Game #52: No. 6 Texas A&M 12, Ole Miss 5
Records: Texas A&M (35-17, 19-11), Ole Miss (32-21, 14-16)
WP: Joseph Menefee (6-2)
LP: Drew McDaniel (5-3)
A fourth-inning eruption and four-inning disruption propelled No. 6 Texas A&M (35-17, 19-11) to a 12-5 Southeastern Conference baseball victory over No. 20 Ole Miss (32-21, 14-16) on Saturday afternoon in Oxford.
Dylan Rock cranked a three-run home run and Brett Minnich launched a grand slam in a seven-run fourth inning to quickly erase a 5-2 deficit.
Also, Joseph Menefee (6-2) pitched four innings of sterling relief to frustrate Ole Miss, which had defeated A&M 14-6 on Friday night.
With the comeback victory, A&M clinched first place in the SEC West Division and will also be the two-seed in next week’s SEC postseason tournament.
“Had to take one on the chin hard yesterday and just kind of wear it. For the most part that’s been kind of the formula all year. We’ve got to change that formula because you have to win more than two games in a weekend.”
– A&M head coach Jim Schlossnagle
“Just more of the same,” Texas A&M head coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “Had to take one on the chin hard yesterday and just kind of wear it. For the most part, that’s been kind of the formula all year. We’ve got to change that formula because you have to win more than two games in a weekend.”
A&M, which was a preseason pick to finish 13th in the SEC, had already clinched the two-seed by virtue of Alabama’s 18-5 victory over Arkansas early Saturday afternoon.
The Aggies held a tiebreaker over Arkansas (18-12) by taking two out of three in an earlier series. However, they made it clear they did not need — and perhaps did not want — any help from Alabama.
Overall, A&M belted four home runs, 13 hits, and drew six walks off five Ole Miss pitchers to win the weekend series. It was the Aggies’ seventh straight series win.
Jack Moss delivered a single to drive in Trevor Werner, who led off the game with a triple. The Aggies added another run on a Troy Claunch RBI in the second.
But solo home runs by Hayden Dunhurst and Jacob Gonzalez and a three-run shot by Peyton Chatagnier staked Ole Miss to a 5-2 lead after three innings.
It was a short-lived lead.
Ironically enough, A&M’s fourth inning power surge began with Kole Kaler’s one-out drag bunt. Werner followed with a double to put two runners in scoring position.
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco responded by relieving starting pitcher Derek Diamond, who had already thrown 68 pitches, with Drew McDaniel (5-3).
McDaniel struck out Moss, but then faced Rock, who’d drawn the derision of Ole Miss fans throughout the series. Rock blasted a 2-2 pitch over the wall in centerfield to forge a 5-5 tie.
Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Dylan Rock’s three-run blast kicked marked his team-leading 16th bomb of the season.
Obviously, in Rock’s shock, McDaniel gave up a single to Austin Bost and walked Ryan Targac and Claunch.
Minnich then hit a towering fly ball that sailed over the left-field fence for an 11-5 A&M lead.
“Dylan had a great at-bat,” Schlossnagle said. “A lot of times you shut the inning down with two outs. We got some more guys on bases and Brett got just enough of it. That’s probably not a homer in too many ballparks. But we played to the conditions and did well.”
Menefee made sure the Rebels would not mount a comeback.
He replaced starter Ryan Prager in the third with two on and a full count to Hayden Dunhurst. Menefee struck out Dunhurst, but then gave up Chatagnieri’s home run.
However, Menefee was brilliant afterward. He allowed just three hits, one walk, and struck out six.
Menefee eventually gave way to Jacob Palisch with one out and one on in the seventh. Palisch promptly induced Ole Miss power hitter Tim Elko to ground into a double play.
Palisch was replaced with two out and one on in the eighth by Robert Hogan. Hogan forced a Chatagnier groundout to end the inning.
“Super proud of our guys today … the guys who pitched today against such an awesome lineup,” Schlossnagle said. “The wind blowing out, every single swing feels like a threat to go out of the ballpark.
“I thought we made some real nice plays. Moo (Menefee) coming in on a 3-2 count to get a strikeout. Two big-double play balls were great.”
“Guys kept playing, kept believing, bought into a system, bought into a culture. Hope we’re not finished yet. We’ve got a lot more baseball to play.”
– A&M head coach Jim Schlossnagle
Fading hopes Ole Miss had for a dramatic comeback vanished in the top of the ninth. Ryan Targac hit a two-run home run and Jordan Thompson added a solo shot for the 12-5 lead.
Reliever Will Johnston came on and sat the Rebels down in order in the bottom of the ninth to close out the victory.
It also closed out a remarkable regular season resurgence.
A&M struggled early. The Aggies lost a February series to Penn and entered SEC play with a modest 10-6 record. They also had to overcome key injuries.
Their turnaround has been nothing short of amazing.
“Guys kept playing, kept believing, bought into a system, bought into a culture,” Schlossnagle said.
“Hope we’re not finished yet. We’ve got a lot more baseball to play.”