Texas A&M evens series with No. 5 LSU after Cole Lankford's walk-off single
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Cole Lankford delivered the endgame in the ninth inning, allowing the Texas A&M Aggies to capitalize on a complete-game effort by Daniel Mengden in a 3-2 win against the No. 5 LSU Tigers on Saturday.
The victory came on the heels of a 10-inning, 5-4 win by LSU in the series opener Friday evening. Texas A&M improved to 29-19 on the year and 11-12 in SEC play. The Tigers dropped to 35-12-1 overall and 13-9-1 in SEC action.
Knotted at 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Krey Bratsen hit a leadoff single. Blake Allemand worked a seven-pitch walk from Tigers reliever Kurt McCune. After falling behind 0-2 in the count, Patrick McLendon slapped a single into rightfield to load the bases.
LSU made a defensive change, bringing Kramer Robertson as a fifth infielder as McCune was set to face Lankford with bags full. Lankford got ahead of the count 3-1 and poked the fifth pitch into centerfield where it landed between the two remaining Tigers outfielders, knocking in Bratsen with the walk-off single.
Mengden hit a bump in the road in the fourth, allowing two sun-aided runs in the frame, but cruised down the stretch, retiring 15 of the 16 batters he faced in the last five innings, including the last 14. Mengden (4-6) tossed his first complete-game of the season, allowing two runs on five hits and one walk while striking out five.
After Mengden fanned a pair to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the top half of the first inning, the Aggies drew first blood in the home half of the inning. Allemand poked a single into centerfield to start the frame, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by McLendon and scored when Cole Lankford snaked a single through the right side of the infield to stake A&M to a 1-0 lead.
The Aggies took advantage of a Bermuda triangle double in shallow right centerfield by Nick Banks in the top of the second. The A&M freshman blooped a ball into no-man’s land and rightfielder Mark Laird was unable to make a leaping stab on the ball after centerfielder Andrew Stevenson and second baseman Conner Hale abandoned their efforts. Banks moved to third on a wild pitch and scored when Ryne Birk stroked a first-pitch offering into shallow right-center for the 2-0 advantage.
LSU benefitted from the elements to even the score in the fourth. With one out, Kade Scivicque hit a ball to the warning track in left-center for a double. Conner Hale followed by lofting a lazy fly ball down the rightfield line. Aggie rightfielder Banks lost the ball off the bat and made no move to pursue. The only thing preventing the inside-the-park-home run was the hustle of first baseman Lankford who tracked the ball down and kept Hale to the RBI triple. Hale scored the equalizer on a wild pitch, tying the game at 2-2.
A double play would end the frame for LSU and the Tigers would get just one man on base the remainder of the game.
The Aggies pounded out 11 hits and were issued seven walks. Lankford went 3-for-4 with one walk and two RBI. The game-winning hit marked the third walk-off of the season for Lankford who hit an 11th-inning RBI double in A&M’s 8-7 win vs Columbia and delivered an RBI single in the 11th inning of the finale against Florida to clinch the series.
Texas A&M left multiple runners on base in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings before winning the game in the ninth. Entering the ninth inning, the Aggies were foiled by nine runners left on base and three double plays.
Jared Poche’ was left with no-decision despite the solid start for LSU. He allowed two runs on seven hits and five walks while striking out three over 7.0 innings. He did not allow a run in his last five innings. The loss was hung on McCune (2-2) who yielded one run on four hits and two walks over 1.0 innings.
Laird and Hale each had two hits, accounting for four of the Tigers’ five hits.