STARKVILLE, Mississippi – No. 3 Texas A&M exploded for six runs in the top of the ninth to put the game out of reach and the Aggies claimed the series opener against the No. 8 Mississippi State Bulldogs, 10-3, Friday evening at Dudy Noble Field.
Nick Banks delivered the knockout blow with a grand slam in the ninth inning. He finished the night going 3-for-5 with two doubles, one home run, two runs and four RBI. Hunter Melton batted 3-for-5 with one home run, two runs and two RBI. Boomer White and Joel Davis added two hits apiece.
Brigham Hill (5-0) was crafty on the night, settling in after giving up a run in each of the first two innings. He finished the night with 6.2 innings, yielding two runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out eight.
Texas A&M (27-7, 8-5 SEC) roughed up Bulldogs’ ace Dakota Hudson (4-3) to the tune of four runs on 10 hits and one walk while striking out eight in 7.0 innings.
Jake Mangum led Mississippi State (24-10-1, 8-5 SEC) at the plate, going 3-for-5 with one run. Brent Rooker and Nathaniel Lowe added two hits apiece.
The Aggies pounced on the Bulldogs for a run in the top of the first. With one out, Banks rattled a double into the corner down the leftfield line and moved to third on a wild pitch. White followed by flaring a hit past the reach of the Mississippi State rightfielder down the line. White appeared to be in with a stand-up triple, but was deemed to have missed second base. Banks scored on the single to give A&M a 1-0 lead.
The Bulldogs responded with a run in the home half of the first. Mangum started the frame with a single and with one out, Lowe singled to rightfield to put runners on the corners. Gavin Collins punched a ball to centerfield, pushing Mangum across with the sacrifice fly.
Mississippi State claimed a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second. Cody Brown commenced the rally with a gapper to right-center for a single. J.B. Moss robbed Rooker of a two-run home run by going leaping over the wall to snag his rocket and John Holland struck out swinging to give the Bulldogs two outs. Mangum put runners on the corners, lacing a single through the right side of the infield and Brown came home to score on a wild pitch.
Texas A&M wrestled the lead back from the Bulldogs in the fourth. White started the frame by lacing a single through the right side of the infield and Melton followed with a titanic shot over the leftfield lounge for the 3-2 lead.
The Aggies tacked on another run in the fifth. Moss drew an eight-pitch walk to start the inning and Banks followed with a double down the leftfield line to put two runners in scoring position. White pushed Moss across with a sacrifice fly to give A&M a 4-2 cushion.
The Bulldogs made things precarious in the eighth. With one out, Reid Humphreys bounced a single up the middle. After Ryan Gridley took Humphreys place at first on a fielder’s choice grounder to third, Cody Brown was hit by an Andrew Vinson pitch. Ryan Hendrix came in to spell Vinson on the mound and was greeted by an RBI single by Rooker. Hendrix got Hunter Stovall to swing and miss at gas for strike three to get Texas A&M to the ninth inning with a 4-3 edge.
The Aggies’ ninth inning rally started with Joel Davis getting hit by a pitch. With Nick Choruby putting down a sacrifice bunt, Mississippi State made the ill-advised move of trying to for the putout at second, but the throw was late. Austin Homan followed with a bunt for a single to load the bases. Moss was hit by a pitch to push a run across, giving A&M a 5-3 advantage. The Bulldogs called on Vance Tatum to pitch to Banks with the bags still full of Ags and the junior outfielder unloaded on an 0-1 offering for an opposite field grand slam. The cavalcade of continued when Melton reached on a single, moved two bases on a wild pitch and scored on a Michael Barash sacrifice fly.
Mitchell Kilkenny closed out the game by retiring three of the four batters he faced in the bottom of the ninth.
The squads return to Dudy Noble Field with a 2 pm game on Saturday.
Head coach Rob Childress
On the win…
“I’m really proud of our guys. I thought we played hard all night long. We had a lot of heroes tonight. Brigham (Hill) wasn’t sharp early, but he settled in and had a great start. Each guy we went to after that made some big pitches to get us off the field. Our defense was solid and made some spectacular plays. That was a big play by J.B. (Moss) in leftfield to keep the momentum in our dugout. That might have been the turning point in the game. Every time Mississippi State scored we showed some toughness and were able to respond offensively. I can go on and on about the heroes tonight.”
On Nick Banks…
“Nick’s been grinding all year long. He’s been giving a great effort all year and hasn’t had a whole lot to show for it. But he had a special night tonight. A couple of big hits early and then the biggest hit of the night tonight in the ninth to put the game away.”
Sophomore pitcher Brigham Hill
On the game…
“It was a great defensive effort and our offense was relentless and finally broke it open there in the ninth. J.B. (Moss) picked me up in the second with that catch and (Austin) Homan and Boomer (White) were making great plays on the infield. It was just an incredible performance by both the team on offense and defense.”
On settling in after the second inning…
“My change-up was working the whole night, but I wasn’t getting ahead in the count until the third. After J.B. (Moss) made that play, I felt like I had to do my job.”
Junior outfielder Nick Banks
On his night…
“Coach Bolt and Coach Seely have really been working on me staying to my strong side and hitting the ball the other way. We’ve made some minor adjustments to help me get in that position and tonight it paid off. I got some pitches I can handle. In all those situations, I was just trying to get on base.”
On the big road win…
“That’s one thing Coach Childress has been talking about. Getting our business done on the road and making a statement. It was a nice win tonight, but we have three games to play, so we haven’t accomplished anything yet this weekend.”
Senior outfielder J.B. Moss
On his catch in leftfield to rob a two-run home run…
“I think I got lucky with it being a six-foot wall out there. It was all about timing the jump and hoping the ball wasn’t too far over the wall.”