College World Series-finalist Texas A&M names Michael Earley as head baseball coach

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Michael Earley has been named the head baseball coach at Texas A&M to cap a wild six days since an Aggies rally fell short in the national title game.

Last Monday night, the Aggies lost to the Tennessee Volunteers 6-5 in Omaha to end their best season. By Tuesday, the head coach who led team to the brink of their first title accepted a job to become the head coach of the rival Texas Longhorns.

Jim Schlossnagle was introduced as head coach of the Longhorns in Austin last Wednesday. On the same day, the Longhorns announced that three Aggies assistants — including Earley — would also make the move to Texas.

All that changed over the last few days as the Aggies pursued Earley, an Indiana native, who had built a reputation as a hitting coach at both Arizona State and Texas A&M.

At Arizona State, Earley was credited with helping slugger Spencer Torkelson become a No. 1 overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft.

At A&M, Earley served as the hitting coach for the Aggies for the past three seasons, helping the squad to two College World Series appearances. In his tenure, he developed Texas A&M into one of the most powerful and potent offenses in the Southeastern Conference.

This season, the Aggies were led by sluggers Jace LaViolette, Braden Montgomery and Gavin Grahovac, and they set program records for home runs with 136 and walks with a nation-leading 422. In the last three seasons, the Aggies have belted 306 homers, 704 extra-base hits and have reached base on 1,178 walks.

“Michael is a very talented coach and recruiter, but what stood out to me was his character and the relationships he has built with his current and former players,” Texas A&M athletic director Trev Alberts said in a release.

Earley was an All-Big Ten player at Indiana University. In 2010, he batted .352 with 13 home runs and was the only player in the conference to reach double-digits in home runs and stolen bases.

He was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the 29th round of the 2010 MLB Draft and played six seasons in the White Sox organization, reaching the Triple-A level with the Charlotte Knights. He completed his professional career with the Southern Illinois Miners in the independent Frontier League in 2015.

“My family and I couldn’t be more excited for this opportunity,” said Earley, who thanked administrators for the opportunity.

“For putting your trust in me,” he said. “Being a part of this university and this program are a dream come true. I will not let you down. See you in Omaha!”

Next season, the Longhorns will join the Aggies in the SEC. The two bell-weather programs in the state will reunite as conference rivals for the first time since a decades-old rivalry developed in the Southwest Conference and the Big 12.

The Aggies fled the Big 12 and started play in the SEC in all sports in the 2012-13 academic year.

Schlossnagle leaves Texas A&M baseball to coach at the University of Texas

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Less than 24 hours after Jim Schlossnagle implied that he would continue to coach a Texas A&M Aggies program that reached the Men’s College World Series championship game, he was announced on Tuesday night as baseball coach of the University of Texas Longhorns, the Aggies’ traditional in-state rival.

“What a home run hire,” Texas president Jay Hartzell said in a statement. “Coach Schlossnagle is the best in the business, his long list of accomplishments is incredible, and his track record of building great programs is well documented.

“We are the premier baseball program in the country with legendary coaches, our six national championships and record 38 College World Series appearances, so it’s certainly fitting that we hired a coach of his caliber to lead us.”

Schlossnagle has spent the last three seasons coaching the Aggies, taking them to unprecedented heights. The former longtime coach of the TCU Horned Frogs led A&M to the MCWS in 2022 and again last week. The 2022 team went 2-2 in Omaha.

This time, the Aggies were loaded with talent, and even with injuries to a couple of key players, they made a spirited run to the finals against the top-seeded Tennessee Volunteers. No. 3 A&M finished 53-15 on the season, 9-2 in the NCAA tournament and 4-2 in the MCWS.

On Monday, in Austin, as the MCWS in Omaha was preparing for the championship showdown, Texas officials acknowledged that they had parted ways with eight-year coach David Pierce. By Monday night, Tennessee held off A&M 6-5 in an emotional winner-take-all contest.

In postgame interviews, a question to Schlossnagle about his “future in Aggieland” sparked an emotional response.

The question went like this: “With respect to the difficult outcome tonight, with the rumors circulating today about a specific job opening, what do you have to say about your future in Aggieland?”

“Yeah, I mean, I think it’s pretty selfish of you to ask that question, to be honest with you,” Schlossnagle responded. “But … I left my family to be the coach at Texas A&M. I took the job at Texas A&M to never take another job again, and that hasn’t changed in my mind. That’s unfair to talk about something like that.

“That’d be like you asking (Braden) Montgomery if he’s going to sign in the (Major League Baseball) draft. But, I understand you got to ask the question. But, I gave up a big part of my life to come take this job, and I’ve poured every ounce of my soul in this job. And I’ve given this job every single ounce I could possibly give it. So, write that.”

In a statement from Schlossnagle published Tuesday night by ESPN reporter Dave Wilson, he thanked Texas A&M administrators and the fans “for an incredible experience during my time at Texas A&M.”

