10-seed Aggies hold 7-seed Vols to one hit in shutout
HOOVER, Alabama -- The only thing that slowed Texas A&M pitcher Troy Wansing's roll vs. Tennessee on Wednesday was the rain.
Wansing was three outs from finishing off a one-hit masterpiece when the rain squalls hit at the Hoover Met, calling a halt to the Aggies' first-round game against the Volunteers and doing what they could not: get Wansing out of the game.
Even so, it wasn't enough for the Vols to recover once the game resumed after a 2 hour and six-minute rain delay, as 10-seed Texas A&M shut out 7-seed Tennessee, 3-0.
Wansing faced just 25 batters -- one over the minimum possible -- in his eight full innings of work. He carried a perfect game into the bottom of the sixth, when he surrendered the only Tennessee hit, a one-out single to right-centerfield by Christian Scott. Wansing did not walk a batter and struck out seven.
Evan Aschenbeck took over on the mound for Wansing once play resumed, and he set down the Vols in 1-2-3 order in the last of the ninth.
"It's a great win for our program, considering where we are at this point in our season, and I'm really excited for Troy," Texas A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle said. "Troy has been through a lot this year. We've never lost faith in what he's capable of doing."
Schlossnagle said that he got a hint that Wansing was perhaps ready to spin something special last Saturday, when he called him out of the bullpen for the first time all season to close a game out at Mississippi State. Wansing did so by getting four straight outs.
He started Tuesday's game by registering 16 more in a row.
"It felt like everything came together today," Wansing said.
Texas A&M scored single runs in the top of the third, fourth and sixth innings, grabbing the 3-0 advantage that would prove sufficient throughout.
The Aggies scratched out the first two runs, scoring first in the third when leadoff hitter Hunter Haas walked, advanced to third on a single to right by Jack Moss and scored on a fielder's choice by Trevor Werner.
The next inning, Jordan Thompson singled, stole second and advanced to third on a balk. Then he scored when Austin Bost busted a single up the middle.
Texas A&M then went from small ball to long ball when Jace Laviolette led off the sixth inning by blasting a home run to deep right-centerfield, making it 3-0.
It was more than Wansing needed.
A light rain started to fall and picked up in intensity as the game progressed, and still Tennessee could not find a way to solve the crafty lefthander. Even when they hit it hard, as they did on back-to-back occasions in the bottom of the eighth when Christian Moore and Zane Denton hit ropes, nothing came of it. Moore's liner was clocked at 104 miles per hour off the bat and Denton's at 109 mph, but that only meant they found the bottom of Texas A&M fielders' gloves faster.
"I have a lot of respect for Tennessee," Schlossnagle said. "They're an aggressive-swinging team. ... They can really hit against anybody, but their numbers are a lot better -- especially their extra-base numbers -- against right-handed pitching."
"They were swinging early in the count, and that helped (Wansing) pitch deeper into the game. And as we got toward the end of the game and he was running out of gas and I'm just riding him as long as I can, he was a batter away from coming out in the last couple innings. But they hit those liners right at us -- one to shortstop, a couple to third base, one up the middle where we had Bost positioned."
The rain eventually started coming down harder as the game went on and finally forced a halt in play with the Aggies batting and one out in the top of the ninth.
The long delay at last meant the end of the day's work for Wansing.
But Aschenbeck preserved the one-hit shutout by working the perfect ninth. Coming on the heels of South Carolina's 9-0 blanking of Georgia in Tuesday's first game, it marks the first time in history that the SEC Tournament has opened with back-to-back shutouts.
"I think it just boiled down to execution and me finally feeling like me," Wansing said. "... From a game-plan standpoint, it was just attack, throw my stuff, get ahead early with fastballs and put guys away late with sliders -- and I did that for the most part."
HOW IT HAPPENED
T3 | Texas A&M's Haas walked. Moss singled to right field, with Haas advancing to third. Werner reached on a RBI fielder's choice, with Moss out at second and Haas scoring. Texas A&M 1, Tennessee 0.
T4 | The Aggies' Thompson singled through the left side, stole second and advanced to third on a balk. After Ryan Targac struck out swinging, Bost singled up the middle, scoring Thompson. Texas A&M 2, Tennessee 0.
T6 | On a 3-1 pitch, Laviolette led off the inning by ripping a solo homer to right center. Texas A&M 3, Tennessee 0.
Texas A&M (33-23) advanced to a second-round matchup with 2-seed Arkansas (39-15), scheduled to start 30 minutes after completion of the 10:30 a.m. South Carolina-LSU game in a contest that will be televised on SEC Network.
Tennessee (38-19) is eliminated from the SEC Tournament and must now await word for when and where it will play in the NCAA Tournament, which will be announced next Monday.