Game #59: #5 Texas A&M 5, #12 Louisville 4
Recordings: Texas A&M (41-18, 19-11), Louisville (42-20-1, 18-11-1)
WP: Jacob Palisch (6-3)
LP: Michael Prosecky (2-1)
The score of the box
Often on the ropes, Louisville apparently adopted the strategy of the town’s favorite son, Muhammad Ali, and played ropes on drugs.
Time and time again, Texas A&M has found itself ineffective.
But in the ninth inning, Aggie catcher Troy Claunch finally landed a punch with a loaded single to lift A&M over the visiting Cardinals, 5-4, Friday night (and/or maybe Saturday morning ) during the first NCAA Super Regionals baseball game in front of a crowd of 6,732 at Blue Bell Park.
The Aggies (41-18) will face the Cardinals (42-20-1) again at 2 p.m. Saturday with a chance to clinch a berth in the 2022 College World Series.
Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Claunch’s single was her second hit of the night. “Mr. Clutch” went 2-for-4 with two singles and two RBIs.
“Nothing they do surprises me,” Texas A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle said of his team after another victory from behind that has become commonplace. “Just when you think they’ve taken another punch – and there’s so many teams I’ve ever seen or been on – where you take that punch and you lay down. These guys just move on to the next room. They just move on.
The Aggies often moved in place. Four times before — the first, second, sixth and eighth innings — they’ve failed to land a big hit with the bases loaded.
But with two outs in the ninth, Claunch had the upper hand.
He hit a first pitch fastball into right field from Louisville left-handed reliever Michael Prosecky (2-1) to lead Trevor Werner for the winning run.
Claunch walked a walk when Prosecky came out of the bullpen in the eighth inning. Therefore, he was looking for a fastball.
“In that situation, I had faced him before, so I was pretty comfortable,” Claunch said. “I had seen all the throws he had. With him smashing the ball from the first pitch (to the eighth) and hitting [Ryan Targac]I was pretty confident he wouldn’t come back with another off-speed pitch, so I sat on the fastball and got one that I liked.
The blow made up for an otherwise frustrating night at the plate for the usually hard-hitting Aggies.
They racked up 11 hits, walked ten and reached base three times via slapped hitters.
However, they left 17 runners on base. Ten were left in scoring position. Five times they hit with the loaded bases.
“Just when you think they’ve taken another punch – and there’s so many teams I’ve ever seen or been on – where you take that punch and you lay down. These guys just move on to the next room. They just move on.
– A&M Head Coach Jim Schlossnagle
The only goal-loaded hit recorded before Claunch in the ninth was by Louisville starting pitcher Jared Poland.
In the first inning, Claunch was hit by a Polish pitch to allow Jack Moss to score.
It was the only run the Aggies managed in the first. That one-point lead was short-lived.
Louisville came back in second with three singles, a walk and a sacrifice fly on starter Nathan Dettmer to take a 3-1 lead.
Jordan Thompson delivered a single to bring Brett Minnich home in the third, but Louisville hit an unearned run in the fifth to take a 4-2 lead.
Excellent relief pitching from Joseph Menefee and Jacob Palisch prevented the Cardinals from increasing that margin.
Menefee relieved Dettmer at fifth and left Louisville’s Ben Metzinger stuck at third. He got a pitch – which was confirmed by the review – to get out of a sixth-inning jam. He also scored back-to-back strikeouts to end the seventh inning with a Louisville runner at second base.
But A&M was still struggling at home plate until Thompson, the eighth hitter, threw a game-tying two-run home run that cleared center fielder Levi Usher’s outstretched glove by about a foot.
“I’m not going to lie. I had to do a double take,” Thompson said. “I don’t think I hit a ball in that part of the stadium. I’ve knocked one against the wall once in a while in BP but never outside. It was great to see him come out.
Cardinal reliever Tate Kuehner initially raised his arms in celebration of what he thought was a circus catch. He then grabbed his head after realizing Thompson’s outburst had cleared the fence.
Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Thompson’s seventh-inning tying homer was his fifth out and back of the season.
“We expect Levi to catch it all,” Louisville coach Dan McDonnell said. “It’s to his credit and what we’ve seen over the last few years. If he can’t catch it, I don’t know if anyone can.
Palisch (6-3) then came on in the eighth to work two scoreless innings to claim the win, but it wasn’t easy.
He left two Louisville runners on base in the eighth. He got a double play ball to finish ninth.
“We invested a lot with Menefee and Jacob,” Schlossnagle said. “I knew if those guys were executing throws, as long as we didn’t mess anything up on defense, we’d be fine.”
Then Werner shot Prosecky, Louisville’s sixth pitcher, to lead the ninth. Austin Bost delivered a two-out single. Ryan Targac was hit by a pitch.
Then came Claunch, whose shot took A&M to a one-trip victory in Omaha.
“Troy normally saves his batting bests for late in the game,” Schlossnagle said. “No one you would want up there more than him against Prosecky, who is definitely really, really good.
“But it’s a game. We are happy to have won it, but it is a long way to go before moving forward.