FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas -- No. 2 Texas A&M pushed three runs across in the 11th inning to even the series against the Arkansas Razorbacks with an 11-8 win in the nightcap of Saturday's twin bill at Baum Stadium.
With one out in the top of the 11th, Boomer White reached on an error when Arkansas' first baseman Cullen Gassaway was unable to hold on to the throw from third base. Hunter Melton followed and worked the count full off Razorback reliever Blaine Knight before blasting a two-run dinger into the leftfield stands to give A&M a 10-8 lead. The Aggies tagged on another run with Josh Alberius on to pitch. Ryne Birk gapped a double to left-center, moved to third with an error on a pick-off attempt and scored when Michael Barash bounced a single through the left side of a drawn-in infield.
Turner Larkins worked the bottom of the 11th for the Aggies, sandwiching a pair of strikeouts around a fly out for his first career save.
Mark Ecker (4-1) was stellar in relief to earn the win. He allowed one unearned run on three hits while striking out eight in 4.1 innings. Mitchell Kilkenny also had a solid relief outing, allowing one run on five hits and three walks while striking out five in 3.1 innings.
Texas A&M (34-9, 13-7 SEC) drew first blood in the top of the first inning. J.B. Moss worked a six-pitch walk and Nick Choruby followed with a single to left-center and stolen base to put two runners in scoring position. White was issued a base on balls to fill the bags with Ags. After Melton was caught looking at strike three for the first out of the inning, Ryne Birk pushed a run across with a four-pitch walk. Barash followed with a sacrifice fly to give the Maroon and White a 2-0 lead.
The Aggies immediately gave up the momentum, surrendering five runs to the Razorbacks in the home half of the first. Clark Eagan singled up the middle, Carson Shaddy drew an eight-pitch walk and Luke Bonfield hit a three-run home run to leftfield, staking Arkansas to a 3-2 lead. Austin Catron reignited the rally with a gapper to left-center for a double and Michael Bernal drew walk. After Rick Nomura grounded out for the first out of the inning, Chad Spanberger and Tucker Pennell added RBI singles to balloon the Razorbacks' lead to 5-2.
Texas A&M shaved a run off the lead in the top of the fourth. Michael Barash hit a leadoff double, moved to third on a groundout to first base by Banks and scored on a groundout to third by Jonathan Moroney, clipping the margin to 5-3.
Arkansas (26-17, 7-13 SEC) offered an immediate response in the home half of the fourth. With one out, Bonfield singled through the right side. Catron singled to rightfield, but was gunned down trying to stretch it into a triple. With Bonfield on third, Bernal singled to rightfield, padding the lead to 6-3.
Momentum moseyed over to the Aggie dugout in the top of the fifth. With two outs in the frame, Melton singled up the middle, Birk singled to leftfield and Barash drew a six-pitch walk to load the bases. Banks worked the count to 3-1 before belting a grand slam to the right of the scoreboard in rightfield to give A&M a 7-6 lead. It marked his sixth home run of the season and second SEC road grand slam of the year.
The Maroon and White struck again in the sixth with Choruby punching a leadoff single to leftfield and White hitting a wall-banter to right-center for an RBI double, giving A&M an 8-6 advantage. A couple of baserunning snafus prevent A&M for adding more in the frame.
Arkansas used a two-out rally to shave a run off the lead in the home half of the sixth. After Catron bounced into a double play, Bernal drew a walk and Nomura singled to leftfield. Ecker came on to relieve Cason Sherrod and allowed an RBI bloop single to Spanberger before striking out Pennell to end the frame with the Aggies clinging to an 8-7 lead.
Ecker cruised through the seventh and ninth innings and appeared headed to his third save of the season, before the Aggies had a hiccup in the ninth. Nomura singles through the right side of the infield, but was able to rumble into scoring position when Banks misplayed the ball in rightfield. It looked as though the crisis was adverted when Ecker got Spanberger and pinch-hitter Gassaway to swing-and-miss at strike threes, bringing .077 hitter Alex Gosser to the plate as a pinch-hitter. The left-hander fell behind 0-1 before fisting a ball up the middle for a game-tying single.
Texas A&M starter Jace Vines (6-2) allowed five runs on five hits and two walks in 0.1 innings of work.
Birk went 4-for-5 with two runs and one RBI. Choruby was 3-for-5 with two runs and one stolen base. Melton and Barash each added two hits, two runs and two RBI.
Nomura led Arkansas at the plate with three hits and a walk. Bonfield went 2-for-5 with one walk, one home run, two runs and three RBI. One game after washing the bus with five strikeouts, Spanberger went 2-for-5 with two RBI.
Arkansas starter Zac Johnson allowed seven runs on six hits and four walks while striking out six in 4.2 innings. Knight (2-1) was saddled with the loss, allowing two runs, one earned, on two hits while striking out one in 1.1 innings.
The rubber match of the series is Sunday at 1 pm. Central. It's slated to air on ESPNU.