Hogs out of one tournament, look forward to next

By: Bob Holt Bob Holt's Twitter account
Published: Sunday, May 28, 2023
Arkansas second baseman Peyton Holt (24) slides home to score a run, Saturday, May 27, 2023, during the ninth inning of the Razorbacks’ 5-4 loss to the Texas A&M Aggies in the semifinals of the 2023 SEC Baseball Tournament at the Hoover Metropolitan Complex in Hoover, Ala.
( Hank Layton)
Arkansas second baseman Peyton Holt (24) slides home to score a run, Saturday, May 27, 2023, during the ninth inning of the Razorbacks’ 5-4 loss to the Texas A&M Aggies in the semifinals of the 2023 SEC Baseball Tournament at the Hoover Metropolitan Complex in Hoover, Ala.

HOOVER, Ala. — Texas A&M’s baseball team continued its improbable run at the SEC Tournament by beating the No. 4-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks 5-4 in the semifinals Saturday at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.

The Aggies, the tournament’s No. 10 seed, advanced to today’s championship game, while the Razorbacks, who shared the SEC regular-season title with Florida, were eliminated.

Previously no team seeded lower than No. 8 had advanced to an SEC Tournament championship game.

“Really awesome win for our program,” Texas A&M Coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “Arkansas has had a great year, great regular season.

“Obviously they have a long postseason ahead of them, I’m sure.”

Arkansas became the fourth nationally-ranked team the Aggies (36-24) have beaten in the past five days, including 3-0 over No. 13 Tennessee, 5-0 over No. 19 South Carolina and 5-4 over No. 3 LSU.

The Razorbacks (41-16) are the only team to beat Texas A&M at the SEC Tournament, 6-5 in 11 innings Wednesday.

Texas A&M, which was swept in a three-game series at Arkansas the last weekend in April, beat the Razorbacks for the first time in five meetings this season.

“I think they’ve played really well here,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said of the Aggies. “When they left our place a month ago, they were struggling a little bit.

“But the games were pretty much all tight in Fayetteville. We just came out on top.

“I think they’re going to be right in the middle of it [in the NCAA Tournament]. If they play well, they can win their regional.”

Arkansas struggled offensively most of Saturday’s game, but scored three runs in the top of the ninth inning and had the tying and go-ahead runs on second and first base with one out before Troy Wansing struck out Jace Bohrofen and Jared Wegner swinging to end the game.

“I’ll tell you about the last two outs,” Van Horn said. “We swung at some bad pitches.

“Had two of our best hitters up there, and that was probably the most disappointing part to me about that inning.

“I loved that inning. I loved the way we rallied. … Obviously we needed another hit to tie it up, and had the 3- and 4-hole hitter up and a guy throwing pretty much exclusively sliders, and they didn’t find the barrel at all.

“Congratulations to Wansing. He did a great job finishing us up.”

Wansing, a sophomore left-hander, held Tennessee to one hit Tuesday while pitching eight innings. He came into Saturday’s game with one out in the ninth after John Bolton’s two-run double scored Caleb Cali and Peyton Holt — after they had reached on a single and hit by pitch — to pull the Razorbacks within 5-3.

“I was trying to get through this game without using [Wansing],” Schlossnagle said. “But he said he felt great, and our bullpen coach said he looked great down there, and he came in and made some really nice pitches, especially to Bohrofen and Wegner — who are two guys that have really gotten us.”

Tavian Josenberger, the first batter Wansing faced, singled to send Bolton to third base.

Kendall Diggs, whose home run leading off the 11th inning beat the Aggies three days earlier, hit a sharp ground ball to shortstop Hunter Haas, but first baseman Jack Moss dropped Haas’ throw for an error.

Bolton scored to make it 5-4. But as the Aggies did in beating LSU by the same score Friday, two runners were left on base in the ninth inning.

The Razorbacks were held scoreless through six innings Saturday before rallying.

“It’s good to see that,” said Cali, the 6-hole hitter who went 3 for 4. “I think it shows that our team has a lot of toughness.

“We didn’t get that tying run across the plate in the ninth there, but we were really close. But seeing that out of our team, especially late like that, it’s a good sign.”

The Razorbacks top five hitters in the order — Josenberger, Diggs, Bohrofen, Wegner and Brady Slavens — were a combined 3 for 23. Josenberger was 2 for 5 and Diggs 1 for 5.

“Just one of those games, really frustrating for us, especially on the offensive side,” Van Horn said. “Their pitchers did a great job against our top-five hitters, and that ended up being the difference in the game.”

Senior left-hander Matt Dillard started for Texas A&M and pitched a season-high four innings.

“He made pitches and kept us in it,” Schlossnagle said.

The Aggies used two relievers Saturday who also had pitched against Arkansas on Thursday — Shane Sdao and Brandyn Garcia — before going to Wansing.

The Razorbacks scored a run in the seventh inning on Cali’s double and an RBI single by Ben McLaughlin — who pinch-hit for Parker Rowland — to pull within 4-1.

Texas A&M center fielder Jordan Thompson made a diving catch of a sinking liner by Bolton for the second out.

Josenberger followed with a single to advance pinch runner Mason Neville to second base. Garcia replaced Sdao and got Diggs on a groundout to keep Arkansas from cutting further into its deficit.

Texas A&M made it 5-1 in the eighth inning on a double by Moss and RBI single by Jace LaViolette against Austin Ledbetter — the Razorbacks’ fifth pitcher of the game.

“LaViolette’s RBI in the bottom of the eighth proved to be a massive run,” Schlossnagle said. “That’s why you just have to keep playing and keep scoring, especially against a great program like Arkansas, who you know is not going to cash in.”

Texas A&M scored three runs in the sixth inning against three Arkansas pitchers — Will McEntire, Gage Wood and Parker Coil — with the help of four walks to extend its lead to 4-0.

The Aggies went ahead 1-0 in the third inning against Arkansas starter Brady Tygart when Haas hit a two-out single and scored on Trevor Werner’s double.

“It felt amazing to get that one,” Thompson said of beating Arkansas for the first time this season. “I thought the guys did a very good job, kept pounding the zone, putting together good at-bats.”

The Razorbacks, who are expected to be a regional host when the 16 sites for the NCAA Tournament are announced today, flew home Saturday night.

“You hate to lose and leave, but now it’s time for us to switch gears mentally and regroup a little bit,” Van Horn said. “Build up a little strength and get ready for next weekend.”


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