Davidson’s best season in school history had a brutal ending as Texas A&M scored seven runs in the eighth inning, rallying for a 12-6 victory Saturday at Blue Bell Park to sweep the regional series, advancing to the College World Series.
Davidson (35-26) was in position to force a third game with a 6-2 lead through seven innings, but unraveled in the eighth inning behind a pair of errors.
A&M (41-21) took a 7-6 lead when Davidson second baseman Alec Acosta dropped a popup after crashing to the ground following a collision with third baseman Eric Jones. A&M, which had the bases loaded on the two-out popup by pinch-hitter Jorge Gutierrez, scored two runs on the miscue. After a short delay to replace Acosta, A&M’s Nick Choruby added a two-run single to make it 9-6.
Davidson, making its first NCAA tournament appearance, was in control after heading into the eighth behind junior left-hander Evan Roberts who had allowed only three hits.
“It was certainly an unfortunate play, and our biggest concern right now is making sure Alec’s OK,” Davidson coach Dick Cooke said. “He got dinged a little bit which is why we took him out.”
A&M’s Walker Pennington capped the scoring with a two-out, three-run homer in the ninth.
Davidson, making its first NCAA tournament appearance, was in control after heading into the eighth behind junior left-hander Evan Roberts who had allowed only three hits. A&M had fits with Roberts’ off-speed pitches as he struck out five and walked one.
But Choruby opened the eighth with a single, then A&M caught a break when Davidson shortstop Max Bazin couldn’t handle a one-hop liner hit by Braden Shewmake. An RBI double by Hunter Coleman chased Roberts for Austin Leonard who hit Cole Bedford to load the bases. A&M pulled to within 6-5 on Blake Kopetsky’s two-run single. Leonard struck out Pennington, but George Janca walked on a full-count pitch, bringing on sophomore reliever Allen Barry.
The dropped popup that gave A&M the lead for good was Davidson’s sixth error of the series.
“We didn’t play defense the way that we needed to in the eighth,” Cooke said. “You are in a high-leverage situation there. You’ve got to pay attention to how many times a pitcher has seen a group of hitters.”
Davidson’s top of the lineup accounted for its first five runs. The Wildcats took their first lead of the series with three runs in the fifth, breaking a 2-2 tie.
Cam Johnson doubled off the top of the left-field fence. He moved to third on Robertson’s single. Acosta’s RBI single broke the tie. Jones’ RBI double into the left-field corner made it 4-2 and Justin Lebek’s sacrifice fly chased A&M starting pitcher Corbin Martin.
(Reaching the tournament) exceeded expectations. ... Then we beat North Carolina twice. That is far exceeding what we, as a group, probably expected at the front end of the season.
Dick Cooke, Davidson coach
Davidson freshman Brett Centracchio hit a solo home run in the sixth, his fourth of the season, to make it 6-2.
A&M’s Janca and Logan Foster hit solo home runs in the third for a 2-0 lead. The Wildcats answered in the bottom of the inning on Jones’ two-out, two-run double to score Johnson and Robertson who opened the inning with back-to-back singles.
Davidson, which upset second-seeded North Carolina to reach the super regionals, ended with 25 hits for the series, including 15 in Friday’s 7-6, 15-inning loss.
Davidson’s seniors finish the season as the winningest class in program history.
“(Reaching the tournament) exceeded expectations,” Cooke said. “We’ve talked about it a little bit, about how we got here to begin with. How we battled to get into our tournament in the league and then how we came out of the losers’ bracket.
“Then we beat North Carolina twice. That is far exceeding what we, as a group, probably expected at the front end of the season. I am, I think they are too, very step-by-step goal oriented. This game and then tomorrow’s game.
“We weren’t 52-4 and rolling through. We battled. That’s been the pleasure for me ... watching these guys compete and never giving up. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but the approach never varied.”
College Station, Texas
Friday: Texas A&M 7, Davidson 6
Saturday: Texas A&M 12, Davidson 6 (Aggies win series 2-0)