Aggies steal Vol thunder, strike out 17

Marvin Westwestwords

Tennessee let some of the fun spill from the College World Series on Saturday night. It lost to Texas A&M, 9-5. Seventeen Vols struck out.

What remains is not Mission Difficult. It is tougher than that. The Aggies need just one more victory to earn the championship we thought belonged to Tony Vitello’s team.

“It’s one win. Can’t make it more than that. Still got a game to win,” said Texas A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle.

The top-ranked Volunteers started slowly, fell far behind and didn’t have the bold closing comeback this time. They face now-or-never beginning at 2 today (6/23/24) on ABC. If Drew Beam can reverse the trend and the hitters can hit when it matters most, Game 3 would be Monday night.

“Pretty straightforward, the team that played better won the game,” said Vitello. “They appeared more prepared … a couple things don’t go our way … And it kind of got emotional, a little more emotional than it usually does,

“They played better. And even though we didn’t bring our best, we were within striking distance there at the end of the game.”

This very special Tennessee baseball season got into trouble early. As happened in the first Florida State fight, the opener pitching scheme backfired. Chris Stamos gave up a home run to the Aggies’ leadoff batter. The third batter doubled.

For the third time in his last four short starts, Stamos failed to retire more than one batter. A.J. Causey rushed to the rescue but didn’t exactly get it done. Texas A&M was ahead 2-0 after the first inning.

The Vols cut the deficit in half in the second. The Aggies scored five in the third off four hits and a Billy Amick wild throw. Causey didn’t look like he looked in winning 13 games this season.

Tennessee spent the rest of the night trying to catch up. Dylan Dreiling went four-for-five and hit a home run. Hunter Ensley had three hits and a home run. Blake Burke and Dean Curley had two hits each. Amick had one.

Vol stars Christian Moore and Kavares Tears went hitless in their 10 at-bats. Think about that.

Texas A&M ace Ryan Prager, pitching on short rest, had four good-enough innings. The Aggies were up 9-2 when Tennessee power reappeared. It was too little too late.

Gavin Grahovac powered the opening homer for the winners. Kaeden Kent hit a two-run blast in the seventh. He batted in four runs.

Vitello had an interesting assessment of Grahovac: “That guy is about the size of some of the trucks down there in College Station.”

For the second time in the four games in Omaha, Tennessee made three errors. That happened only once in the entire regular season.

There were two encouraging mound developments. Evan Aschenbeck, one of the top relief pitchers in the country, entered the fray on behalf of the Aggies in the seventh inning and threw 47 pitches. That might make him unavailable on Sunday.

Tennessee got two really crisp innings from Dylan Loy, freshman lefthander from Pigeon Forge.

Confidence for Game 2? Vitello said: “I think we can definitely play better. I mean, that’s one thing.”

Having pitcher Drew Beam when backs are against the wall improves Vol chances?

“We like anytime he gets to throw for us,” said Vitello. “It’s kind of been that way since his freshman year … there’s been some ups and downs but it’s not like it’s been a roller coaster.

“He’s been a blessing to have in the program as far as the approach he brings … how he works … he’s an unselfish kid that likes to compete.

“When your leaders have the right characteristics, it usually bleeds into the rest of the team.”

Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is


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