COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS
The host Aggies ended Minnesota’s season and advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals for the second consecutive season, beating the Gophers 8-2 on Sunday night.
Texas A&M (48-14) will play host to TCU, which eliminated the Aggies in a Super Regional at Fort Worth last season.
The Gophers, who made the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010, finished 36-22. Minnesota went 2-2 at the regional, splitting a pair of games Sunday with an 8-3 afternoon victory over Wake Forest.
“I’m very, very proud of our team, the way they fought back here after losing the first game,” Gophers coach John Anderson said. “It was a long day today, and I thought we competed all day long.”
Minnesota banged out 15 hits against Wake Forest, but the Gophers could not solve the pitching of the rested Aggies. Junior catcher Austin Athmann drove in both runs for Minnesota, but the rest of the lineup managed only one infield single in six chances with runners in scoring position.
“We believed,” Athmann said. “Everyone knew we had to play our best game to put up a fight against A&M, and I thought we really did that.”
Sophomore starter Turner Larkins combined with relievers Andrew Vinson and Mark Ecker on an eight-hitter, pitching with the lead after A&M scored twice in the top of the second inning. The Aggies struck out eight and did not allow a walk against a Gophers team that came into the regional with a .325 batting average.
“The bullpen is rock-solid, and I thought Larkins did a nice job,” Anderson said. “We couldn’t put three or four good at-bats together. Their pitching staff was just too good. They do that to a lot of people.”
The Gophers fell behind early, paying for wildness in which Matt Fiedler missed the strike zone with 10 consecutive pitches. A pair of four-pitch walks set up the Aggies’ Joel Davis, who tripled into the right-field corner to make it 2-0.
Minnesota wasted a chance to answer in the bottom of the third, which got off to a promising start with singles by Alex Boxwell and Matt Stemper. Larkins kept the Gophers scoreless by getting the next three batters on an infield fly and a pair of grounders, enticing Minnesota batting leader Fiedler to pop up for the first out.
“That was our opportunity to get back in the game and maybe have a chance to win the game,” Anderson said. “We had our best hitter up there and you’re wrestling with whether you want to bunt them up or not. I just don’t think we’re going to beat their team if we bunt right there and score one or two runs. I thought we had to take our shot right there.”
The Aggies made it 4-0 in the fourth before Athmann’s double in the sixth made it 4-1 and his single in the eighth made it 5-2. But the Aggies scored three runs in the top of the ninth, and Ecker struck out all four batters he faced for his eighth save.