HOOVER, Alabama – The No. 2 Texas A&M Aggies scored seven runs in the final two innings, including a go-ahead, three-run, pinch-hit home run by Walker Pennington, to erase an 8-5 deficit in Saturday afternoon’s SEC Baseball Tournament semifinal game at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. The late surge gave Texas A&M a 12-8 win over the No. 10 Ole Miss Rebels sending the Aggies to their first SEC Tournament championship game.
Down 8-5 with one out in the eighth inning, SEC Player of the Year Boomer White started the charge with a double to leftfield driving effective reliever Dallas Woolfolk from the game as Ole Miss called on closer Wyatt Short. The southpaw issued a four-pitch walk to Ryne Birk and Michael Barash followed with an RBI single to cut the lead to two runs. A passed ball moved two runners into scoring position and Jonathan Moroney followed by bouncing a single up the middle to plate Birk and close the gap to 8-7.
The Aggies then called on Pennington, a right-handed batter, to pinch-hit for lefty Joel Davis. Pennington looked at a fastball low and away on the first offering and then sent the second pitch towards the leftfield foul pole. It stayed fair for the three-run home run, his fourth dinger of the year, staking the Maroon and White to a 10-8 advantage.
Texas A&M (44-14) called on Mark Ecker in the eighth and giving up a leadoff single to Nick Fortes, he induced three fly outs to send the game to the ninth.
The Maroon and White added two more runs in the ninth. J.B. Moss was hit by a pitch to start the inning and Nick Banks followed with a double over the head of leftfielder Kyle Watson to drive in a run. Banks moved to third on a groundout by White and scored on a sacrifice fly by Barash.
Ole Miss (43-17) got two runners aboard with two outs in the ninth, but Ecker got J.B. Woodman to line out to first base to nail down his sixth save of the season.
The Aggies pounded out 12 hits and drew nine walks on the day. Austin Homan went 3-for-5 with one run and one RBI. Barash was 2-for-3 with one double, one run and three RBI. White batted 1-for-3 with three walks, three runs, one double, one stolen base and one RBI.
The late comeback rained on a banner day for Ole Miss’ Errol Robinson. He batted 4-for-6 with four RBI. Watson batted 2-for-3 out of the No. 9 hole, logging two runs, one walk, one HBP and two RBI. The Rebels pounded out 17 hits, all singles.
Texas A&M mounted a two-out rally to post two runs in the top of the first inning. With two down, White and Birk were issued bases on balls. Barash worked the count to 2-2 before dropping a double down the rightfield line, scoring White for the 1-0 lead. Birk came in to score an unearned run when first baseman Will Golsan’s glove came off with the ball in it after receiving a throw from Robinson on Moroney’s grounder to short.
Ole Miss cut the lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the second. With one out, Ryan Olenek punched a single to right-center. After Holt Perdzock swung and missed at strike three for the second out of the inning, Kyle Watson dropped a single into centerfield to put runners on the corners. Robinson bounced a single up the middle to plate Olenek.
The Aggies stretched the margin back out to two runs in the top of the third. With one out, White drew a four-pitch walk, moved to second on a single by Birk, advanced to third on walk by Barash and scored on a fielding error by third baseman Colby Bortles on a grounder by Davis. The White run pushed Texas A&M’s lead to 3-1.
The Rebels wrestled the lead from the Aggies with a five-run third inning. Tate Blackman started the inning with a single, driving Texas A&M starter Jace Vines from the game. Reliever Stephen Kolek got a groundout and a strikeout, but then issued a walk to Bortles and four consecutive singles to Olenek (RBI), Perdzock, Watson (2 RBI) and Robinson (RBI). The sequence also included a double steal as Watson swiped second and Perdzock stole home. Mitchell Kilkenny entered the game to put out the fire, striking out Golsan, but not before Ole Miss laid claim to a 6-3 advantage.
Texas A&M trimmed run off the Ole Miss advantage in the top of the fourth. Leading off the frame, Homan hit a ball of the pitchers mitt and shortstop Robinson made a bare-handed pick and throw to first, but it pulled Golsan off the bag for a single. Moss followed with a single up the middle to put two runners on. A Banks fly out to the warning track in centerfield moved both runners in to scoring position and after White drew his third walk of the game, Birk plated Homan with a sacrifice fly to cut the lead to 6-4.
The Aggies shaved another run off the deficit in the top of the fifth. Moroney drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a balk. After a pair of fly outs, Homan poked a single to rightfield to knock in Moroney.
Robinson continued to menace the Aggies knocking in runs in the bottom of the fifth and seventh innings as Ole Miss opened up an 8-5 cushion and appeared to coasting to the victory.
Corbin Marin (2-1) was credited with the win in relief, working 0.2 innings. Kilkenny was Texas A&M’s most productive pitcher leading up to Ecker. He entered the game in the third inning and worked 3.1 innings, allowing one run on three hits and two walks while striking out four.
Short (2-2) was saddled with the loss for Ole Miss. He allowed six runs on four hits, one walk and two hit batsmen while striking out two in 0.2 innings of work. His blown save took the victory out of the hands of Woolfolk who was effective in 3.1 innings of relief, allowing one run on four hits and one walk.
Texas A&M plays the winner of Saturday evening’s game between Florida and LSU. The championship game is slated for 2 pm Sunday on ESPN2.