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Texas A&M takes big early lead and beats Tennessee 9-5 in Game 1 of College World Series final

Texas A&M takes big early lead and beats Tennessee 9-5 in Game 1 of College World Series final

Texas A&M takes big early lead and beats Tennessee 9-5 in Game 1 of College World Series final

Texas A&M's Gavin Grahovac celebrates after hitting a solo home run against Tennessee in the first inning of Game 1 of the NCAA College World Series baseball final in Omaha, Neb., Saturday, June 22, 2024.
Texas A&M’s Gavin Grahovac celebrates after hitting a solo home run against Tennessee in the first inning of Game 1 of the NCAA College World Series baseball final in Omaha, Neb., Saturday, June 22, 2024.Rebecca S. Gratz/AP

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A great start. Great finish.

And now, after defeating Tennessee 9-5 in the opener of the College World Series final on Saturday night, Texas A&M faces its toughest task of the season. The Aggies must once again knock off top-seeded national powerhouse No. 1 on Sunday. 1 to win their first national championship.

The Aggies (53-13) hit the spot with Gavin Grahovac pitching to start the game, breaking it open with a five-run third inning and bringing in Evan Aschenbeck to pitch 2 2/3 innings of relief to return a Tennessee. the offense that was beginning to develop.

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“We all know what’s at stake,” Schlossnagle said. “There is no such thing as a Lombardi speech. We’re just trying to keep them as free as possible.”

Tennessee (58-13), trying to become the first No. 1 seed since 1999 to win the championship, will enter Sunday’s Game 2 having lost back-to-back games just once this season and not since March 16-17 on Alabama.

The Patriots won their fifth straight state championship and 10th overall on Saturday, June 15.
Rylie Betson of the USA scored a run.

“You find different ways to respond and you can either be frustrated that tonight went the way it did or you can become more determined,” Vols coach Tony Vitello said. “We have guys who have done this a lot in the past, when the determination goes up, the game goes up.”

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The No. 3 Aggies capitalized on some errors that led to two runs — Tennessee has committed eight in four CWS games — and the inability of pitchers Chris Stamos (3-1) and AJ Causey to consistently hit their spots.

Grahovac drove Stamos’ 0-2 fastball to right for the first leadoff homer in a CWS final since Sam Fuld did it for Stanford against Rice in Game 2 in 2003.

Causey walked Jace LaViolette in the top of the third, Jackson Appel’s comebacker deflected off Causey’s leg for a base hit and Hayden Schott followed with an RBI single to start the Aggies’ five-run burst.

Kaeden Kent, son of former major leaguer Jeff Kent, made it a seven-run game in the seventh with a homer to right field.

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“Trying the basics, I was able to accept,” Kent said. “The Turk went crazy. The fans were so loud; these fans are amazing. I love playing in front of these fans. They help us so much. and so much credit to them.”

Kent, who stepped into the starting lineup two weeks ago after star Braden Montgomery broke his ankle in the super regionals, finished with three hits and four RBIs.

The Vols, the nation’s most prolific home run hitting team over the past three decades, used the long ball to create some anxiety for the Aggies in the bottom of the seventh.

Dylan Dreiling’s two-run shot to right ended the night for reliever Josh Stewart (2-2), and Hunter Ensley’s flyout over the left-field fence off Brad Rudis made it 9-5. The Vols have 180 homers this season, eight behind LSU’s 1997 NCAA record.

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Ensley was the only batter Rudis faced. Aggies manager Jim Schlossnagle brought in Aschenbeck, and the lefty retired six in a row before back-to-back singles put runners on the corners with one out in the ninth. The National Stopper of the Year struck out Ensley and Kavares Tears to end the game.

“It’s something I’ve been doing all year, just trying to give my team the best chance to win,” Aschenbeck said. “That’s what pitchers are for. Our job as a relief pitcher is to come in and pick up the guys in front of us. To walk into that opportunity, it was awesome because the atmosphere was crazy.

“It’s the College World Series. Everything is great.”

The Vols were 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position, 2-for-11 with two outs and left 10 runners on base.

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“Even though we didn’t bring our best,” Vitello said, “we were within striking distance of their guy there at the end of the game.”

Aschenbeck accounted for seven of the Aggies’ game-tying 17 strikeouts on the season. He has allowed just one earned run in his last nine appearances, spanning 25 2/3 innings.

“We’ve had some great relievers in the past and he’s right up there with all of them,” Schlossnagle said. “You just know he’s going to control his heartbeat, No. 1. There’s never too much time.”

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AP College Sports: https://apnews.com/hub/college-sports