“Although I know many will be upset with my decision, I chose to make a change to join a longtime friend to continue my career as a college baseball coach,” the coach said. “The run to the (national title) game was truly a remarkable one this year, and I will savor the memories and true friendships I have made there for a lifetime.”

In Austin, Schlossnagle will be reunited with Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte, who was athletic director at TCU when Schlossnagle coached the Horned Frogs.

Schlossnagle’s key staffers at A&M will follow him to Texas, including assistants Nolan Cain, Michael Earley and Max Weiner.

Tennessee holds off Texas A&M, 6-5, to win the Men’s College World Series

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Dylan Dreiling homered for the third straight game to spark a three-run seventh inning, and the top-seeded Tennessee Volunteers held on at the end to win the Men’s College World Series with a 6-5 victory Monday night over the No. 3 Texas A&M Aggies.

With the win, Tennessee rebounded from a championship series-opening loss to A&M and claimed victories on consecutive days in Omaha, Neb., to put an end to the so-called “Curse of the No. 1 seed.” They became the first top-seeded team to win the NCAA baseball tournament since 1999, when the Miami Hurricanes won the title.

For the Vols, it was a sweet victory, one that yielded their first national title. On the flip side, it was a brutal loss for the Aggies, who were also looking to win the championship for the first time, only to fall painfully short on the last day of the season.

In a winner-take-all game at Charles Schwab Stadium, the Volunteers entered the bottom of the seventh leading by only two runs when they started to rally against Aggies relief ace Evan Aschenbeck. First, Dreiling hit a two-run homer. Then, after a Hunter Ensley single, Kavares Tears added an RBI double to make it 6-1.

The Tennessee fans at Charles Schwab Stadium were roaring on the play when Ensley scored all the way from first base. With Tears’ blast hitting off the wall in center, Ensley ran hard. He kept going, contorting his body and barely getting around A&M catcher Jackson Appel to score. The Aggies asked for an umpire’s review but the call was upheld.

In a drama-filled ending, A&M scored two runs each in the eighth and ninth innings. But after Tennessee reliever Aaron Combs threw a wild pitch that allowed the Aggies’ second run in the ninth and their fifth in the game to score, he struck out Ted Burton for the last out to nail down the victory.

On Saturday night, in the first game of the championship series, the Aggies jumped out to an early six-run lead and defeated the Vols, 9-5. They led by one run in Game 2 going into the seventh inning but couldn’t hold on, eventually falling in a 4-1 decision. Dreiling, a sophomore from Hays, Kan., homered in each of the three games.


Texas A&M

Overall 53-15
In the NCAA tournament 9-2
In the MCWS 4-2


Overall 60-13
In the NCAA tournament 10-2
In the MCWS 5-1


In postgame interviews, a question to Texas A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle about his “future in Aggieland” sparked an emotional response. The question came in the wake of developments in Austin earlier in the day that the University of Texas had fired baseball coach David Pierce, and that the Longhorns were looking for a replacement.

The question to Schlossnagle went like this: “With respect to the difficult outcome tonight, with the rumors circulating today about a specific job opening, what do you have to say about your future in Aggieland?”

“Yeah, I mean, I think it’s pretty selfish of you to ask that question, to be honest with you,” Schlossnagle responded. “But … I left my family to be the coach at Texas A&M. I took the job at Texas A&M to never take another job again, and that hasn’t changed in my mind. That’s unfair to talk about something like that.

“That’d be like you asking (Braden) Montgomery if he’s going to sign in the (Major League Baseball) draft. But, I understand you got to ask the question. But, I gave up a big part of my life to come take this job, and I’ve poured every ounce of my soul in this job. And I’ve given this job every single ounce I could possibly give it. So, write that.”

Montgomery, who hit 27 home runs this season to go along with 85 RBI, is projected as a first-round pick in the July draft. He didn’t play in the MCWS after breaking his ankle in the first game of the Super Regional round of the NCAA playoffs. As a result, the Aggies played short-handed in Omaha, without both Montgomery and left-handed starting pitcher Shane Sdao.

A&M players gave it their all to the very end in the final game, with Hayden Schott and Jackson Appel enjoying three-hit games and Gavin Grahovac contributing two. Appel scored twice, while Schott and Grahovac scored once. All three of them, along with Caden Sorrell, contributed one RBI apiece.

In the dizzying ninth, Combs entered to pitch for the Vols, trying to protect a three-run lead. But Grahovac greeted him with a double to left field. After Jace LaViolette struck out, Appel came to bat, and Grahovac took third base on a wild pitch that sailed high, tipping off the catcher’s glove and going back to the screen.

At that point, Appel singled to drive in Grahovac, who scored the first run of the inning and the fourth of the game for the Aggies. Throwing hard, Combs settled down and struck out Schott, with Appel moving to second base. Pitching to Burton, Combs faked a pickoff attempt and was called a balk, allowing Appel to take third base. He scored to make it 6-5 when Combs threw another wild pitch.

