LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Texas A&M Aggies took an early lead and rode its bullpen to a 6-3 win over No. 13 Kentucky on Saturday afternoon in the first game of a doubleheader at Kentucky Proud Park.
The Aggies (24-14, 8-8 SEC) trailed 1-0 after two innings, but a three-run home run by Brett Minnich roared Texas A&M into the lead and they added two more in the fifth on RBI from Jace LaViolette and Ryan Targac.
LaViolette finished with a pair of hits in the game and added a sparkling catch in the seventh inning where he robbed Kentucky's (29-8, 10-6 SEC) Hunter Gilliam of a home run.
Aggie starter Nathan Dettmer only lasted into the third inning before A&M turned things over to Evan Aschenbeck. The lefty continued to throw well and lasted 4.1 innings with four strikeouts and exited with a 5-3 lead after allowing single runs in the fifth and seventh.
Aschenbeck got the win, his sixth in relief this year while Will Johnston earned his third save of the season. Johnston entered with two on and two outs in the eighth and struck out Gilliam on three pitches to keep the Aggies in front 5-3 at the time, then went on to retire the side in order in the ninth.
TOP AGGIE PERFORMERS
Jace LaViolette - 2-for-3, 2B, RBI, BB, SB
Brett Minnich - 2-for-4, HR, 3 RBI
Trevor Werner - 1-for-3, 3 R, 2B, 2 BB
Evan Aschenbeck - (W, 6-0) 4.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K
Will Johnston - (SV, 3) 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K
The Aggies and Wildcats will play again on Saturday in the middle game of the series. The game will be streamed on SEC Network+ and can be heard locally on 1150 AM/93.7 FM The Zone.
B2 | UK 1, A&M 0
The Wildcats got on the board first, despite not getting a hit in the second inning. They were able to take advantage of four walks from Aggie starter Nathan Dettmer and laid down a pair of sacrifice bunts, the second of which came from Grant Smith and drove in Jase Felker from third base.
T3 | A&M 3, UK 1 The Aggies immediately answered the UK scoring inning with runs of their own. Jack Moss opened the inning with his second walk of the game and Trevor Werner followed it with a double into the left-field corner to put A&M in business. Brett Minnich then showed off his power when he blasted a 1-2 pitch off the batter's eye in center field for a three-run homer that surged the Aggies in front.
T5 | A&M 5, UK 1 A&M was able to put up another crooked number in the top of the fifth against UK reliever Darren Williams, taking advantage of walks to Werner and Austin Bost. Jace LaViolette picked up the first RBI of the inning when he plated Werner from second with a single through the right side of the infield. Bost managed to go from first to third on the play and that advance paid off when Ryan Targac beat out a potential double play ball to extend the inning and plate Bost from 90 feet away.
B5 | A&M 5, UK 2 Kentucky was able to answer in the home half of the inning, using a walk to Ethan Pitre and a single from Hunter Gilliam to put runners on the corners with nobody out. But Aschenbeck was able to minimize the damage, surrendering a sacrifice fly to Jase Felker one batter later to push Pitre across with the second run of the game for UK and then getting two more routine outs in the air to end the frame.
B7 | A&M 5, UK 3 Kentucky continued to chip away and cut the lead to two runs with a score in the seventh, getting a one-out double by Felker and an RBI two-bagger from Nolan McCarthy two batters later.
T9 | A&M 6, UK 3 The Aggies added a key insurance run in the ninth to push its lead back to three runs. They loaded the bases on a walk to Werner, a single by Minnich and a sacrifice bunt by Bost. LaViolette then got the run home, but did not pick up an RBI on a 4-6-3 double play grounder.