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.

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