Finally, Combs settled down and fanned Burton to end the game.

Tennessee starter Zander Sechrist (6-1) worked 5 and 1/3 innings for the win. He allowed one run on six hits and a walk while striking out seven. Nate Snead pitched 1 and 2/3 innings, followed by Dylan Loy and Kirby Connell before Combs closed in the ninth.

Texas A&M’s Justin Lamkin (3-3) went down as the losing pitcher in an effort that went 2 and 2/3 innings. He gave up three runs on five hits. The former standout at Corpus Christi Calallen just didn’t seem to have as much pop on his pitches as he did in two starts in MCWS bracket play. In relief, Josh Stewart worked 2 and 1/3 scoreless while Aschenbeck yielded six hits in three innings. He was charged with all three runs in the seventh.

Tennessee pounded out 13 hits, including home runs by Christian Moore and Dylan Dreiling. Moore led off the bottom of the first inning with his 34th of the season. For Dreiling, the homer was his 23rd. Additionally, five players finished with two hits apiece, including Blake Burke, Dreiling, Hunter Ensley, Kavares Tears and Dean Curley.

Kent-led Texas A&M beats No. 1 Tennessee, moves to within one win of a national championship

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

With his famous father watching from the grandstands Saturday night, Kaeden Kent kept his NCAA playoff hot streak alive and helped lift the third-seeded Texas A&M Aggies to within one victory of a national championship.

The son of former Major League Baseball standout Jeff Kent homered and drove in four runs, leading the Aggies to a 9-5 victory over the top-seeded Tennessee Volunteers in the opener of the best-of-three title round at the Men’s College World Series.

The Aggies hit well from the outset in front of a packed house in Omaha, Neb., building leads that grew to 7-1 in the middle of the third and to 9-2 in the middle of the seventh.

Undeterred, the Volunteers kept their poise and made it interesting. Rallying against Texas A&M relievers Josh Stewart and Brad Rudis, the Vols scored three times in the seventh to trim the Aggies’ lead to four.

First, Dylan Dreiling hammered a pitch from Stewart for a two-run homer. Stewart had pitched well to that point, but he would be lifted for Rudis, who immediately gave up a long solo homer to Hunter Ensly. When Ensly’s ball landed several rows deep in the left-field pavilion, Tennessee was back in the game, trailing 9-5.

A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle elected to bring in bullpen ace Evan Aschenbeck, who struck out the only two batters he faced in the seventh to prevent further damage.

Aschenbeck finished the game without allowing a run, escaping a one-out, first-and-third situation in the ninth to keep the Aggies undefeated at 9-0 in the NCAA tournament and 4-0 in the MCWS. The Aggies can clinch their first national title in baseball if they can win again Sunday night. A third game would be played on Monday, if necessary.

“I thought we played really well for the most part,” A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “We got a lot of timely hits. Had some really good at bats against some really good pitchers. Tennessee’s got a great pitching staff. They’re a very diverse pitching staff.

“I thought (A&M starter Ryan) Prager battled through some things and (reliever Josh Stewart) was awesome. Evan was Evan. And Kaeden just continues to play outstanding in the back half of the season. It’s one win. Can’t make it anything more than that.”

Entering their fourth game in the MCWS tournament that started on June 13 at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, the Aggies had not trailed on the scoreboard in any of their previous three outings. Once again, they got the early jump, this time against Vols pitchers Chris Stamos and AJ Causey with a two-run first inning.

Gavin Grahovac opened the game with an opposite-field homer to right. It was his 23rd of the season. Jackson Appel followed with a one-out double down the left field line. A fielding error by shortstop Dean Curley compounded Tennessee’s problems, prompting the Vols to replace Stamos with Causey. After Ted Burton struck out, freshman Caden Sorrell drilled an RBI single up the middle.

In retaliation, the Vols scored one run in the bottom of the second off Aggies starter Ryan Prager but failed to capitalize on a few choice opportunities. Consequently, A&M came to bat in the top of the third, leading 2-1. The Aggies immediately took advantage, scoring five runs on four hits and an infield error. Caden Sorrell, Hayden Schott and Kent contributed with run-scoring singles.

Sorrell and Schott drove in one run apiece while Kent’s two-run single made it a 7-1 ballgame.

After the Vols added a run in the bottom of the third to make it 7-2, their prolific offense went into a lull. Prager, a lefty, worked another inning and gave way to Stewart, a righty, who started to frustrate Tennessee hitters with sliders and sweepers. All told, A&M pitching may have won the game from the fourth through the sixth, keeping Tennessee off the scoreboard in that span.

In the top of the seventh, Kent electrified A&M fans with a long homer to right field. For Kent, who replaced injured star Braden Montgomery in the lineup in the Oregon series, it was his third hit of the night and his fourth RBI. With the outburst, the sophomore from Lake Travis High School in Austin hiked his productivity in the NCAA playoffs to 13 hits and 14 RBI in only seven games.

