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Photo by CJ Smith, TexAgs
Texas A&M Baseball

Offense rolls as A&M captures must-win rubber match in Starkville, 15-10

May 20, 2023
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Press conference video courtesy of Texas A&M Athletics

Game #55: Texas A&M 15, Mississippi State 10
Records: Texas A&M (32-23, 14-16), Mississippi State (27-26, 9-21)
WP: Brad Rudis (5-0)
LP: Jurrangelo Cijntje (3-5)
Box Score


It's not a beauty contest.

On a must-win Saturday afternoon, Texas A&M took the rubber match from Mississippi State in a 15-10 ballgame that somehow never felt comfortable for the Aggies.

Reaching the 14-16 plateau in the Southeastern Conference, A&M enters Hoover as the No. 10 seed in the SEC Tournament. The Aggies now stand a much better chance of earning an at-large bid in an NCAA Regional.

“Considering the way things went Thursday night emotionally, to come back and have a ninth-inning win last night and then play in a really offensive ballpark with two teams really fighting and clawing is an impressive win,” A&M head coach Jim Schlossnagle said.

After last night's three-home run night from Jace LaViolette, the A&M offense utilized the longball four times in the finale.

Trevor Werner homered twice. Hunter Haas' third-inning two-run blast erased an early 1-0 deficit. The Aggies chased the ambidextrous Jurrangelo Cijntje with nobody out in the fourth.

“Considering the way things went Thursday night emotionally, to come back and have a ninth-inning win last night and then play in a really offensive ballpark with two teams really fighting and clawing is an impressive win.”
- A&M head coach Jim Schlossnagle

Yet, it was a hobbled Brett Minnich's fourth-inning grand slam that blew the game open... at the moment.

A seven-run fourth staked A&M to a 9-1 lead that appeared to be insurmountable, yet more than nine runs would be required.

Two days removed from serving up a walk-off homer, Will Johnston earned the start and was brilliant, striking out seven in 4.2 innings. The only run against Johnston was Slate Alford's solo shot in the second.

It was the longest outing of Johnston’s career and came when his club needed it most.

“If we can get our season extended a little bit, then all of a sudden, our starting pitching looks a little better,” Schlossnagle said.

So, while Johnston might not have needed much run support, A&M's bullpen certainly did.

A&M appeared destined for a run-rule victory following Werner's two-run bomb in the sixth, but the already-eliminated Bulldogs never rolled over.

“Got to give Mississippi State a lot of credit,” Schlossnagle said. “Up 11-1 to fight their way back in it, to get within four, I thought that was pretty impressive.”

The passionate home nine tagged Brandyn Garcia for five earned runs in the sixth. Garcia recorded just one out in a nightmarish relief appearance.

Mississippi State added two more in both the seventh and the eighth. Alford did much of the damage himself, finishing a triple shy of the cycle with four RBI.

Fortunately, A&M's offense never wavered, adding one in the seventh and three in the eighth to get out of Starkville with a five-run victory.

And it was Troy Wansing, in his first relief appearance of the year, that slammed the door shut, needing just 12 pitches to record four outs.

“I thought Wansing was obviously outstanding,” Schlossnagle said. “Maybe we found something there, I don’t know.”

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Hampered by a significant leg injury, Brett Minnich did his best Kirk Gibson impression with a fourth-inning grand slam. Minnich drove in five on Saturday.

Beyond the four homers, A&M's offense delivered a complete effort.

“Brett did an awesome job, and Trevor swung the bat really well,” Schlossnagle said.

Eight different Aggies had a hit, and the only man in the lineup without one — Jordan Thompson — was plunked thrice.

Jack Moss had four opposite-field knocks. In addition, Werner, LaViolette, Minnich and Max Kaufer each had multi-hit outings.

“I want to give Max Kaufer a lot of credit,” Schlossnagle said. “Catching all the time. He’s supposed to be a senior in high school.

“I’m just super impressed by the way Kaufer handled himself really the last three or four weeks.”

The bats did their part, and as a result, the Ags will travel to Hoover with some much-needed momentum.

While far from pageant material, Saturday's win gets A&M much closer to being in the field of 64 as opposed to landing outside the postseason picture.

“It’s better than the alternative. That’s for sure,” Schlossnagle said. “We’re fighting and clawing to give ourselves a chance to keep playing this upcoming week and hopefully beyond that.”

The Aggies will face No. 7 seed Tennessee — who swept A&M in March — on Tuesday afternoon.

Beautiful or not, a win in Hoover could — and should — solidify A&M's resume.

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Offense rolls as A&M captures must-win rubber match in Starkville, 15-10

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