OMAHA, Neb. — The Texas A&M baseball team might have entered the College World Series’ first elimination bout with a three-game win streak over the Texas Longhorns, but Aggie third baseman Trevor Werner could hold no claim to the victories.
Despite playing three seasons in Aggieland, he’s never managed to make the lineup in a game against A&M’s rivals from Austin.
But with A&M’s season on the line Sunday, Werner’s first hit against Texas was one to be burned into the collective memory as it lifted the Aggies to a 10-2 victory over the Longhorns in the College World Series elimination game at Charles Schwab Field.
A&M’s win ended the once No. 1-ranked Longhorn’s season (47-22) as they were the first team eliminated in Omaha. It was the Aggies (43-19) first College World Series win since 1993.
“It’s huge – especially against Texas – to be in that spot that put us ahead and a possibly game-changing at-bat,” Werner said. “It was super special for me, because I’ve been here for three years and that was actually my first game playing against Texas. So that was huge.”
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The game began as almost a mirror image of the Aggies’ loss to Oklahoma on Friday in the opener. A&M starting pitcher Micah Dallas worked ahead to leadoff hitter Douglas Hodo III in the first inning before ultimately issuing a free pass. Hodo III later accounted for the Longhorn’s first run of the game on Austin Todd’s RBI single and Texas’ scored again in the second inning off a throwing error by Werner for an early 2-0 lead.
The third-year sophomore made amends in the next half inning.
The Aggies scored two runs on an RBI double and an RBI single by Brett Minnich and Jordan Thompson, respectively, to open the frame. Werner then stepped up to bat with two runners on and two outs. A seemingly endless stream of pitches – 12 to be exact, with seven foul balls – finally gave way when Werner lined a single into center, scoring Minnich and Thompson to take an impenetrable lead.
“Honestly, I didn’t realize how deep I was in the at bat until after the game, reporters came up to me and asked about it,” Werner said with a laugh. “Once I got to two strikes in the at-bat, I just went into compete mode and just decided to go in one pitch at a time. That’s what I told myself before every pitch.”
The never-ending battle at the plate was a microcosm of A&M’s grind-it-out offense through the season, Schlossnagle said, after another more than four hour game.
Werner slipped into the leadoff role for the Aggies after the first game of the South Carolina series on May 7, and has held down the top of the order since then. It’s a role that was unfamiliar to the slugger prior to this season, one that involves seeing as many pitches as possible and working the opposing pitcher.
“I would say a little bit, being a leadoff spot, that it’s definitely working on gathering info and using it in next at-bats and relaying that information that I get from my at-bat to the next guy so he can have success,” Werner said.
As a team, the Aggies take pride in seeing as many pitches in an at-bat as possible, he added.
“That’s kind of what our offense is based on,” Werner said. “We focus on winning one pitch at a time, but while we’re doing that, we’re taking balls and swinging at strikes, so we’re trying to get the best pitch we can get damage on and win pitches.”
The rest of A&M’s lineup followed suit.
A&M plated another run in the third on a throwing error and another in the fourth off Jack Moss’ RBI single. The Aggies followed with two more runs in the fifth on a bases-loaded walk drawn by Thompson and a ground-out RBI by shortstop Kole Kaler.
Thompson has found a new level of production through the NCAA tournament, driving in 11 of his 31 total RBIs in the last three weeks, including two three-run home runs.
“I don’t think I changed anything,” Thompson said. “I think I have been putting together great at-bats, I feel like, all year and [it’s] finally starting to pay off.”
Unnecessary insurance came by way of a first-and-third double steal that allowed second baseman Ryan Targac to scamper home for the Aggies ninth run in the seventh. The final run was off Austin Bost’s two-out double to left that scored Dylan Rock from second in the bottom of the eighth.
Despite the shaky start, Dallas (7-3) produced five innings of needed security on the mound, allowing just two runs, one earned, on six hits. He struck out three with help from a commanding slider and threw 95 pitches. Left-handed reliever Jacob Palisch gave up one hit in 2 2/3 innings. Freshman right-hander and Madisonville alum Brad Rudis closed out the final 1 1/3 innings without a blemish.
“It’s really about limiting the damage and keeping crooked numbers off the scoreboard,” Dallas said. “Coach Schlossnagle came up to me after the first inning, just encouraging me, saying, ‘Way to limit the damage. We’ve got you. Just keep doing you.’ That gives me a lot of confidence.”
A&M’s pitcher kept the nation’s consensus top hitter, first baseman Ivan Melendez, hitless with two strikeouts.
“He’s a Golden Spikes winner and we executed pitches against him,” Schlossnagle said. “He’s a great hitter and going to have an awesome career, but that was a massive part of the game.”
In Schlossnagle’s first season at the helm, he has produced a College World Series appearance and exorcized the ghost of nearly three decades without a win in Omaha. A&M will play a third game at Charles Schwab Field against the loser of Oklahoma and Notre Dame at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
But that’s not enough for the six-time College World Series coach.
“I think it’s great for the fans,” he said of the Aggies’ long-awaited win in Omaha. “…It’s a big deal. I’d rather win a national title.”