Kent, a sophomore from Lake Travis High School in Austin, said he thinks his surge can be traced to the support that he gets from teammates and members of his family.

“The support that I get and the people that believe in me,” he said. “The people that have my back and I can count on. People like my parents, or my brother. Like, I can look to the stands, and they can give me the … they can pound their chest, like, ‘You got this.’ That puts a lot of relaxation on my mind.”

In regard to the pitch he hit for the home run, he said the pitcher hung a slider, “and I was able to get it.”

Once again, the Aggies won a game with youthful talent making significant contributions. From Kent. From Grahovac, a freshman from Orange, Calif. From Sorrell, another freshman, from Highland Village and Flower Mound Marcus High School.

“Even though they’re young,” Kent said, “I think we’re past the young phase. Gavin Grahovac is so mature. So is Sorrell. They’ve had so much experience (and) they’re good baseball players.”

Kent considers his teammates to be smart players who put in the work to prepare themselves in between games.

“Baseball is a frustrating game,” he said. “So, the consistency and the time that you put in is not always shown out on the field when you play. The countless hours in the cages sometimes turns into a 0-for-4 when you go out on Tuesday. But, it’s just the repetition, man. You’re stacking days on days. It has a compound effect, and you just got to keep pushing through it.”


Texas A&M

Overall 53-13
In the NCAA tournament 9-0
In the MCWS 4-0


Overall 58-13
In the NCAA tournament 8-2
In the MCWS 3-1

Coming up

MCWS title series continues with Game 2 on Sunday at 1 p.m. A Game 3 would be played on Monday if necessary.

Pitching has carried the Aggies to the brink of their first national title

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

If you believe in curses in baseball and you subscribe to the so-called “Curse of the No. 1 seed” in the NCAA tournament, then you probably think the Texas A&M Aggies are destined to beat the Tennessee Volunteers in a best-of-three series this weekend for the Men’s College World Series title.

But if you have been paying close attention to the Aggies since they arrived in Nebraska for the MCWS, then you should know that third-seeded A&M will have a decent chance of beating top-seeded Tennessee, anyway.

Why is that? Well, for as long as young men have been scuffling around on infield dirt and grass outfields in a game dating back to the 1800s, pitching has always served as the key element to success, and A&M’s staff has been the most effective and efficient in Omaha.

The Aggies have have been nothing less than brilliant on the mound in their three games on Charles Schwab Field at TD Ameritrade Park.

In 27 innings, against Florida, Kentucky and Florida, again, A&M pitching has yielded only 16 hits and three earned runs. The staff has struck out 37 and walked 10.

Never mind that the Aggies are hobbled a bit offensively with some of their biggest sticks either sidelined or limited with injuries. Never mind that they have scored only 14 runs on 23 hits. Or, that they are batting a less-than-prodigious .223 as a team in the MCWS.

The A&M pitching has been so good, it has allowed the offense to relax, measure the man on the mound for the opponent and then capitalize when opportunities present themselves.

With ace Ryan Prager scheduled to start tonight, the Aggies would seem to have as good a chance as anyone to beat a Tennessee team that features several of the best hitters in the college game. Not to mention a hearty pitching staff, as well.

Jim Schlossnagle’s team has won 52 games, but Tony Vitello’s has won 58.

“Tennessee is far and away the best team outside of our team this year,” Schlossnagle said. “Pitching. Defense. (They’re) so physical … It doesn’t surprise me what Tony’s done. Not just with his team but with his entire program as a whole. So I’m looking forward to playing against ’em. That’s what you get in (the Southeastern Conference) and that’s what you get in the College World Series.”

Oddly, the top-seeded Miami Hurricanes won the title in 1999 in the first tournament played with a seeded field. But while the Hurricanes were the first top seed to win the championship, they were also the last.

Notable mishaps involving top seeds in the MCWS finals included losses by Texas in both 2004 and 2009.

Two years ago, top-seeded Tennessee advanced to the Super Regional with a whopping 56 wins, only to get beat at home two out of three by Notre Dame. Last season, Wake Forest emerged as the first No. 1 seed to make it to Omaha since 2018, and the Demon Deacons were eliminated in the semifinals, losing to the Oklahoma Sooners.

Notable mishaps involving top seeds in the MCWS finals included losses by Texas in both 2004 and 2009. To Cal State Fullerton and LSU, respectively. So, because this is college baseball, fans will believe what they’re going to believe. Fans are going to talk about superstitions.

Then again, if the Aggies can take two of three from the Vols for the program’s first national title this weekend, it’s more than likely going to happen as a result of pitching than any sort of curse.


