TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Texas A&M baseball team held on for a 6-5 victory over Alabama to take a much-needed series in Southeastern Conference action Sunday at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
The 18th-ranked Aggies (34-18-1, 14-12-1) scored five runs in the first inning, but closer Kasey Kalich had to strike out two batters after a 48-minute delay for his 12th save, stranding a pair of runners to seal the victory.
Alabama (29-23, 7-20), which lost its sixth league series, pulled within a run on sophomore Tyler Gentry’s one-out double in the seventh off the center-field fence. Freshman T.J. Reeves, who opened the inning with a single, scored on the play. Freshman Drew Williamson walked after Gentry’s double. Kalich got ahead of freshman Tyler Ras 1-2 when the game was halted for rain. When play resumed, sophomore right-hander Kalich struck out Ras and senior Joe Breaux, giving the five Aggie pitchers a combined 11 strikeouts with four walks.
It was a just a great team win,” A&M coach Rob Childress said. “[Starting pitcher] Christian Roa got us off to a great start. But more important that, we started great offensively. We got five runs in the first [and] each time we went to the bullpen, we got a big stop.”
A&M, which had scored eight runs in its previous five games, had five of the first six batters reach against Alabama senior right-hander Sam Finnerty.
A&M junior Braden Shewmake hit the first pitch just short of the left-field fence that Reeves misplayed for a three-base error. Sophomore Bryce Blaum plated Shewmake with a single. Sophomore Zach DeLoach was hit by a pitch. Junior Cam Blake’s sacrifice bunt set up junior Mikey Hoehner’s two-run single, and sophomore Will Frizzell lined a two-run homer into the right-field stands.
“We’ve been struggling with the bats,” Hoehner said. “For us to get it going early right there [was big].”
Hoehner said even though the Aggies didn’t keep scoring in the middle innings, they were barreling up a lot of balls.
“I think that’s really good going into Arkansas [this weekend] and the [SEC] tournament,” Hoehner said. “If we keep that momentum going, it will be good for us.”
Alabama, which outhit A&M 13-8, battled back with a run in five different innings.
Gentry had an RBI single in the first to score junior Morgan McCullough who had a two-out triple. Alabama had two walks and two singles in the fourth against Roa, but A&M turned a double play and Alabama stranded two runners.
Gentry had another RBI single in the fifth, scoring Reeves, who had singled and stole second. That also chased Roa for freshman left-hander Chris Weber.
McCullough singled to start the seventh. Williamson greeted A&M freshman reliever Joseph Menefee with a single to center that DeLoach over ran, scoring McCullough with Williamson reaching third.
A&M shortstop Shewmake came up with the defensive gem of the game. With the infield playing in, Shewmake made a diving stop of a grounder of the middle, bouncing up and throwing out the batter as the runner held third.
“Obviously, a really tough loss today after a terrible, terrible first inning, but once we woke up, the kids competed really well,” Alabama coach Brad Bohannon said. “The kids battled back. I’ve said this a few times — they do a good job of just going out and playing. We are down by five, and they just kept playing. The bullpen was outstanding, and I think Finnerty did a really good job of bouncing back after the first. We’re making progress, but we still have to play better, and we still have to execute better.”
Weber (1-0) got the victory with one inning of work, allowing two hits.
Finnerty (6-7) bounced back to not allow a run in his last four innings. He struck out three with no walks.
A&M added what proved to a much-needed insurance run in the eighth inning against sophomore left-hander Brock Guffey. Hoehner walked with one out and moved to second on a groundout, scoring on freshman Ty Coleman, a play that held up under review.
Blaum, Hoehner and Coleman each had two hits for A&M. Gentry and Williamson each had three hits for Alabama, while Reeves, McCullough and junior Kolby Robinson each had two.