For once, initial celebrations after a Texas A&M baseball win weren’t held on the left-field berm.
After A&M wrapped up a 10-7 victory over Lamar on Tuesday, several Aggie players made their way over to the first-base dugout to congratulate a familiar opponent — Lamar catcher Jorge Gutierrez.
“I was talking to him after the game, and I told him I had a feeling he was going to do something today against us,” A&M shortstop Braden Shewmake said.
In the top of the sixth, the former A&M utility man belted a home run to left field, trotting a recognizable path around the bases at Blue Bell Park.
“I don’t even remember,” Gutierrez said of his thoughts while rounding the bases. “I kind of just blacked out, but it was great. It took me back to a couple years ago.”
Gutierrez began his collegiate career in Aggieland, starting 22 games as a freshman. He quickly made his way into the hearts of Aggie faithful by launching two home runs over the right-field wall in his first game for A&M, a 19-2 rout of Bowling Green. He ended his lone season for A&M with a .214 average along with three doubles, a triple and four home runs.
While Gutierrez declined to talk about his departure from A&M to Alvin Junior College, d1baseball.com’s Kendall Rogers reported academic ineligibility as the reason. He signed with Lamar in April 2018 after hitting .295 with 11 home runs at the junior college level.
“Long story short, it was just a journey,” he said. “It was a long journey, and I ended up here, but I don’t regret it for a second. And I’m glad that I am [at Lamar], but it was fun coming back and playing here.”
With Gutierrez back in the park, the Aggies (22-5) wielded bats like those of the 2017 season, plating 10 runs on 13 hits, including a four-RBI night from catcher Hunter Coleman.
Coleman saw his average dip as low as .156 before the weekend series at Kentucky but is riding a high after posting a pair of two-hit performances against the Wildcats.
“I think that is going to help with the confidence,” Coleman said. “I don’t think anyone on the team has ever lost any confidence in me, but that felt good to get things rolling in the right direction, especially after Kentucky, where we all played pretty good there.”
The junior drove a double off the right-center wall in the fourth, bringing first baseman Aaron Walters to the plate as part of a two-run inning. A bases-loaded triple in the sixth plated three more and added needed insurance to the Aggies’ lead. Coleman came around himself on a groundout to first by center fielder Zach DeLoach.
After A&M registered a run in the first on a Shewmake sacrifice fly, DeLoach made the most of his midweek playing time by driving a solo home run into the visitor’s bullpen in right. It was his first start since March 16 and his first starting nod in center since March 8.
“It’s all about execution and giving the opportunities for all of us; we have to make the most of it, each and every one of us,” DeLoach said. “I think we did a good job of that tonight.”
Shewmake moved his team-high RBI total to 30 with three on Tuesday. Along with the first-inning sac fly, he plated second baseman Bryce Blaum in the fifth with a pop-out to center. In the eighth, he extended his team-high hit streak to nine games with an RBI single.
“Finally feeling like myself from the fall,” Shewmake said.
Six Aggie pitchers allowed four earned runs, beginning with starter Dustin Saenz (1-0). In his first start since March 5, the sophomore worked 2 1/3 innings, allowing a run on five hits with one strikeout. Freshman Brandon Birdsell picked up his first win of the season in 1 2/3 scoreless innings of relief.
An RBI single by right fielder Avery George was Lamar’s (9-15) lone run of the game until Gutierrez, who entered the game with a .119 batting average, drove the 3-1 pitch from reliever Chandler Joziwak out of the park, scoring two in the top of the sixth. It was his first home run as a Cardinal.
“It was just a fastball,” Gutierrez said. “I’ve been struggling for a little bit in the year, and I finally got a chance to get a good swing on the ball and hit it out.”
Aggie closer Kasey Kalich labored in the ninth, allowing four runs, though just one earned, on four hits while walking one. Eventually, he struck out the side to end the game.
“It is what it is,” Aggie head coach Rob Childress said. “More often than not, when you run your closer out there in a non-save satiation, that’s what you get. He hasn’t thrown since Friday, and it’s good to get it out of the way on a Tuesday.”
Once the final out was thrown, it was on to hugs, handshakes and familiar chants of “Hip, Hip! Jorge!” from Olsen Section 203.
“I feel like I’m at my second home,” Gutierrez said. “First place I went when I went away from home, so it was just fun coming back and having a good time here.”
NOTES — With a 2-for-3 night, A&M’s Mikey Hoehner has reached base in a team-high 17 straight games, and he extended his hit streak to eight games. … Lamar shortstop JC Correa, who went 1-for-5 Tuesday, is the younger brother of Houston Astros’ shortstop Carlos Correa.