Texas A&M

Overall 52-13
In the NCAA tournament 8-0
In the MCWS 3-0


Overall 58-12
In the NCAA tournament 8-1
In the MCWS 3-0

In the title hunt: Texas A&M beats Florida, advances to the MCWS finals for the first time

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Led by a dominant pitching staff, the Texas A&M Aggies have surged into the finals of the Men’s College World Series for the first time. They clinched a spot in the title round after they eliminated the Florida Gators, 6-0, on Wednesday night at Charles Schwab Stadium in Omaha, Neb.

With the victory, the third-seeded Aggies will now focus on trying to capture their first national title in baseball. They’ll have a tough test in the top-seeded Tennessee Volunteers. The best-of-three set will commence on Saturday.

Coming into the game against the Gators, the Aggies’ pitching had been the story. They beat the Gators last Saturday, 3-2. They followed up with a 5-1 victory against the Kentucky Wildcats on Monday.

As it turned out, the rematch against the Gators turned into much the same narrative as A&M pitchers, with starter Justin Lamkin leading the way, allowed only four hits. Going back to late Saturday night, the Aggies have now strung zeroes on the scoreboard in 19 of their last 20 innings.

“Great ball game,” A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle told reporters later. “Lamkin was obviously outstanding. The decision was just how long to leave him in there and win the game but still give us a chance over the weekend since we’re down a pitcher.”

Lamkin, a 6-foot-4 lefty from Corpus Christi Calallen, made his second start of the MCWS and made it count with nine strikeouts in five innings. He allowed only three hits and was threatened seriously with runners in scoring position only once.

In the third inning, the Gators loaded the bases with one out. First, Michael Robertson drew a walk. Next, Jac Caglianone beat an infield shift by punching a single through the left side. Cade Kurland then smashed a ball back at Lamkin for an infield single.

At that point, Lamkin struck out Tyler Shelnut. The inning ended when shortstop Ali Camarillo raced into foul territory to catch a pop up off the bat of Colby Shelton.

When Lamkin was replaced to open the sixth, the Aggies went through a bit of uncertainty when Chris Cortez walked two straight. But Josh Stewart entered and used a sweeping curveball to pitch two scoreless frames. Evan Aschenbeck, the stopper of the year in college baseball, finished with the last two innings.

“Stewy made big pitches,” Schlossnagle said. “Got us out of a jam. Cortez will be better next time, I have no doubt.”

Caden Sorrell led the way offensively with a team-high three RBI, one coming on a sacrifice fly and the others on a two-run homer. It was his 11th of the season and his third in the NCAA playoffs. Gavin Grahovac and Kaeden Kent both had two hits and an RBI.

Jace LaViolette, who tweaked a hamstring Monday night against Kentucky, started and played right field but clearly wasn’t 100 percent physically. He went zero for four at the plate and struck out twice.

In the first inning, he was on third base when Sorrell hit his sac fly to center. LaViolette scored on the play but didn’t look smooth as he tried to accelerate. In the field, a fly ball that might have been caught on another night got past him for a double.

Given the circumstances, it’s remarkable that the Aggies are in position to win it all.

They lost star outfielder Braden Montgomery and front-line starting pitcher Shane Sdao for the season with injuries in the Super Regional round. Now, they’re playing with a less-than-100 percent LaViolette, and they’re two wins away from holding up the trophy. One of the big reasons for their success in Omaha is Lamkin, who has pitched eight scoreless innings.

“I think the big part of it is just having self confidence in myself, knowing that I can go out there and compete and play at this level,” Lamkin said. “I think just getting ahead of hitters and having true confidence in all my pitches really helped me out.”

Asked how it feels to become a part of Texas A&M history as the first baseball team to play for a national title, Sorrell talked about how he had always followed the program when he was younger.

“It’s definitely an amazing feeling,” Sorrell said. “I remember coming to these games when I was like 10 years old and always wanting to be a part of this. You know, finally being here and making it this far, it’s been an amazing feeling. But, obviously, the job is not finished yet.”

A&M’s 8-0 ride through the NCAA tournament has not been without a few hiccups. Namely, the injuries and the accompanying decisions on what to do with personnel. Kent, who stepped into the lineup in Game 1 of the Super Regionals when Montgomery went out, has been the most visible of players coming off the bench to perform well.

The son of former major league infielder Jeff Kent has produced five hits in three games in the MCWS, including two against Kentucky and two against Florida. Another player rising to the occasion has been Stewart, who didn’t pitch in either NCAA regional or the super regional round.

For the first time since May 23, he got into a game on Monday against Kentucky and pitched 2 and 1/3 innings, giving up a run (on a solo homer) and three hits. Against Florida, his emergence was a key in steadying the team after Cortez faltered. Stewart said

“It wasn’t too big of a deal with the break (between games),” Stewart said. “Got work in on the off days, and whatnot, and didn’t try to rise to the occasion, or whatever. Just got back to what we do every single day and just (went) one day at a time, really. Didn’t try to make it bigger than it is.”


