corner. The third basemen’s throw to second sailed into rightfield, allowing Statum to score the go-ahead run and the Aggies found themselves with two runners in scoring position. Nick Banks was intentionally walked to load the bases, but Troy Stein drew an unintentional walk on five pitches to give A&M an 8-6 advantage. The cavalcade of runs was capped on Blake Allemand’s sacrifice fly to plate Nottebrok for the three-run cushion.
A.J. Minter, who came on to put down a rebellion in the eighth with a runner on first and no outs by inducing a pop out to third base and an inning-ending double play, found himself in hot water in the ninth. Nursing the 9-6 lead, he issued a base on balls to leadoff hitter Colby Bortles and Overbey followed with a double to the gap in left-center to put two runners in scoring position. After a visit to the mound from head coach Rob Childress, Minter got Robinson to hit a humpback liner to first base and enticed pinch-hitter Brantley Bell into swinging and missing at a 1-2 offering to get to two outs. The game ended with Bousfield grounding out to short.
The Rebels drew first blood in the top of the second inning. Will Allen bounced a slow roller to second base to start the frame. With one out, Allen moved to second on a grounder to second base by J.B. Woodman and he scored when Will Jamison rattled a triple in the corner down the rightfield line for the 1-0 lead.
Texas A&M (33-23, 14-16 SEC) offered up an immediate response in the home half of the second. Nick Banks started the inning by driving a ground-rule double to the left-center warning track and moved to third on a grounder to second by Troy Stein. Blake Allemand drew a four-pitch walk to put runners on the corners. After Patrick McLendon flew out to shallow right-center for the second out of the inning, Bratsen deposited a first-pitch offering down the leftfield line for an RBI single, scoring Banks with the equalizer.
The Aggies staked claim to a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third. With one out, Cole Lankford bounced a single up the middle and Logan Nottebrok singled to centerfield. A fielder’s choice grounder to first by Banks erased Nottebrok at second and put runners on the corners for Stein who singled to leftfield, knocking in Lankford.
Texas A&M continued to put a picket fence on the scoreboard with a run in the fourth. With one out, Bratsen reached on an error by Ole Miss’ shortstop Errol Robinson and Birk followed with a single to centerfield. A double steal put both runners in scoring position and Bratsen came home on a grounder to first base by Statum that resulted in an error when Rebels’ starting pitcher Sam Smith dropped the throw to first for the 3-1 advantage.
The Maroon and White inflated the cushion to 5-1 with two runs in the bottom of the fifth. With one out Stein and Allemand strung together back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners and drive Smith from the game. With Jeremy Massie in from the bullpen, McLendon put a bunt down the first base line to score Stein on the sacrifice. Bratsen followed with his second RBI double of the contest, roping a ball down the leftfield line to plate Allemand.
Ole Miss (40-16, 19-11 SEC) swung the momentum the other way with a four-run sixth inning to the game. Robinson drove a double down the leftfield line to start the game and moved to third on a bunt single by Braxton Lee. Bousfield drove in Robinson with a sacrifice fly and Anderson doubled down the rightfield line to knock in Lee, cutting the Aggie margin to 5-3. Allen popped up to second base for the second out of the inning and after Orvis was walked two put two runners on, Woodman knotted the game at 5-5, driving a ball over the head of Bratsen in centerfield for a triple. With a runner on third, Kent got out of the frame, inducing a grounder to short by Jamison.
The Rebels reclaimed the lead in the top of the seventh inning. With Kent still working for A&M Overbey started the inning by snaking a single through the left side of the infield off the glove of a diving shortstop Allemand in the hole. Overbey moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Robinson and moved to third on an infield single by Lee. Bousfield plated Overbey with a groundout to third base, put the lead back in the Rebels’ hands, 6-5.
After Ole Miss took the lead, Massie put sugar in the Aggies’ gas tank retiring six of the seven batters he faced in the sixth and seventh innings.
The starting pitchers did not factor into the final decision. Ray worked 5.2 innings for A&M, yielding five runs on six hits and two walks while striking out one. Smith pitched 4.1 innings for Ole Miss, allowing five runs, four earned, on nine hits and one walk while striking out four.
Minter (1-0) earned the win for the Aggies, working 2.0 scoreless innings of relief, scattering one hit and one walk while striking out one.
The loss was hung on Massie (4-3) who surrendered three runs, one earned, on two hits and three walks while striking out two over 3.0 innings.
All three of the Aggie seniors in the lineup logged RBI on the afternoon. Bratsen led the way, going 2-for-3 with one walk, one run, two doubles, one stolen base and two RBI. Stein went 2-for-4 with one walk and two RBI. Statum logged a hit and one RBI. Freshman Birk was 2-for-5 with one run and one stolen base. A&M benefitted from four Ole Miss’ errors and worked the pitchers for six walks to help eliminate the sting of 11 runners stranded on the base paths.
Ole Miss logged three doubles and two triples on the day. Lee, Allen and Overbey each had two hits to lead the Rebel forces.
The Aggies return to action on Tuesday with the start of play at the SEC Baseball Tournament in Hoover, Alabama. Texas A&M is the No. 10 seed and is slated to play No. 7 seed Arkansas in the second game of the day at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. The opening contest of the tournament starts at 9:30 am and the Aggie game would follow.
TEXAS A&M QUOTES
Head Coach Rob Childress
On the seniors winning the regular-season finale…
“That was the way it should go. We got a good start out of Parker (Ray). We probably left him out there a hitter or two too long, but he had only given up two hits before that inning started and was fantastic. All the position players had a great day and we found a way.”
On the win…
“You should celebrate every win in the Southeastern Conference. None of them are easy. There are no easy wins in this league. Every win that every team has gotten, all 14 teams, they are a challenge and there are no easy ones.”
On Krey Bratsen and the seniors…
“When you start talking about the seniors, they’ve given us 15 years. That’s a long time. That’s a decade and a half. All that they’ve given our program, and the athletic department, the university, and the community, they’ve represented them in a first class manner. Krey, I’ve said it before, he’s the best defender I’ve coached in 23 years. That’s saying a lot because we’ve had some really good outfielders at Texas A&M and even at Nebraska.”
Senior centerfielder Krey Bratsen
On his last game at Olsen…
“It’s special. Being from this town, always wanting to do your best in anything you can do. Having my family here, and I had a lot of my friends at this game too. Just being able to play well for the other seniors too. It’s a special feeling. I’m pretty sad with it being my last time, but it’s a great feeling overall being able to accomplish something you wanted to do all along and to be in front of everyone you wanted to be in front of.”
On his two doubles…
“I saw Jace Statum get his first hit, and I thought it’d be great if all the seniors got a hit today. But, it was special. The first one was just as special as the second one I got. Just being able to get a run on the board, and then get another knock for me being a senior, you want to get as many hits as you can on the last day. It was a great feeling.”
Sophomore relief pitcher A.J. Minter
On the win…
“It was a great overall day. Great overall day for Senior Day. I really appreciate the seniors and what they’ve done for us this year. They’re great leaders and just great teammates. I couldn’t have picked a better day to come out here and play with this group of guys.”
On the seniors hitting…
“All three seniors getting hits today, that speaks volumes of our seniors and what they do. Hats off to them, and I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys.”