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Strong Middle Innings Push Texas A&M to Semifinals in Win Over Alabama

The Aggies relied on two home runs in the sixth and seventh inning to advance to the SEC Semifinals

As the game progressed into the bottom of the fifth inning, the television flashed its way into the dugout of Texas A&M. Sitting near the top of the stair was a black-and-white picture of one of college football's most vocal figures in the past month, 

Aggie football coach Jimbo Fisher starred back into the faces of the No. 5 Aggies down three runs. Maybe the newfound rivalry sparked something in outfielder Dylan Rock's bat. Perhaps it was his blank face that allowed the Aggies to score four runs in the seventh and take the lead over Alabama.. 

A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle said he had immense respect for Nick Saban and what he's done for the game of football. Much like Fisher, he too got the final word in during a 12-8 victory over the Crimson Tide in Hoover, Ala. Friday evening. 

“That’s the attraction," Schlossnagle said of college football's budding rivalry. "For us, that’s part of being in this league, man. It’s the rivalries. It’s exciting.” 

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A&M (37-17) once again won in Aggie style, a common theme since the start of conference play. A day after watching right-handers Micah Dallas and Joseph Menefee combine for a one-hitter against the No. 7-seed Florida, the Aggies needed their bullpen to do most of the heavy lifting. 

Starter Nathan Dettmer lasted 1 1/3 innings before Schlossnagle called it, allowing four total runs (three earned) on four hits. Prior to Friday's action, Dettmer had be dealing with a lingering blister on his right foot but was medically cleared to pitch.

Dettmer's downfall was one part of the Aggies' early woes. The others came on errors. A&M committed five total errors — two of which came in the second inning on throws to first base that allowed the Crimson Tide (31-26) to take an early 4-1 lead. 

“The first three innings is about as ugly of baseball as we have played the whole season,” Schlossnagle said. “I can’t remember us playing that poorly."

A&M has won as of late with the long ball. Friday was no different. Rock put the Aggies down by two in the sixth inning after launching a three-run home run over the left-center wall over Alabama's Grayson Hitt. 

The homer reset the tone heading into the second half of the game, forcing Alabama to turn to its pen. Hitt was on his way to a career day with seven strikeouts and three hits before the Rock black.

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“Dylan Rock, he’s scary,” Alabama coach Brad Bohannon said

Shortstop Kole Kaler hit a two-run RBI single to tie the game at six. First baseman Jack Moss would load the bases after being hit by a pitch, giving Rock a chance to drill another ball over the Hoover wall. Instead, he'd pick up his fourth RBI after being hit by a pitch, thus giving A&M the lead.  

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Third baseman Trevor Werner would add insurance with a three-run dinger in the seventh. Ten of the Aggies' 12 runs came from Kaler, Rock and Werner while outfielder Brett Minnich added a pair on a sacrifice fly in the second inning and a double in the eighth.

"We kind of all knew, hey, we need to come together and reset there because those first three innings were not Aggie baseball," Werner said. "We said we're going to reset, deep breath, get back to doing what we do, and just kind of went from there, and it was smooth from there on out."

The Aggies will face the winner of Florida-Alabama in a rematch Saturday at 4:30 p.m CT. Schlossnagle said he will most likely start freshman left-hander Ryan Prager. 

If facing Alabama, perhaps Fisher makes a guest appearance in the dugout. At least the picture signed "OUR COACH" might. 

"If something happens to loosen the mood and that was it, then so be it," Werner laughed. "Maybe we'll keep going with it."


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