Florida: 36-30
In the MCWS: 2-2
In the NCAA tournament: 8-3

Texas A&M 52-13
In the MCWS: 3-0
In the NCAA tournament: 8-0


The Gators entered the game with one loss, having dropped their opener to the Aggies before rebounding to eliminate both North Carolina State, 5-4, and second-seeded Kentucky, 15-4.

The Gators rolled the dice with the use of freshman Liam Peterson as their starter. Peterson was ineffective against A&M in the opener and once again didn’t have it, walking four of the first five batters that he faced. He was charged with two runs and the loss and fell to 3-6 on the season. Lamkin was the winner and improved to 3-2.

Florida star Jac Caglianone finished his night two for four at the plate. But, fortunately for A&M, he didn’t homer. He had hit home runs in four of five NCAA tournament games coming in.

Once a .500 team in April, Florida reaches the MCWS semifinals against Texas A&M

The Florida Gators once looked nothing like a national-title contender. They were once 17-17 on the season and 6-8 in the Southeastern Conference at the end of a season-long, six-game losing streak.

That was in April. By May, at the SEC tournament, the perennial national power had shown some progress with a few victories against highly-ranked opponents but had once again found themselves in trouble. Beaten in the SEC tournament by Vanderbilt, they fell to 28-27 entering a week during which the NCAA tournament selection committee would decide whether the Gators deserved a chance to play again.

Fortunately for the Gators, they survived the cut into the 64-team field, and they were designated as a No. 3 seed out of four teams in the Stillwater Regional. In Stillwater they came alive, winning four out of five games and beating the home-team Oklahoma State Cowboys twice. On their way to the Clemson Super Regional, the Gators stayed hot, winning 10-7 and then 11-10 in 13 innings for a berth in the eight-team Men’s College World Series.

Now they’re in the MCWS semifinals, taking a modest 36-29 record into tonight’s game against the third-seeded and 51-13 Texas A&M Aggies. Once again, the Gators fell down before they rose up and played their best baseball. They lost to the Aggies 3-2 to fall into the losers bracket. Adversity? Florida didn’t flinch, eliminating North Carolina State 5-4 on Monday. On Wednesday, they erupted for seven runs in the first inning and advanced with a 15-4 victory.

As usual, the Gators had plenty of offense. Brody Donay hit two home runs, including a first-inning grand slam. All-American Jac Caglianone hit a solo homer in the sixth inning to give him four homers in his last five games and 35 for the season. Caglianone has 75 for his career to become Florida’s all-time leader. He is also tied for eighth all-time in the NCAA and tied for third in the SEC history books.

Coming up

MCWS semifinals

Wednesday: Florida State vs. Tennessee, in progress
Wednesday: Florida vs. Texas A&M
x-Tennessee and Texas A&M need one win to advance to the finals
x-Florida State and Florida need two wins to advance
x-play in semifinals will be completed Thursday if necessary


Florida State 49-16
In the NCAA tournament: 7-1
In the MCWS: Lost to Tennessee, 12-11; defeated Virginia, 7-3; defeated North Carolina, 9-5.

Tennessee 57-12
In the NCAA tournament: 7-1
In the MCWS: Defeated Florida State, 12-11; defeated North Carolina, 6-1.

Florida 36-29
In the NCAA tournament: 8-2
In the MCWS: Lost to Texas A&M, 3-2; defeated NC State, 5-4; defeated Kentucky, 15-4.

Texas A&M 51-13
In the NCAA tournament: 7-0
In the MCWS: Defeated Florida, 3-2; defeated Kentucky, 5-1.

Aggies can book a trip to MCWS finals if they can win tonight

By the end of the day on Wednesday, the top-seeded Tennessee Volunteers and the No. 4 Texas A&M Aggies could clinch berths in the championship round of the Men’s College World Series.

Weather-related concerns in Omaha scrambled the schedule for the MCWS on Tuesday as the hard-hitting eighth-seeded Florida State Seminoles won 9-5 to stay alive in the tournament and to eliminate the No. 4 North Carolina Tar Heels.

The Seminoles staved off elimination for the second straight day, led by Jaxson West, who set a career high with four hits, including a ninth-inning home run.

West and Max Williams hit back-to-back homers in the ninth to put the game away. Connor Hults improved to 3-1 with 4 and 1/3 scoreless innings.

An elimination game between Florida and Kentucky scheduled for Tuesday night was pushed back a day because of weather-related concerns in Omaha.

Florida and Kentucky were playing Wednesday morning with the winner hoping to advance into the semifinal round against A&M. The second game of the day will feature a semifinals matchup between Tennessee against Florida State.

Tennessee rallied with four runs in the bottom of the ninth last Friday to stun Florida State on opening day of the tournament.

Both Tennessee and A&M will need to be beaten twice in the semifinals for their opponents to make the finals. Should either or both Tennessee and A&M lose, a second day of competition in the semis would be held on Thursday.

The best of three MCWS finals are scheduled to open Saturday.

