By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
OKLAHOMA CITY – In two of its three victories in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship, Texas A&M did it the hard way.
The second-seeded Aggies (41-18) advanced to Sunday's championship game (1 p.m., FSN) with a 9-8 victory in 11 innings, defeating a tough-minded Kansas State team. Texas A&M, which overcame a 5-0 deficit to win its opener over Texas Tech, overcame 5-0 and 8-4 deficits to eliminate the sixth-seeded Wildcats (36-23).
Texas A&M, the defending champions in this event, will face Missouri for the title. The Tigers became the first eighth seed to reach the championship game by defeating Texas 2-1. Earlier in the day, the Longhorns forced an elimination game by defeating Mizzou, 6-1.
In addition to Saturday's comeback victory, the Aggies are facing more adversity. No. 1 starter John Stilson will miss the rest of the season because of a torn labrum in his pitching shoulder.
"My disappointment is not for my team," Childress told the San Antonio Express-News. "It's for John. He's given us everything he's had from the day he stepped on campus at Texas A&M, and for him to not be a part of the most fun time of the year breaks my heart."
Kansas State scored five runs in the fourth against Aggies starter Ross Stripling. The inning started with a blast - Kent Urban's homer to right - and continued with bunts and bloops.
The Aggies responded with three runs in the home half of the fourth and added another run in the fifth to make it 5-4. The Wildcats pushed their lead to 8-4 going into the bottom of the eighth.
Texas A&M scraped and scrapped its way to four runs to tie the game. A dropped throw on a force out at second allowed the tying run to score.
"I'm really proud of our team. Guys didn't quit, kept chipping away," Childress said. "Kansas State had a very good run in the tournament. They're well-coached, and they're hot right now and playing well. I expect them to be in a (NCAA) Regional next week. They gave us everything we could handle both two days ago and again today."
Matt Juengel led off the 11th with a line drive double off the top of the wall in left. With the bases loaded and one out, Kevin Gonzalez hit a chopper to the left side. The Wildcats were in on the grass but third baseman Jason King and shortstop Tanner Witt had no play as the winning run scored.
"I came up to bat and took a couple of pitches because it was a new pitcher (Jake Doller, the Wildcats' seventh hurler)," Gonzalez said. "Next thing you know, he threw one in the strike zone. I hit it in the ground. It hopped up, and we were able to score."
Kansas State beat Oklahoma twice in one-run games and lost 4-1 to Texas A&M, the game that sent it to the loser's bracket. The Wildcats needed to beat the Aggies twice to reach the championship game.
"We were on the other side of it today," Kansas State coach Brad Hill said. "We felt pretty good going into the eighth. It's a matter of what you hope you do is continue to throw strikes and make them beat you swinging the bat. Unfortunately, we quit throwing strikes and kind of helped them out."