A&M claims series win against Texas despite 9th-inning collapses
Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 22:07
The ninth-ranked Aggies came within three outs of securing the series sweep after taking the first two games against the No. 20 Longhorns, but A&M dropped Sunday’s contest in Austin when its old foes made a ninth-inning run.
Junior pitcher Michael Wacha stole the spotlight in Friday night’s home game, tossing nine strikeouts to go along with eight shutout innings in the 6-5 Aggie win.
“The story of the night was Michael Wacha,” A&M head coach Rob Childress said. “He was absolutely phenomenal.”
The All-American improved to 6-0 on the season but his hard work nearly turned out to be for naught. In the top of the ninth, the Longhorns lit up freshman reliever Jason Freeman for four consecutive runs. Junior Kyle Martin came in to clean up the mess and notched the final two outs and the win.
“You knew they were going to make a run at some time. They’re too good of a team not to,” Childress said. “It just so happened they did it in the ninth inning. I’m proud of our composure … We need to continue to win every game we can. We’ll have our hands full tomorrow.”
The teams headed to the Capitol for Saturday and Sunday’s games. Senior All-American Ross Stripling took the mound for the maroon and white and threw eight solid innings bolstered by the strength of his teammates’ 14-hit offensive outburst, pitching his team to a 12-4 victory and ensuring the series victory.
“I’m just really proud of the way we played,” Childress said after the game Saturday. “Ross was fantastic, we played very good defense behind him. We took advantage of some defensive mistakes and we got some big hits.”
Stripling threw 122 pitches and found his way out of jams time and time again, and senior second baseman Scott Arthur continued to bloom while hitting in the second hole, going 3-for-6 at the plate with two runs and two RBIs. The away team took advantage of five errors by the Horns, who registered three errors in Friday night’s game, as well.
“I can’t explain accurately what’s going on with each individual, but it’s certainly been contagious,” Texas coach Augie Garrido said. “Once something goes sideways, it’s started to snowball, and we can’t get it fixed.”
After leading for eight-and-a-half innings on Sunday, A&M botched the sweep opportunity by ceding two runs in the bottom of the ninth, losing 2-1. The ninth inning foibles wrested away the victory from sophomore pitcher Rafael Piñeda, who served up one of the best efforts by an Aggie pitcher this year.
“I’m really, really proud of him [Piñeda],” Childress said Sunday. “It’s as good of a performance as he’s had here to date. He did everything he could to give us a chance to win.”
Piñeda lasted 7 2/3 innings and didn’t let a Longhorn baserunner cross the plate, and freshman third baseman Blake Allemand manufactured the Aggies’ only run of the day when his 5th-inning single brought home sophomore left fielder Brandon Wood.
“It looked like a Friday night with the way the pitching went and a 1-0 game going into the ninth inning,” Childress said. “It was a well-pitched, well-played game and we had a couple opportunities to get the big hit and we didn’t. You’ve got to give Texas credit because they came and took it from us there in the ninth inning with our best reliever on the mound.”
To close out the game, Childress went with junior Kyle Martin, a side-armed hurler who allowed a run only twice in his last 10 appearances. But the Longhorns methodical attack of three infield singles plated two runs for the home team.
“It felt good to have confidence in my team and go on out there and shove it up their behinds,” Texas pitcher Corey Knebel said.
The Aggies travel to Huntsville for their next game, a 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night matchup against No. 24 Sam Houston State.