The No. 23 Texas A&M Aggies claimed the finale of the series against the Vanderbilt Commodores, grinding out a 6-4 win at Hawkins Field on Sunday afternoon.
The Aggies drew first blood in the top of the fourth inning. With one out, Braden Shewmake poked a single to leftfield and he stole second base with two outs. Joel Davis beat out a chopper to second base, putting runners on the corners with the single. George Janca followed by depositing a first pitch offering over the 375 sign in left center for a three-run dinger, his third home run of the season.
Vanderbilt (16-9, 3-3 SEC) responded with a run in the home half of the fourth. Stephen Scott reached first to start the frame when Aggie first baseman Davis muffed the throw from second baseman Shewmake on a grounder. Texas A&M starting pitcher Corbin Martin buckled down to retire the next two batters but loaded the bases with a walk for J.J. Bleday and an infield single for Connor Kaiser. Martin appeared to have Bleday picked off at second, but the throw didn’t connect with the fielder’s mitt and Scott scampered home to cut the Aggies’ advantage to 3-1.
The Maroon and White tacked on two runs in the top of the fifth. Hunter Coleman laced a single through the left side of the infield and he was replaced at first base on a fielder’s choice when Walker Pennington was unable to put down a sacrifice bunt. Singles by Nick Choruby and Austin Homan filled the bags with Ags and Shewmake followed with a single through the right side of the infield to plate two runs, staking Texas A&M to a 5-1 lead.
The Commodores shaved a run off the margin in the bottom of the sixth. Reliever Kaylor Chafin hit the first batter he faced, Will Toffey. Chafin bounced back with a fly out and a strikeout, but Jason Delay hit a wall-banger to left-center for an RBI double, closing the gap to 5-2.
Texas A&M (16-9, 1-5 SEC) stretched the lead back to four runs with a tally in the sixth. Janca threaded a leadoff double down the rightfield line and he moved to third on a groundout by Blake Kopetsky. Hunter Coleman whacked the first pitch he saw to centerfield, knocking Janca in with the sacrifice fly.
Vanderbilt mounted an eighth-inning rally to cut the Texas A&M lead to 6-4. Scott poked a single up the middle and Delay was hit by a pitch to start the frame. A groundout by Ethan Paul pushed both runners into scoring position. Bleday grounded out to second base to plate Scott and Delay came home to score on a single by Kaiser.
Martin was solid in the start but didn’t go deep enough in the game to get a decision. He allowed one unearned run on three hits and four walks while striking out eight in 4.0 innings.
Vanderbilt starter Collin Snider exited the game in the fourth inning after getting hit in the pitching arm with a Kopetsky line drive. Snider allowed three runs on six hits while striking out three in 3.2 innings.
Janca led the Aggies at the plate, going 2-for4 with one double, one home run and three RBI. Davis logged three hits. Shewmake batted 2-for-4 with one run and two RBI.
The Aggies return to action on Tuesday when they travel to San Marcos for a 6:00 p.m. contest at Texas State.
TEXAS A&M QUOTES
Head Coach Rob Childress
On the win…
“I’m really proud of the toughness our guys showed after losing a heartbreaker on Friday and losing big yesterday. They had the courage to stand tall and plant their feet and push back. Corbin (Martin) didn’t get us superdeep in the game, but he kept them off the scoreboard and Kaylor Chafin was marvelous and Mitchell Kilkenny got it done for his first save. It wasn’t easy. It was a hard-fought win. A win we needed in the worst way.”
On George Janca’s offense and defense…
“George has really gotten going with the bat the last couple weeks. Those were some big hits he got to get us going. But the two plays he made on defense were just as important. When you’re going the way we are those last three outs can be hard to get and he made great plays to get two of them.”
Third baseman George Janca
On his home run…
“It was set up by Joel Davis. He had an incredible at-bat. It wasn’t pretty, but he grinded out a hit. I got a pitch I could handle and luckily I got a pretty good swing on it.”
On stacking up more runs in the next few innings…
“Any time you can get ahead and keep stretching the lead it’s important. You may not realize it at the time, but those runs can be big-time. They came back, so you can see how important they ended up being.”
On his defensive plays…
“I was just trying to get us out of here with a win. Mitchell (Kilkenny) made great pitches and when the pitcher makes great pitches it’s our job on defense to do whatever we can to get the out.”