By Jose Rodriguez
Big 12 Syndication/The Daily Toreador
Statistically, Texas A&M does not possess the Big 12 Conference’s most potent lineup — a look at the Aggies’ production in a three-game series against Texas Tech, however, tells a different story.
The prime example may be Aggie third baseman Adam Smith.
Smith entered the weekend with one home run to his name. On Saturday, he collected his second of the season — an eventual game winning three-run jack in the eighth inning, lifting the No. 6 Aggies to a 5-4 victory against the Red Raiders.
On Sunday, Smith worked his magic again, but did not wait until the eighth frame to deal another knockout.
“When it left the bat I thought it was just an out,” Tech coach Dan Spencer said, “but the ball got up in the wind and the kid hit it out of the park… that hurt us… and when you’re in the bullpen in the second inning that doesn’t help you on Sunday.”
Smith’s three-run home run in the fourth inning of Sunday’s rubber match gave the Aggies (24-8, 9-3 in Big 12 play) a 9-5 lead, sending the Red Raiders (20-13, 5-7) to their second consecutive Big 12 series loss just a week after being swept by Oklahoma on the road.
A win Sunday would have placed the Red Raiders in a position among the conference’s top six teams; instead, Tech finds itself in sole possession of seventh with road trips against New Mexico and No. 8 Texas set for this week.
What may make the series loss to A&M even tougher to take is how close Tech came to winning the series prior to Sunday’s slugfest.
Spencer said his team should have played Sunday’s finale having already won the series the night before.
Tech drew first blood, winning the Friday opener in extra innings by the score of 4-3, thanks to a game-winning RBI single from shortstop Kelby Tomlinson in the 12th inning.
Saturday’s game was well in reach for Tech as well, before A&M’s Smith struck in the eighth inning.
“I thought (Saturday) night’s game got away from us, even though we never had the lead late,” Spencer said. “I thought that at 2-2, that we were in pretty good position, and we didn’t take care of the baseball in the eighth inning.”
The deciding game Sunday was well out of hand before the eighth.
Prior to Smith’s fourth-inning home run, the A&M offense helped limit Tech starting pitcher Robbie Kilcrease to the worst outing of his career — 1 1/3 innings of work with six earned runs allowed off nine hits. Kilcrease threw 49 pitches despite the short stint.
The Aggies’ Ross Stripling, on the other hand, went six innings and had four earned runs to his name to go with nine strikeouts.
Tomlinson said the team did a good job of competing at the plate, but just could not put up the numbers to outscore A&M on Sunday.
Tomlinson also said Sunday’s outing, as well as other subpar performances the team has had, will not change Tech’s mentality going forward.
Working in Tech’s favor going into this week’s slate of games is the fact that the Red Raiders are at the homestretch of the “gauntlet” Spencer referred to as his team’s three-week stretch with games against No. 7 Oklahoma, A&M and Texas.
A sweep of Texas, as daunting as it seems, places Tech back near the top of the Big 12 standings.
But Tuesday’s series opener against New Mexico awaits first.
That’s what Tech’s Nick Popescu said is the best thing about playing the sport of baseball — teams get many chances to bounce back from a loss.
“That’s how baseball is, it’s a quick memory loss,” Popescu said. “You just gotta move on. Like coach Spencer said, you got one hour to think about the game, and then you gotta move forward and get ready for Tuesday versus New Mexico.”