By JOEL COLEMAN
For Super Bulldog Weekend Saturday, Mississippi State showcased the second-largest on-campus crowd in college baseball history. Texas A&M simply continued to display its big sticks.
For the second-straight day, the Aggies scored in double digits as No. 3 Texas A&M topped No. 8 MSU 10-6 in front of 15,078 fans. The Aggies (28-7, 9-5) pounded out 17 hits including at least one hit each from every member of their starting lineup to send the Bulldogs (24-11-1, 8-6) to their first Southeastern Conference series loss of the season.
“This (Texas A&M) lineup is one of the most experienced in our league,” Mississippi State head coach John Cohen said. “I don’t know if there is a lineup in our league that doesn’t have any freshmen or any sophomores. Their entire lineup is made up of juniors and seniors.
“They just hit ground balls and line drives. When you start adding up every single ground ball, you’re going to have a chance for balls to fall in, even balls that aren’t hit very well.”
Boomer White, Hunter Melton and Joel Davis all had three hits apiece for A&M.
The Aggies got to Mississippi State starting pitcher Austin Sexton for nine hits and five runs over three innings to tag Sexton with the loss.
A&M starter Jace Vines earned the win.
All the runs off of Sexton came in the third inning. After Mississippi State had taken a 2-0 lead in the first inning on a two-run homer by Reid Humphreys, A&M bounced back with a five-spot in the third. Davis had the big blow in the inning with a two-run triple to right-center field. To add injury to insult, Sexton sustained a pulled hamstring in the frame. On a ground ball to first, Sexton came up lame after rushing over to cover the bag.
“The third inning was a disaster for us,” Cohen said. “We didn’t deal with things very well. They hit a swinging bunt and get on. They hit a pop up in foul territory that we don’t get to and then we have an easy (first baseman to pitcher) feed except Sexton pulls his hamstring and can’t get to first base.”
Kale Breaux replaced Sexton in the fourth inning and immediately dug MSU into a deeper hole. Breaux faced just three batters, but sandwiched a walk between a pair of singles to set up a two-run inning for Texas A&M that put the Bulldogs down 7-2.
Daniel Brown relieved Breaux to get State out of the frame. Brown went on to shut down the Aggies offense over the next 4 2/3 innings to give the Bulldogs a chance at a comeback.
“It felt great to just come out and keep us in it and give our team a chance to win it,” Brown said. “You know our offense is going to come back around.”
MSU tried to make the most of the opportunity. In the bottom of the fourth, Gavin Collins led off with a walk and eventually came around to score on an RBI groundout from John Holland to cut State’s deficit to 7-3. The Bulldogs got even closer in the sixth inning when Collins led off the frame with a single ahead of walks to Cody Brown and Ryan Gridley.
Holland knocked in Collins with an RBI single and one batter later, Jake Mangum drove in two more runs with a hit of his own to make the score 7-6.
“Our kids kept fighting back and scratching and clawing,” Cohen said.
State wouldn’t get any closer. A&M put together a two-out rally in the eighth inning against Brown and Zac Houston to score three more times and all but ice the game.
Mississippi State will now send freshman left-hander Konnor Pilkington to the mound Sunday at 1:30 p.m. as the Bulldogs try and avoid the sweep.
Humphreys said the last two games haven’t hindered MSU’s confidence ahead of Sunday’s series finale.
“It won’t be any different,” Humphreys said of the team’s approach Sunday. “We’ve played well up to this point. There’s no reason to change what we’re doing. A couple things just haven’t gone our way.”