Texas A&M and Mississippi State finally got to play ball after Thursday’s game was postponed due to inclement weather, but the No. 14 Aggies had no answers at the plate, dropping the series opener to the No. 6 Bulldogs, 4-0.
For the game, the Aggies mustered just one hit -- a two-out double in the eighth inning by Ty Coleman -- and put only three runners on base after a fantastic collective effort from the State pitching staff, headed by starter Ethan Small.
“I don’t think we had many barrels tonight,” Coleman said. “I think we were just trying to get too big trying to break up the no-hitter, chasing runs instead of chasing hits.”
Small faced the minimum through 6.1 innings from the left side, dazzling A&M batters with an unorthodox windup, offering a small hesitation, and a powerful fastball mixed in with stunting offspeed pitches.
“His fastball has some life to it, especially when he throws it up in the zone,” shortstop Braden Shewmake said of Small. “You think it’s in one place, but it’s a little higher than that. He does a great job commanding his fastball, throws it to both sides of the plate. He doesn’t throw his off-speed much, but when he does throw it, they’re great pitches. He has those in his back pocket.”
In the seventh though, Small got into a little trouble losing his perfect-game bid after plunking Bryce Blaum on the left shoulder. After moving into a stretch, Small walked the next batter -- Zach DeLoach -- but escaped the inning unscathed, stranding runners on the corners.
That did it for Small (W, 6-1), who finished the game hit-less after tossing 7.0 scoreless innings, striking out eight on 108 pitches.
A&M’s batting order shakeup, featuring Braden Shewmake in the leadoff spot, didn’t live up to its momentus outburst from Tuesday’s 15-5 win over Sam Houston State. Shewmake went 0-for-4, but was robbed of a pair of potential hits on a web-gem catch at the centerfield wall by Jake Mangum and a bang-bang play at first on a grounder.
“I hit a couple of balls hard, but they made some great plays,” Shewmake said. “It is what it is. That’s baseball, and you can’t really control that.”
Despite the struggles at the plate, Childress said he will roll out the same order tomorrow.
“That lineup we had on Tuesday had 15 runs on 14 hits and that same lineup went out today against a really good arm and I would like to see that lineup that scored 15 runs on 14 hits be the one that shows up tomorrow,” Childress said.
A&M starting pitcher John Doxakis (L, 5-3) wasn’t crisp, but proved to be gritty, throwing 7.1 innings before being relieved in favor of right-hander Bryce Miller after loading the bases.
Miller was unable to shut things down though, as State’s Justin Foscue singled through the left side to bring home two runs, adding insurance to the Bulldogs’ lead in the eighth, 4-0.
State scratched the game’s first runs across in the top of the fourth, taking a 2-0 lead.
Rowdey Jordan sent a line-drive into centerfield to bring home Elijah MacNamee on a sacrifice out. On the next at-bat, Dustin Skelton squeaked a sharp grounder just inside the third-base line to bring home a runner from second. A&M was able to mitigate damage though after turning a double-play after a Bulldog baserunning error.
“They’re great hitters and on those pitches I didn’t throw it exactly where I wanted it to go, so I was kind of hitting on myself for that,” Doxakis said. “But that’s what good hitters do. If you don’t throw it exactly where you want it to, they’re going to make you pay.”
The series between the Aggies and Bulldogs will continue Saturday afternoon with a double-header at 2 p.m. both games will be 7 innings.
A&M went through this gauntlet last month at South Carolina, splitting the final two games against the Gamecocks. The Aggies know how important grabbing early momentum is when playing the condensed games.
“You’ve got to throw the first punch and throw them often,” Coleman said of playing a 7-inning double-header. “It’s not jabs, it’s haymakers cause the game’s cut by two innings so you’ve got to go out and score runs early and often.”