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By George Stieren

FRISCO, Texas – Texas A&M cracked a 2-2 tie in the sixth inning Saturday night at Riders Field to gain a 7-3 win over Iowa in the Frisco Classic.

For five and a half innings, it appeared the game would remain close for the duration. However, the Aggies broke out in the bottom of the sixth, scoring five times to put the game away in front of 7,712 fans largely consisting of Texas A&M faithful. The Aggies maximized a slew of opportunities, scoring five unearned runs – including three unearned in the pivotal sixth inning – to win their first contest of the weekend. The game saw five errors, four by Iowa.

It started with Texas A&M failing to score after an auspicious start, working Hawkeyes’ starter Cam Baumann for three first inning walks. Baumann exited the game after facing just four batters and recording one out, giving way to Dylan Nedved – normally his team’s closer. Nedved promptly induced a ground ball double play to douse the threat and end the inning. Nedved went on to throw 4.2 innings, striking out a career-high nine batters and giving up two unearned runs on three hits.

Those two runs came in the second inning when the Aggies’ Kole Kaler drove home Ryan Targac and Logan Britt with a single through the right side. Kaler reached on a two-base throwing error by the third baseman after Targac initiated matters with a one-out double to the right-center field gap.

The Hawkeyes’ Peyton Williams cut the Texas A&M lead in half in the top of the third inning with a booming RBI double into the left-center gap, bringing in Ben Tallman, who singled to start the inning. Tallman led Iowa with three hits and two runs scored. The score remained 2-1 until the top of the fifth when Iowa’s Kyle Huckstorf tied it at 2-2 with a groundball to the shortstop, getting Andy Nelson in from third base. Nelson began the inning with an infield single.

The game’s turning point came with the Aggies putting up a crooked number in the sixth inning, erupting for five runs to make it 7-2 and give them a lead they never relinquished.

The first run in the sixth inning came via Troy Claunch’s RBI single, plating Brett Minnich from second base. Minnich walked to lead off the inning and advanced to second on a throwing error by the pitcher on a pickoff attempt.

The fourth run scored thanks to a Logan Britt RBI single to the right side allowing Claunch to cross the plate. The fifth run came on a wild pitch allowing Targac to add to the tally. Jack Moss added a two-run RBI single to left field that plated Dylan Rock and Kaler.

Interestingly, the big sixth inning came after a stretch where five Texas A&M hitters struck out swinging in the fourth and fifth innings. Iowa’s Michael Seegers singled to right field in the top of the seventh inning, scoring Ben Tallman, making it 7-3.

Head Coach Rick Heller acknowledged the mistakes his Hawkeyes squad made. “There (were) just too many free bases and Brodie (Brecht) didn’t have command when he came in. And too many free bases and errors, which was disappointing because it felt like had we played clean baseball, it’s a game you can possibly win 4-2 or 3-2.”

Conversely, Head Coach Jim Schlossnagle summed up the Aggies’ effort succinctly. “Pitching, defense, timely hitting – when you get all three you win, and that’s what we did today.”

Claunch paced the seven-hit attack for Texas A&M by going 2-for-4 with an RBI. Defensively, the catcher shepherded starter Dallas Micah through five innings where he gave up two earned runs. Micah turned the mound over to winning pitcher Jacob Palisch (1-1) who tossed two shutout innings while weathering three hits. Palisch’s effort was matched by Chris Cortez, who also tossed two scoreless frames and did not allow a hit.

Claunch noted the Texas A&M fans at the ballpark. “It’s awesome to have all of the fans here and kind of support us, backing us up, and it definitely plays into it.”

Iowa will face Washington State on Sunday at noon CT, while Texas A&M will meet Wichita State at 6 p.m.

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