OMAHA, Neb. — Texas A&M entered the College World Series with the third-best team ERA among teams in Omaha. Yet it was pitching that let the Aggies down Sunday afternoon.
Playing Louisville in their CWS opener, the Aggies fell behind early and never caught up, losing 8-4 to the Cardinals. In the loss, which puts Texas A&M on the verge of elimination, some of the Aggies’ most reliable arms struggled. Starter Corbin Martin allowed 5 runs and didn’t make it out of the second. Brigham Hill allowed 2 more (though 1 was unearned). Cason Sherrod couldn’t record an out but walked 2 batters.
It was a string of disappointments for three of A&M’s biggest arms — and three of the biggest reasons the Aggies entered the game with a 3.42 team ERA, tops in the SEC.
But the kicker is that all three of them actually hit strides early on in their outings.
Take Martin, for example. The junior right-hander opened up the game and promptly set down the top third of Louisville’s lineup in order — two groundouts and a flyout. Easy work. So easy, in fact, that Texas A&M coach Rob Childress couldn’t believe what came next.
“If after the first inning you’d have told me I was going to go get Martin the very next inning, I would’ve said you were out of your mind,” Childress said. “He was so good in the first. But I give Louisville credit.”
And the credit begins with a string of hits the Cardinals put together in that second frame … 4 singles in a row to open up the inning, to be specific. Childress said he noticed that Martin was having trouble locating pitches on his glove side, leaving his balls over the center of the plate and allowing Louisville to poke balls into the outfield.
Louisville pushed five runs across in the frame, all of which earned runs credited to Martin. Martin allowed five hits and walked another while only recording two outs. Childress eventually pulled Martin in favor of Hill, who quickly allowed an RBI single, but he forced Golden Spikes Award semifinalist Brendan McKay to ground out to end the long inning.Hill’s turn
After the RBI single that stuck Martin with his fifth run, Hill settled into the stuff that made him a fifth round pick one week ago. Hill walked the first two batters he faced in the third, but a caught stealing from catcher Cole Bedford revitalized Hill and the junior right-hander set down the next nine hitters he faced in a row with four strikeouts.
“He slowed them down a bit,” Childress said of Hill. “He gets out of a jam in the third, first and second nobody out. We were able to back pick a guy and now all of a sudden the momentum is coming back to us. The next inning he settled in pretty good. I’m proud of him for giving us a shot. But we almost had to be perfect the rest of the way to give us a chance.”
Perfect the Aggies were not.As for Sherrod…
Hill came back out to throw in the sixth, still on his streak of nine straight outs. But Louisville muscled him up, singling in back-to-back at-bats to chase Hill out of the game.
Childress opted for Sherrod to replace Hill, saying he needed a ground ball to force a double play and he felt Sherrod was the man to do it. And, after walking the first batter he faced to load the bases, Sherrod got the ground ball the Aggies needed.
Unluckily for A&M, there was no double play. In fact, everyone was safe.
Louisville’s Logan Taylor hit a sharp grounder up the middle. Because of Taylor’s speed, the double play wasn’t an option. But the Aggies still tried to turn two and the throw to second was offline, tagging second baseman Braden Shewmake with an error and allowing a run to cross home.
“We needed a ground ball to get off the field and keep the momentum in our dugout,” Childress said. “And he got it. We just didn’t turn it. We wouldn’t have turned it anyway. The kid who hit it can fly. We would’ve gotten one out but we didn’t get any outs.”
Sherrod walked the next batter he faced, scoring another, unearned run. That extended Louisville’s lead to 7-4, erasing the two-run rally the Aggies put up in the top half of the frame.
After that, Texas A&M never recovered. Now the Aggies are one loss away from College World Series elimination.
Texas A&M will return to action in the College World Series Tuesday afternoon versus either TCU or Florida. Stay posted to SEC Country all week for more updates from Omaha.
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