OKLAHOMA CITY – Overcoming adversity is a constant and common theme in sports. Texas A&M demonstrated Wednesday that it grasps the concept.
The Aggies had their No. 1 starter scratched from his mound assignment minutes before Game Three of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship. Then the regular-season co-champions and No. 2 seed let No. 7 seed Texas Tech bolt to a 5-0 lead thanks to several Aggie miscues.
But Texas A&M (39-18) responded with two crooked number innings, scoring 10 unanswered runs to post a 10-5 victory over the Red Raiders (33-24). The defending champion of this event advances to Thursday’s winners bracket game against No. 6 seed Kansas State, a 5-4 winner over third-seeded Oklahoma in Wednesday's final game. The Sooners will face Texas Tech in an elimination game at 12:30 p.m. Thursday.
"We always tell our guys it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish," Texas A&M coach Rob Childress said. "We didn’t play very well for five innings. We didn’t quit. We didn’t waver. We got things going offensively. Out of the 10 runs we scored, seven were with two outs."
In the top of the fifth, the Red Raiders manufactured three runs to take a 5-0 lead. However, Texas Tech pitcher Brennan Stewart was unable to execute the shut down inning as the Aggies broke the seal and struck for three runs in the home half of the fifth.
Foreshadowing what was to come, Texas A&M scored three with two outs. An error by Texas Tech third baseman Reid Redman was a contributing factor to the rally, which was fueled by Jacob House’s run-scoring single and an RBI double by Adam Smith.
"We didn't take care of a couple ground balls, which cost us pitches, which cost us runs," Texas Tech coach Dan Spencer said. "We had a hard time making a pitch after that and getting off the field. Basically, it was self-inflicted wounds, and A&M is a good enough club that we don't need to give them extra outs."
In the sixth, after tying the game at 5-all on Krey Bratsen’s run-scoring single, the Aggies scored four more runs after two outs. House gave Texas A&M the lead with a single up the middle to score Bratsen. Kevin Gonzalez had a two-run double and Brandon Wood drove home Gonzalez with a double to complete the six-run frame.
House, who went to the plate five times, tied a Big 12 Championship record with five hits. Texas A&M had 18 hits with 15 of those coming over the last five frames.
"I’m glad I could help out," said House, who scored twice and had two RBI. "I don’t remember the last time I got five hits. I kind of joked with coach Childress that if it’s going right, it’s going right. It worked out, and it was a good win for us."
John Stilson was scheduled to start for the Aggies but didn’t feel right warming up in the bullpen. Emergency starter Derrick Hadley worked three innings and four relievers – particularly Steve Martin – were outstanding.
"He’s a little bit sore shoulder-wise," Childress said. "He wasn’t 100 percent. That’s the reason we decided to make a move. Hopefully, he’ll be ready later this week. If not, he’ll definitely be ready next week at our regional. He could not pitch tomorrow as of right now."