Aggies Edge Alabama, 4-3, to Open SEC Tournament
HOOVER, ALABAMA – An eighth-inning single by Nick Banks gave No. 6 Texas A&M its first lead of the game and leftfielder Logan Taylor preserved the lead by throwing a runner out at the plate in the ninth as the Aggies opened up their SEC Tournament action Wednesday morning with a 4-3 win over the Alabama Crimson Tide at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
Tied 3-3 in the eighth, the Aggies started a one-out rally. Mitchell Nau was hit by a pitch from Crimson Tide reliever Ray Castillo and Taylor threaded a single through the right side of the infield to put two aboard. Alabama went to the bullpen, summoning Thomas Burrows. Nick Banks offered a Burrows a rude greeting, bouncing his first pitch for an RBI single, plating Nau for the 4-3 margin. Burrows fanned the next two Aggies to send the game to the ninth.
Andrew Vinson came on to close in the ninth. He started the frame by getting Kyle Overstreet to pop up to short, but followed by issuing a five-pitch walk to Cody Henry. Daniel Cucjen pinch-ran for Henry at first and JC Wilhite followed with a single through the right side to put two runners on. The A&M lead appeared precarious as Will Haynie roped a 1-2 offering into leftfield for a single, but Taylor bypassed the cut-off man on a perfect throw home and Michael Barash received the ball in plenty of time to retire Cucjen at the plate for the second out of the inning. The situation did not get any less tense as Vinson hit Riley Colburn with a 2-0 offering to load the bases, but Chandler Avant flied out to shallow centerfield to end the game.
Ryan Hendrix (5-2) retired all six batters he faced, including two strikeouts, to pick up the win. Vinson tiptoed around two hits and a walk in the ninth to pick up his fourth save of the season.
Grayson Long put forth a strong effort on the mound but was left without a decision. He yielded three runs, two earned, on six hits and one walk while striking out 10 in 6.0 innings.
Alabama starter Jake Walters allowed three runs on four hits and three walks while striking out four over 5.1 innings. Castillo (3-1) was saddled with the loss. He allowed one run on one hit in 2.0 innings of work.
Alabama took advantage of an A&M error to draw first blood in the second inning. Hughston drew a leadoff walk looking at a full count pitch near the knees. Kyle Overstreet followed with a sharp grounder to second that Ryne Birk was unable to handle. The error gave the Tide two runners with no one on base. Cody Henry threaded a ball between the third base line and a diving Logan Nottebrok. Henry's double plated Hughston for the game's first run. Wilhite followed with a single to centerfield to plate Overstreet, staking the Crimson Tide to a 2-0 lead.
The Crimson Tide tacked on a run in the third. With two outs, Hughston singled to leftfield, stole second base and came home to score when Overstreet slapped a single to centerfield, increasing the Alabama advantage to 3-0.
After going 0-for-9 the first time through the order, the Aggies' engine started to rev in the third. Blake Allemand drew a two-out walk to start the rally. Birk laced a double down the rightfield line to plate Allemand with A&M's first run. Nau poked a single to rightfield and Birk hustled home, sliding under the tag at the plate to cut the lead to 3-2. Logan Taylor capped off the rally with a gapper to right-center, driving in Nau for the equalizer on his double.
Taylor paced the Aggie offense, going 2-for-4 with one double and one RBI.
Henry and Wilhite each logged two hits for Alabama.
The Aggies return to action on Thursday when they face No. 2 seed Vanderbilt or No. 7 seed Missouri in a 4:30 pm game at Hoover Met. The winner of the game earns a day off, advancing to a semifinal game on Saturday. The loser will face an elimination game on Friday.