Wednesday’s schedule

Florida v Kentucky, 10 a.m. (elimination game)
Tennessee v Florida State, 2 p.m. (semifinals)
Texas A&M v Florida or Kentucky, 6 p.m. (semifinals)

Aggies keep winning in the playoffs despite ‘losing players left and right’

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

One win away from the finals in the Men’s College World Series, Texas A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle is clearly enjoying the ride. And, why not? His team has won seven straight in the NCAA baseball tournament, including a 2-0 start in the MCWS.

At the same time, questions loom. Will slugging outfielder Jace LaViolette be ready to play on Wednesday? If not, how can the coach be expected to win a national title if he’s missing both LaViolette and Braden Montgomery in the most important game of the season?

Moreover, what will he do without the services of starting pitcher Shane Sdao, who like Montgomery suffered a season-ending injury in the Super Regional round? All serious questions that will force Schlossnagle to make some big decisions over the next 36 hours.

In his postgame news conference Monday, Schlossnagle said LaViolette “tweaked” a hamstring in third-seeded A&M’s 5-1 victory over No. 2 Kentucky. He did it apparently in the sixth inning when the Aggies scored five runs.

So, what is his status for Wednesday?

“Thankfully we don’t play (Tuesday),” Schlossnagle told reporters. “So we got 48 hours to see if we can get him functional to do something on the field. Last two weeks (we’ve) been losing players left and right. Gives other guys opportunities. Hopefully it’ll make a good story.”

The loss of Sdao to injury last week against Oregon could become a major issue should the Aggies falter and lose Wednesday’s game. If they lose, they’d need to play again Thursday for the right to move into the title series.

“When you’re down a pitcher like Sdao, that’s a big hole to fill for any team,” the coach said. “At least, for our team. The fact that we get an extra day’s rest and hopefully just have to win one (is important).”

Just when he mentioned his fortuitous position in the bracket, Schlossnagle recalled an experience that he had at another school, a memory that apparently still haunts him. Eight years ago, his TCU Horned Frogs went into the CWS semifinals with a 2-0 record and failed to reach the finals.

As it turned out, Coastal Carolina won in the losers bracket and then knocked off TCU twice in the semifinals en route to winning the MCWS title, a footnote in history that should give hope to both Kentucky and Florida, who play Tuesday night for the right to meet A&M again on Wednesday.

“In 2016 we had to win one game and Coastal Carolina had to win three, and they did,” Schlossnagle said. “So, we’ve won a couple of ballgames, but we’re not where we want to be yet.”

One of the keys to A&M’s success is, obviously, talented players who aren’t playing at the moment and staying ready just in case. Kaeden Kent is one of those players. He wasn’t in the lineup at the start of the NCAA tournament but now is playing a major role.

“It’s amazing,” Kent said. “Any time you can play playoff baseball, it’s amazing. The fans are crazy, especially at Olsen Field. And my teammates, our teammates, are ultra-supportive of everybody. We have each other’s backs, and we play for each other.

“Like (pitcher) Ryan (Prager) said earlier, we have full trust in everybody in that dugout. So it’s amazing when a team can come together like we are and enjoy being around each other so much where we can win ball games, and it’s super fun to play.”

Another element of the Aggies’ run to the brink of their first championship round appearance is resilience. Sometimes, players on other teams just get hot. Sometimes, in the case of the Oregon Ducks last week, they get hot and make a good pitcher like Prager look bad.

The Ducks hammered Prager for six runs in just one and two thirds innings in the opener of the best-of-three Bryan-College Station Super Regional. On Monday night, Prager had a chance to make amends, and he did.

He carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning and finished with 6 and 2/3 innings scoreless, allowing only two hits. A strong wind blowing into hitters’ faces aided his cause, but at the same time, he kept throwing strikes and forced the Wildcats to swing early in counts.

“After last week, as soon as I came out (of the game), there was some frustration,” Prager said. “(But) once we made the last out (in the series), all of that went away. We just won an opportunity to come to Omaha. I thought that went away pretty quick.

“But the first couple of days after, there was some thinking. Maybe a little bit of over thinking. But, truly coming back to neutral and understanding what I’ve done all year has led to some success and nothing really needs to change. There doesn’t need to be a drastic change.”

Did the Aggies catch a break when they showed up Monday afternoon with the wind blowing in? Sure they did. They’ll acknowledge it and they’ll take it. Including a 3-2 victory over Florida on Saturday, A&M pitching has now allowed only three runs in two games in Omaha.

Prager did his part, going deep into the game and minimizing the role that the bullpen would need to play to finish off the victory.

“First two games we’ve been here, that’s about how we drew it up,” Schlossnagle said. “Glad to see him get a little bit of a cushion. Also glad to see him not to have to go much further than he did. Because if we’re going to have a chance to win this thing, he’s going to have to pitch again on much shorter rest.

“So, he did a great job. We played good defense behind him. Any time the wind’s blowing like it was, it gives any pitcher more confidence to throw the ball in the strike zone.”

