cat-sports

Sunday, 11 June 2017 09:47

Wildcats' run ends with late A&M rally

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Davidson finishes the season 35-26. Davidson finishes the season 35-26. Tim Cowie

Davidson took stacks of house money onto the field at Texas A&M’s Blue Bell Park for the Super Regionals, but that didn’t make the season's ending any easier to take Saturday night.

The Wildcats' dramatic and historic postseason run came to a heartbreaking end with a 12-6 loss in the second game of the College Station Super Regional. A season of firsts for the 115-year-old program is over.

“It’s been quite a ride,” said Davidson coach Dick Cooke, whose team finishes 35-26.

It’s rare that a 12-6 baseball game qualifies as a heartbreaker, but the Wildcats led 6-2 when the eighth inning began. They were in control and about to force a decisive game in the best-of-three series for a berth in the College World Series. Then the Aggies, visitors on their home field in the second series game, scored seven runs in the top of the eighth inning.

“It hurts because it was right there for us,” said Davidson’s Brett Centracchio, who hit a solo home run in the sixth. “We were chasing Omaha today.”

The game hinged on a popup behind the mound by Texas A&M pinch hitter Jorge Gutierrez in the eighth. With the bases loaded, two outs and Davidson clinging to a 6-5 lead, four Wildcats converged to make the play. But second baseman Alec Acosta and third baseman Eric Jones collided. Acosta had the ball as he went to the ground with the potential lead-preserving third out, but it came loose and fell out. It was ruled an error on Jones and the tying and go-ahead runs scored.

“I’m not a big momentum guy in baseball, but that certainly took a little bit of the wind out of the sails,” said Cooke.

A former chair of the NCAA Rules Committee, Cooke didn’t put up an argument with the umpire’s ruling.

“It was the correct call,” he said. “You have to have a voluntary release. By definition, (Acosta) had control of that ball, and when he opened the glove it came out (involuntarily). If that’s an NFL wide receiver, that’s probably a catch. But in the way our rule is written, it has to be a voluntary release.”

Cooke said Jones and Acosta were both calling for the ball.

“I think it’s just one of those unfortunate situations when the third baseman and second baseman are in cadence with one another,” he said.

With the momentum shifting, the Aggies added two more runs on a Nick Choruby single off Allen Barry to make it 9-6 before the Wildcats could get out of the inning.

The Aggies added to their lead in the ninth with a Walker Pennington three-run home run off Josh Smutzer. Davidson didn’t get a hit in the final two innings against lefty Kaylor Chafin, and the game ended on a Tyler Agard groundout to third.

Texas A&M (41-21) struck first Saturday when George Janca, who drove in the winning run in the 15-inning series opener, and Logan Foster hit solo home runs to left in the third inning. But from there, Davidson left-hander Evan Roberts kept the Aggies at bay until the eighth.

The Davidson offense came alive in the bottom of the third and tied it on Eric Jones' two-run double. The Wildcats added three runs in the fifth on an Acosta RBI-single, another Jones RBI-double and a Justin Lebek sacrifice fly. Centracchio led off the sixth with his homer to right off John Doxakis to make it 6-2. It was Davidson’s only home run of the NCAA Tournament.

The Aggies began turning the tide in the eighth with an RBI-double by Hunter Coleman and a two-RBI single by Blake Kopetsky to pull within a run.

Roberts threw 7.1 innings, allowing five hits and four earned runs. Reliever Austin Leonard took the loss. Doxakis earned the win.

Texas A&M will be making its sixth College World Series appearance.

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