HOOVER, Alabama -- The Aggies refused to back down to the sea of purple and yellow at the Hoover Met on Friday as Hunter Haas smashed a three-run 365-foot-homer over the left-field fence, sending them to the SEC Tournament Semifinals with the 5-4 win despite a strong outing by 3-seed LSU's starting pitcher Ty Floyd.
"LSU feels like they brought their whole state with them," Aschenbeck said. "It's just like playing their home game, but this is what we've been practicing for this whole season, and as a student-athlete this is what you live for."
Both teams scored early, plating one run each in the second inning, before LSU started to pull away. Back-to-back doubles by Gavin Dugas and Brayden Jobert in the fourth frame snagged a small lead, 2-1, before Hayden Travinski extended the lead to two with an RBI-double to the fence in the fifth, 3-1.
"I thought today was -- the game taketh away and it giveth. I thought LSU had a grip on the game," Texas A&M head coach Jim Schlossnagle said. "Floyd was outstanding. They had runners on base."
Floyd threw five innings, striking out seven, walking one and allowing only three hits and one run against 20 batters faced. It was his fourth straight start with at least seven strikeouts and his fourth start this season allowing one or fewer runs with five-plus innings pitched.
LSU's bullpen hadn't allowed a run in eighth innings in the first two games of the SEC Tournament, but its relievers hadn't gone three straight games without allowing a run yet this season, This trend continued as the Tigers went to the bullpen after five innings.
In the sixth inning, Griffin Herring took over on the mound for the Tigers, but the following frame spelled trouble for their bullpen as a walk and a double put two Texas A&M runners in scoring position. The Aggies started to close to gap with an RBI sac fly, 3-2, before they completely busted the game open. With one out and runners on first and second, LSU made a game-altering pitching change. Sam Dutton's second pitch was crushed by Haas, flying over the left-field fence and bringing in three runs to supply Texas A&M with its first lead of the game, 5-3, and the only one it would need. LSU quickly passed the ball over to Javin Coleman who loaded the bases with two singles and a walk before sealing the seventh inning.
"Honestly, I struggled obviously at the beginning of the game, so I kept telling myself, just keep competing. Don't think about anything else, just keep competing and you're going to get a big one," Haas said about his mindset during the pivotal at bat.
LSU entered the ninth at the heart of its lineup with elimination on the line. The Tigers fought back behind the resonating cheers of their fans as Travinski started their last-ditch effort with a single and advanced to third on Cade Beloso's double to right field. The Aggies' pitcher, Evan Aschenbeck, appeared rattled by the crowd as a pitch got away from him, bringing in a run and then walking Jared Jones to put runners on the corners with one out. However, he settled down enough to ensure the next two outs, escaping the Tigers' comeback attempt and lock in the 5-4 win.
"They're great hitters versus left or right. There's no question. But the numbers are way different versus lefties than they are righties, and our best pitchers are left-handed," Schlossnagle said of his pitching choices against LSU's daunting lineup.
"I actually talked to coach before the game about how awesome this league is and everyone is so good," Haas said as the Hogs prepare for a redemption round against 2-seed Arkansas in the semifinals. "I expect tomorrow to be another really competitive game, and I'm looking forward to it."
Texas A&M now has nine wins this season when trailing after six innings, the most in Division I play and will play in the SEC Tournament Semifinals for the second consecutive year.
HOW IT HAPPENED
T2 | Beloso led off with a single to right center, advancing to second with Jones' walk. Dugas hit a deep fly ball to center, allowing Beloso to tag up and advance to third, but Jones was caught red-handed on his way to second during the relay, resulting in a double play. Unfazed, Jobert hit an RBI single through the right side to plate the Tiger's first run of the game before the Aggies ended the inning. LSU 1, Texas A&M 0
B2 | In response, the Aggies registered back-to-back doubles off the bats of Jordan Thompson and Ryan Targac, quickly tying the game. The Tigers dug their heels in, making three straight outs to end the threat as Texas A&M left a runner stranded on third. LSU 1, Texas A&M 1
T4 | LSU later put together its own pair of consecutive doubles to snatch the lead again. Dugas led off with a line drive down the left field line, making his way to second as his hit reached the fence. Jobert followed suit with a beamer past the hot corner, scoring Dugas before Texas A&M got its bearings. LSU 2, Texas A&M 1
T5 | The Tigers tacked on another unanswered run as Morgan led off the fifth with a walk before Travinski crushed one into left field. The ball fell just short of the fence, resulting in an RBI double to take a two-run lead. LSU 3, Texas A&M 1
B7 | Targac walked to start the inning and Austin Bost smoked one into left field for a double, placing Targac on third. Brett Minnich brought him in with a sac fly to deep left center, putting the Aggies within striking distance. The Tigers decided to change things up on the mound after Max Kaufer walked, but Haas sent Dutton's second pitch deep with a go-ahead three-run shot over the left-field fence. Sensing trouble, the Tigers put Coleman on the mound. After two singles, a strikeout and a walk that loaded the bases with two outs, Coleman was able to send Targac down swinging and get LSU back to the bats. LSU 3, Texas A&M 5
T9 | The Tigers tried to claw their way back with a one-out single by Travinski. Beloso's double moved him to third before the riled-up LSU crowd caused Aggies pitcher Aschenbeck to throw one to the backstop, scoring Travinski. Jones walked, putting runners on the corners, but a strikeout and pop out in foul territory sealed the decision. LSU 4, Texas A&M 5
Ten-seed Texas A&M (35-24) will move on to the semifinals with a chance for redemption against 2-seed Arkansas (41-15). First pitch is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday in a contest that will be televised on SEC Network.
The 3-seeded Tigers (43-15), while eliminated from the SEC Tournament, will await word on when and where they'll play in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.