Cortez calms storm, Aggies come back to take series from State, 9-6

Game # 48: No. 10 Texas A&M 9, Mississippi State 6
Records: Texas A&M (32-16, 16-10), Mississippi State (25-26, 9-17)
WP: Chris Cortez (5-2)
LP: Pico Kohn (2-2)
Box Score


Some among the 6,094 at Blue Bell Park might have gotten concerned when Texas A&M fell behind by four runs on Saturday afternoon.

To message to those worrywarts is simple: Get a grip.

Trevor Werner certainly got one.

Jamie Maury, TexAgs

Trevor Werner finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored and three RBIs on Saturday.

He’s battled the effects of a broken bone in his left hand since early March but got a good enough grip to blast a two-run home run as the No. 10 Aggies (32-16, 16-10) posted a 9-6 Southeastern Conference baseball victory over Mississippi State (25-26, 9-17).

Werner also delivered an RBI single in a triumphant three-run eighth inning.

“The last couple of weeks have been kind of a struggle, honestly,” Werner said. “My grip strength was down a little bit. I talked to coach (Jim Schlossnagle) about my swing a little bit. I was kind of overcompensating with my bottom hand, you know, trying to focus on squeezing the bat harder so it wouldn’t come off because that grip strength was down a little bit.

“But he’s just, like,‘ That’s going to change your swing. You’ve got to relax, and let it do its thing. ‘”

Werner certainly did his thing.

So did Dylan Rock, who also had a two-run home run, and Chris Cortez (5-2), who pitched five strong innings in relief of starter Wyatt Tucker.

The Aggies go for the elusive sweep on Sunday at noon. Trends suggest they will likely have to come from behind to win in the third game.

A&M rallied from a 7-3 deficit on Friday night to prevail 8-7. A week ago, the Aggies trailed 9-0 but rallied for a 13-12 victory over South Carolina.

This time, the Aggies fell behind 4-0 after starting pitcher Wyatt Tucker gave up three runs in the second inning and a solo home run in the third. The Aggies also trailed 5-2 in the fifth.

“These guys… They persevere. They don’t get outside themselves. They just keep playing. That’s a fun team to be around. ”

– A&M head coach Jim Schlossnagle

“When you’re used to playing from behind, you don’t panic,” said Schlossnagle, who jokingly suggested the Aggies spot opponents four runs to save pitches. “These guys… They persevere. They don’t get outside themselves. They just keep playing. That’s a fun team to be around. ”

The Aggies started their comeback in the bottom of the third on Rock’s two-out, two-run blast.

But they might not have completed the rally if not for the pitching of Cortez.

The freshman right-hander consistently hit 98 mph with his fastball, but more importantly, was reasonably effective with his off-speed pitches.

Cortez allowed just four hits, struck out five and did not issue a walk in his longest stint of the season.

“He had a breaking ball,” Schlossnagle said. “He throws that good fastball in the bottom of the strike zone almost all the time, but he’s never been consistent with his off-speed pitches.

“Today, he threw just enough off-speed pitches for strikes… a couple of really good changeups to lefties. That’s a huge sign for us if he starts to gain confidence in that pitch.”

Mississippi State pitchers Preston Johnson, Jackson Fristoe and Pico Kohn were not as sharp.

The Bulldogs starter Johnson – who gave up Rock’s home run – also surrendered Werner’s two-run shot in the fifth inning.

Jack Moss ripped a two-run double off Fristoe to give A&M a 6-5 lead in the seventh.

Jamie Maury, TexAgs

Cortez allowed just one run in five innings of work to earn his fifth win of the year.

However, Mississippi State’s 6-foot-6, 235-pound left fielder Brad Cumbest led off the top of the eighth with a home run to forge a 6-6 tie.

“I left it up and over the middle a little bit,” Cortez said. “That guy (Cumbest) is a strong dude. I got his barrel, and he got it out. I think I didn’t miss much besides that one pitch. I don’t really focus on it too much. Just get to the next batter. ”

At the bottom of the inning, Brett Minnich drew a lead-off walk from Kohn (2-2). Troy Claunch singled, and Ryan Targac followed with a double run-scoring.

Jordan Thompson lofted a sacrifice fly, and Werner delivered his RBI single to give Cortez more than enough support for the ninth.

Ho-hum. Another deficit. Another win.

“That just speaks to the high volume of this team; the group of guys that we have, ”Werner said. “(We’re) never out of the fight.”

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