BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas - The Texas A&M Aggies secured their biggest series win of the season on Sunday when they took down the No. 4 Florida Gators, 3-2, on a walk-off balk on Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park.
The game was tied at 2-2 going into the bottom of the ninth against Florida (37-12, 15-9 SEC) closer Brandon Neely, but he put each of the first two Aggies (30-20, 11-13 SEC) on base and then, with runners on second and third base, balked in pinch runner Travis Chestnut with the winning run.
The win gave the Aggies the series win, their first over the Gators since 2014.
It came behind a stellar pitching performance from a trio of A&M lefties - Will Johnston, Evan Aschenbeck and Brandyn Garcia - who struck out 11 Gators and issued just three walks between them.
Johnston got the start for the second consecutive Sunday and did just what was needed, going a career-long 4.1 innings and punching out five before exiting with the game tied and after 65 pitches. Aschenbeck entered and nearly mimicked Johnston's performance, punching out five of his own in 3.1 innings of relief in what was his second outing of the weekend.
But it was Garcia who got the win with 1.1 perfect frames of his own to move to 2-2 on the year. He entered in the eighth and threw one pitch to Gator slugger Jac Caglianone to get out of the inning and then retired Florida in order in the ninth, punching out Luke Heyman to end his day.
The Gators got 3.2 innings out of Caglianone on the mound before having to go to the bullpen themselves. After Ryan Slater had bridged the game to Neely, the Gator stopper worked out of a runner-on situation in the seventh and sat the middle of the Aggie order down without issue in the eighth before the wheels came off in the ninth.
TOP AGGIE PERFORMERS
Trevor Werner - 2-for-4, 2B, 1 R
Jace LaViolette - 1-for-4, 3B, 1 R
Will Johnston - 4.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
Evan Aschenbeck - 3.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
Brandyn Garcia - (W, 2-2), 1.1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K
The Aggies will close out the midweek slate on Tuesday when they host UTRGV for a standalone contest. The game will be aired on SEC Network+ and can be heard locally on 1150 AM / 93.7 FM The Zone with Andrew Monaco and Rody Barker in the booth.
T3 | UF 1, A&M 0 Tyler Shelnut gave the Gators an early 1-0 lead when he led off the top of the third with a solo homer, his sixth longball of the year.
B4 | A&M 1, UF 1 Trevor Werner singled to open up the Aggie half of the fourth and Gator starter Jac Caglianone looked like he was going to work around it before issuing consecutive walks to Ryan Targac and Austin Bost to load the bases with two outs. Kasen Wells then drew a free pass on four straight pitches to force home Werner with the winning run, pushing Caglianone from the mound in favor of reliever Ryan Slater.
T6 | UF 2, A&M 1 Another leadoff solo homer by the Gators put them back in front in the sixth when Wyatt Langford launched his 12th home run of the season out to left field to open up the sixth.
B6 | A&M 2, UF 2 Jace LaViolette nearly tied the game with a loud swing to open up the sixth, but instead slammed a leadoff triple off the top of the left-center field wall. Two batters later Targac hit a solid fly ball to center field to plate the freshman and tie it up.
B9 | A&M 3, UF 2 Targac got the inning going when he led off the ninth and was hit by a pitch from Florida reliever Brandon Neely. Travis Chestnut was inserted as a pinch runner and went first to third when Bost shot a single to center field. After Bost took a free 90 feet to second base, Neely flinched - literally - with Chestnut dancing off third base, allowing the Aggie pinch runner to come home with the game-winning run.
TEXAS A&M QUOTES
Head coach Jim Schlossnagle
On the walk-off balk... "Their pitching staff does an unbelievable job of holding runners. The one guy you can run on is him, so we put Travis Chestnut in and put him on his own to run. We got in a good position and with the crowd going, it was a good ball game."
Junior LHP Will Johnston
On today's start... "I've been just trying to do what I am asked. The job, whether it's out of the pen or in the front of the game, is to get outs and that's what I go and try to do. As I go, I'm going to continue to get better this week."
Junior third baseman Trevor Werner
On the series win... "For us, they're all big. To knock off a team like Florida, we know they're capable of a lot of things and so are we as team. We kind of proved to ourselves that we can take on any team in the country and give us that edge and a little bit of confidence going into the rest of the year."