HOOVER, Alabama – The No. 2 Texas A&M Aggies gave up single runs in the eighth and ninth innings to let a 5-4 lead slip away, sending the No. 6 Vanderbilt Commodores to a 6-5 win Wednesday morning at the SEC Baseball Tournament at the Hoover Met.
Texas A&M (41-14) entered the contest 34-0 when leading after seven innings, but couldn’t make the lead stand on Wednesday.
Vanderbilt (43-15) tied the game in the eighth. Alonzo Jones hit a leadoff single off the glove of Aggie reliever Jace Vines and Julian Infante followed with a single up the middle. Texas A&M closer Mark Ecker tried to snuff out the rally, but he fell down when trying to field a bunt back to the mound by Will Toffey, loading the bases. Connor Kaiser sent a fly ball to deep rightfield, tying the game at 4-4 with the sacrifice fly.
The Commodores caught lightning in a bottle to take the lead in the ninth. Pinch-hitter Walker Grisanti, who had just 36 at-bats on the season, launched a 0-1 pitch from Ecker over the rightfield fence for his first home run of the season and the 6-5 lead. The dinger snapped Ecker’s streak of 32.1 innings without yielding an earned run.
Texas A&M got the leadoff man aboard in the bottom of the ninth when Jonathan Moroney worked a six-pitch walk, but Austin Homan struck out on his third attempt to get a sacrifice bunt down and Nick Choruby bounced into a game-ending 3-6-1 double play.
The Aggies pounced on the Commodores for three runs in the bottom of the second. With one out, Ryne Birk punched a 3-1 offering up the middle for a single. With two outs, Nick Banks stroked a single to leftfield and Moroney hit a gapper to left-center for a two-run double. Homan followed with a wall-banger to triple, knocking in Moroney for the 3-0 lead.
Vanderbilt took advantage of a costly Texas A&M error in the top of the third to tie the game at 3-3. Ethan Paul started the frame with a single up the middle. Andrew Vinson then sandwiched a pair of strikeouts around a walk to Bryan Reynolds. The Aggies appeared to be out of the frame with no damage, when Infante grounded to shortstop Homan, but his throw to second pulled Birk off the bag, loading the bases with two outs. The Commodores followed with a two-run single by Toffey and an RBI single by Kaiser.
With two outs in the top of the fifth, Infante drove a 1-2 pitch into the visitors bullpen in leftfield for a solo home run, giving Vanderbilt a 4-3 advantage.
The Aggies reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the sixth. With two outs, Michael Barash slapped a single to left-center and moved to third after a couple of wild pitches. Nick Banks slashed a double to left field to plate Barash for the tying run and Homan slipped a single through the right side to push Banks across for the go-ahead run.
Andrew Vinson made his 101st appearance on the mound for the Aggies, but just his third start. He worked 6.0 innings, allowing four runs, one earned, on seven hits and one walk while striking out three. Ecker (4-2) was saddled with the loss, allowing one run on two hits while striking out one in 2.0 innings.
Matt Ruppenthal earned the win in relief for Vanderbilt. He pitched 3.1 scoreless innings, scattering one hit and two walks while striking out three.
The bottom third of the Aggies’ order batted 6-for-10 with three runs and five RBI. The first six hitters went 3-for-25 with two runs. Banks, Moroney and Homan logged two hits apiece and they each had one extra-base hit.
The Commodores 5-6-7 hitters combined to go 7-for-11 with two runs and five RBI. The rest of the order batted 4-for-22. Toffey led Vanderbilt with three hits and two RBI.
Texas A&M returns to action Thursday as the play the loser of Wednesday’s Ole Miss-South Carolina game. The game is slated for 9:30 a.m.