Coming up

Tuesday: Florida State v North Carolina, 1 p.m.; Kentucky v Florida, 6 p.m. (both elimination games)
Wednesday: Tennessee v Florida State or North Carolina, 1 p.m.; Texas A&M v Kentucky or Florida, 6 p.m., (semifinals)

A&M defeats Kentucky, advances undefeated into MCWS semifinals

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

Jackson Appel and Hayden Schott ignited a five-run sixth inning and lefthander Ryan Prager took a no hitter into the seventh Monday night, as the Texas A&M Aggies rolled to a 5-1 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats to remain undefeated at the Men’s College World Series.

Looking for their first national title in their eighth trip to Omaha, Neb., the third-seeded Aggies have fashioned a 2-0 start in the MCWS for the first time. With wins over Florida and second-seeded Kentucky, A&M has moved into the semifinals needing only one victory to advance to the championship round.

Now with one loss in two games, Kentucky is scheduled to play Florida, also 1-1, in the losers bracket Tuesday. The winner is scheduled to get another shot at A&M on Wednesday night in the semifinals. A&M will need to be beaten twice for its opponent to reach the finals.

A&M star outfielder Jace LaViolette came out of the game against Kentucky with an apparent injury after his team broke it open in the sixth with five runs, four hits and three walks off Kentucky pitching, including four runs charged to starter Mason Moore.

LaViolette, whose catch at the wall robbed Florida of a home run in a 3-2 A&M victory on Saturday night, led off with a walk and moved to third base when Appel doubled down the right field line. It was A&M’s best scoring opportunity of the night, and the Aggies didn’t waste it.

Both LaViolette and Appel scored on Hayden Schott’s two-run single to left to make it 2-0. The first glimpse of LaViolette’s discomfort showed when he limped in from third to home plate.

Subsequently, the Aggies kept it going when Ted Burton walked. One out later, with runners at first and second, Ali Camarillo stroked an RBI double over the head of Kentucky right fielder James McCoy. A&M caught a break when McCoy appeared out of position to make the catch.

The play left A&M with a 3-0 lead and runners at second and third base. Kaeden Kent slapped a two-RBI single to left to make it 5-0.

Ryan Nicholson tied the Kentucky single-season, school record with his 23rd home run, a solo shot, off A&M reliever Josh Stewart in the bottom of the ninth.


Kentucky 46-15
Texas A&M 51-13

Coming up

Tuesday: North Carolina v Florida State, 1 p.m., elimination game; Kentucky v Florida, 6 p.m., elimination game.

Wednesday’s semifinals: Tennessee v North Carolina/Florida State, 1 p.m.; Texas A&M v Kentucky/Florida, 6 p.m.


Texas A&M’s Ryan Prager bounced back from a poor outing in the Super Regional round to notch the victory over Kentucky, improving his record to 9-1. Prager worked 6 and 2/3 shut out innings, giving up only two hits. He walked one and struck out four.

In the Super Regional opener against Oregon, the redshirt sophomore from Dallas Hillcrest lasted only one and two thirds innings. He yielded six runs on seven hits, including a homer, after which the Aggies rallied for a 10-6 victory.

Offensively, Hayden Schott led the Aggies in the MCWS matchup against Kentucky.

The graduate student from Newport Beach, Calif., went three for five and had two RBI. Schott has hit safely in six of seven NCAA tournament games. He is four for eight in the CWS and has produced 13 hits in 30 at bats in the tournament.

Kaeden Kent, a sophomore from Lake Travis and the son of former major league star Jeff Kent, also continued to shine for the Aggies. Kent is eight for 15 in the tournament and seven for 13, including a grand slam in Game 1 against the Ducks, since he replaced injured Braden Montgomery in the lineup.

When LaViolette exited the Kentucky game before the bottom of the sixth, A&M coach Jim Scholossnagle inserted Jack Bell into the game at second base and moved Kent over to play third. Gavin Grahovac moved from third base to left field and freshman Caden Sorrell from left to right to take LaViolette’s position in the field.

Both Montgomery (ankle) and pitcher Shane Sdao were injured in the Oregon series and have been declared out for the MCWS. All of which makes it interesting to see whether LaViolette can return. LaViolette, whose injury was announced as a hamstring, leads A&M with 28 homers. Montgomery, considered a potential first-round draft pick, has hit 27 homers. Sdao is regarded as a key starter.


“Give their starter credit. (Ryan) Prager. What an outing. What a time to throw a game like that. He kept us off balance. It was the fastball. The breaking ball. The changeup. He just threw an absolute great game,” Kentucky coach Nick Mingione said.

“I thought it was a great ballgame,” A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “Tough conditions to hit. I thought both pitchers, Ryan was obviously outstanding. I thought Mason was outstanding for them. We just happened to get Appel’s big hit to get us into scoring position.

“And then both Hayden and Kaeden did an awesome job of staying on the baseball and using the whole field to hit.”