With two late-night swings by the LSU Tigers, meaningful baseball in 2021 ended for Texas A&M on Friday at Blue Bell Park.
LSU scored six runs in the top of the 13th inning to beat A&M 12-6, ending the Aggies’ chances at making the 12-team Southeastern Conference tournament next week.
Auburn (10-19) claimed the final spot by beating Missouri 3-0 on Friday. Auburn’s victory left A&M (29-26, 9-20) needing to sweep LSU (33-21, 12-17) to make the tournament, but now the Aggies will play for pride in Saturday’s regular-season finale.
“They emptied the tank,” head coach Rob Childress said. “We played as hard as we could possibly play and so did LSU.”
With two outs in the top of the 13th and runners on first and second, A&M intentionally walked LSU three-hole hitter Gavin Dugas to load the bases. Pinch hitter Zach Arnold burned a seeing-eye single through the left side to drive in two runs and break a tie that had held since the fifth inning. The Tigers added a double and single to knock in four more runs.
The Aggies walked both Dugas and two-hole hitter Dylan Crews intentionally to load the baes in the 11th inning, but reliever Jospeh Menefee ended the threat with a strikeout. Dugas entered the game hitting .296 with a team-high 14 home runs and 57 RBIs.
“We didn’t want him to beat us,” Childress said of Dugas “We wanted the guy that was hitting behind him to beat us and I can go to sleep feeling pretty good about that.”
A&M reliever Chandler Jozwiak (2-4) was saddled with the loss, after pitching three innings prior with just one hit and four strikeouts. LSU’s Devin Fontenot (3-2) earned the win after entering the game in the top of the 11th.
A&M scored all of its runs in the first two innings. Responding to a two-run LSU home run in the top of the first by Gavin Dugas, Aggie left fielder Austin Bost launched a three-run home run into Aggie Alley in the bottom half for a 3-2 lead. Bost made the Tigers pay for intentionally walking A&M home run leader Will Frizzell in the at-bat prior.
An inning later, two leadoff singles set the stage for a two-RBI double by center fielder Ray Alejo. Frizzell, in one of the few times he received a pitch to hit, drove a single to left, scoring Alejo and giving the Aggies a 6-2 lead.
The Tigers’ big inning was the fifth, sending one to the plate on an RBI single by Mitchell Sanford and a three-run home run by Cade Doughty that knotted the game up at six.
Childress said the game was truly won in the fifth, when he was two hitters too late making a move to get starter Bryce Miller.
“That ended up being the difference in the game,” Childress said.
Miller was on the mound for all six of LSU’s initial runs, five of which were earned. He lasted 4 2/3 innings, striking out four and walking two, while allowing five hits. In relief, lefty Joseph Menefee worked 4 1/3 scoreless innings with a runner moving no further than second during his outing. He walked two and struck out six.
Four of the next six innings saw just three Aggie hitters come to the plate, including two in the seventh and eighth by LSU reliever Ty Floyd.
“They had some good arms, honestly,” Bost said. “They kept us off balance, I would say. That’s the main thing - they kept us off balance. We hit them good, but right at people. It’s just bad luck, honestly.”
The fifth inning was the Aggies best opportunity to retake the lead, after a single, a walk and a hit batter loaded the bases with one out. The bottom of A&M’s order, Bryce Blaum and Kalae Harrison struck out and popped out to end the threat.
LSU starter AJ Labas lasted 1 1/3 innings after he allowed all six of A&M’s runs on six hits. With the win, LSU clinched one of the final two spots in the SEC tournament field.
A&M will miss a conference tournament for the first time since 2006, Childress’ first year with the Aggies.
The Aggies close out the 2021 season Saturday with a 2 p.m. series finale with LSU that means little for the standings, but a lot for the 12 senior players and one manager who will be honored Saturday.
For Childress, it could be his final time at the helm of the program, with a contract that is set to expire in June and no indication that it will be extended.
“We’ve got an opportunity to get to 30 wins,” Childress said. “We’ve got an opportunity to win the series against an LSU team that is a conference rival and an opportunity to go out and play for 13 guys being recognized tomorrow that have given an awful lot to Texas A&M baseball. They will get our best shot tomorrow.”