A&M pounds out 17 hits to win SEC opener at Auburn
AUBURN, Alabama -- Outfielders Nick Choruby and J.B. Moss led an Aggie offense that rolled up 17 hits, including five doubles as No. 3 Texas A&M claimed their SEC opener against the Auburn Tigers, 12-8, Saturday afternoon at Plainsman Park.
Choruby batted 4-for-5 with four runs, three stolen bases and two RBI. Moss hit 3-for-6 with two doubles, two runs and four RBI. Nick Banks, Joel Davis and George Janca added two hits apiece.
In a see-saw affair, Texas A&M (17-1) finally took the Tigers by the scruff of the neck with a four-run ninth inning. Tied 8-8, Hunter Melton drew a five-pitch walk and Nick Banks reached on a bunt single. Michael Barash followed with a sacrifice bunt, but the throw to first base by pitcher Marc Frazier sailed how, allowing pinch-runner Jonathan Moroney to score the go-ahead run. With runners on second and third, Frazier uncorked a wild pitch allowing Banks to score. Choruby's fourth single of the game plated Barash for the three-run lead. After Choruby stole second and third, Janca knocked a single to centerfield to cap off the cavalcade of runs, inflating the cushion to 12-8.
On for his third inning of work in the bottom of the ninth, Mark Ecker retired all three batters he faced to close out the game.
The Aggies drew first blood in the top of the first inning. Moss started the inning by punching a full-count offering into leftfield for a single. With one out, Moss stole second base and moved to third on a chopping grounder to short by Boomer White. Hunter Melton bounced a single up the middle to plate Moss for a 1-0 lead. For Melton, it marked the 11th consecutive game with an RBI.
Texas A&M mounted a two-out rally to add a run in the second. After a flyout and groundout to start the frame, Choruby placed a perfect bunt down the first base line for a single and stole second base on the first pitch throw to Janca. Two pitches later, Janca laced a single to the gap in right-center to plate Choruby for the 2-0 advantage.
The mercurial Joshua Palacios manufactured a run for Auburn (9-9) in the third. He pounded a one-out triple into the deep gap in left-center and scored when A&M starter Jace Vines uncorked a wild pitch, cutting the Aggie margin to 2-1.
The Maroon and White created some separation with a three-run fourth inning. With one out, Texas A&M strung together three consecutive hits to fill the bags with Ags, including singles by Barash, Davis and Choruby. After Janca was caught looking at strike three for the second out of the inning, Moss rattled a double into the corner down the leftfield line to clear the bases and stake A&M to a 5-1 lead.
Auburn claimed their first lead of the game with a five-run fourth inning. The Tigers benefitted from a free pass, an untimely Aggie error and base hits by a pair of sub-.200 hitters. With one out, Jackson Burgreen drew a five-pitch walk. Daniel Robert (.180) slapped a single into leftfield to give the Aggies a pair of runners. Cody Nulph appeared to bounce into an inning ending double play, but the toss by second baseman Ryne Birk was errant to load the bases for Auburn. Kyler Deese (.158) threaded a single through the right side to cut the A&M lead to 5-2 and bring the top of the order up. Singles by Anfernee Grier and Palacios trimmed the Aggie advantage to 5-4. Jordan Ebert capped the rally with a two-run single to center to give the Tigers the upper hand, 6-5.
Texas A&M wrestled the lead back in the top of the sixth. Davis started the frame by gapping a double to left-center, moving to third when the centerfielder misplayed the ball at the wall. Choruby knocked in Davis with an infield single for the equalizer. Choruby moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored when Moss punched a double down the leftfield line. White slapped a single up the middle, scoring Moss for the 8-6 edge.
Palacios wreaked havoc again in the sixth with a leadoff double to centerfield. With one out, Palacios stole second base and came home when Niko Buentello grounded out to second, trimming the Aggie cushion to 8-7.
It took just three pitches for Auburn to brew up trouble in the bottom of the seventh. The first pitch Brigham Hill threw in the frame hit leadoff man Burgreen and Daniel Robert followed with a single to centerfield to put two runners in scoring position. Ecker came on to relieve Hill on the mound. Nulph plated Burgreen with a sacrifice fly to knot the game at 8-8.
Neither starting pitcher figured in the decision. The fourth inning derailed A&M's Vines. He yielded six runs, five earned, on six hits and four walks while striking out four in 3.1 innings. Justin Camp allowed seven runs on 10 hits while striking out two in 5.0 innings for Auburn.
Ecker (2-0) earned the win with 3.0 scoreless innings of work. He yielded one hit, but the man was caught stealing.
Frazier (0-2) was saddled with the loss. He allowed four runs, three earned on five hits and one walk while striking out two in 2.2 innings.
Palacios came up a home run shy of the cycle, going 4-for-4 with two runs, one double, one triple, one home run and one walk. Robert and Deese each added two hits for Auburn.
The squads squared off in the second game of the doubleheader approximately 40 minutes after the completion of the game.