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Aggie Arms Hold Off Red-Hot Gators

Omaha, NE- The Florida Gators journey to Omaha has been well documented.  From controversial resume to NCAA Tournament At-Large status, Florida looked to roll their victories in Stillwater and Clemson in to success in Omaha.  Kevin O’Sullivan’s group returns to the College World Series following a second-place finish in 2023.  While sky high expectations superseded the Gators, it was a story of talent but not results for much of the regular season in Gainesville.

Still, with talent that can compete with anyone in the country, star Jac Caglianone and Florida didn’t flinch when their path to Omaha included Big 12 Champion Oklahoma State, Big 10 Champion Nebraska and National Seed Clemson.  “Once we got the opportunity to play in the postseason, I mean, record is reset.  None of it matters… just playing for each other, knowing what this program is about… our final goal is to be here.”  Alabama transfer Colby Shelton shared a similar sentiment, “I think we’ve proven everyone why we should be in the tournament, and that’s why we’re here in Omaha”.

Texas A&M enters the College World Series after running roughshod through both the College Station Regional and Super Regional.  The Aggies are back in Omaha after an appearance in 2022 in the first year under Head Coach Jim Schlossnagle.  The Aggies lost prized outfielder Braden Montgomery to injury in game one against Oregon before being ruled out for the remainder of the season.  “It’s tough to lose a guy like Braden.  Great teammate, great person.  Built a great relationship with him.  He’ll continue to be a great teammate as we continue to go through this journey”, freshman Gavin Grahovac said of the Junior outfielder.  

Montgomery previously reached Omaha two times with the Stanford Cardinal, though his experience will still be present in the Aggie dugout in Omaha. Despite the loss of Montgomery, Texas A&M still retains Omaha experience on the field.  “Between Prager and Cortez and Rudis, I guess, Targac would be the other one, it’s awesome to have that (CWS experience) come from players instead (of just coaches)”.  

A reported 25,000+ filed into Charles Schwab Field for the fourth matchup of the season between the Gators and Aggies on Saturday night, with the Gators having won two of the first three in Gainesville.  Their admission was only delayed by approximately four hours thanks to a system featuring rain and lightning making its way through the Omaha area.  

In a surprise move, Schlossnagle handed the ball to Justin Lamkin, marking his first appearance since June 2nd against Louisiana and his first start since May 17th against Arkansas.  O’Sullivan elected to keep things familiar, giving the start to Liam Peterson who had also started each of the first games in the regional and super regional rounds. 

It didn’t take long for the Aggie offense to reward those that outlasted the inclement weather.  With the bases loaded in the second inning, Travis Chestnut chopped a single to Florida third baseman Dale Thomas.  Thomas struggled with the hop, allowing each runner to advance safely.  Caden Sorrell scored the opening run of the night, though it wasn’t the only offense in the Aggie half.  Ali Camarillo came around to score on a wild pitch from Peterson.  

Texas A&M continued their offensive attack, again calling on the Freshman Sorell.  His double sent Hayden Schott home, giving the Aggies a 3-0 lead in the third inning. 

The Gator offense proved to be stifled by the 1-2 punch of Lamkin and Chris Cortez as the two combined to give up just five hits.  Florida was able to find their swing against Cortez in the seventh when Thomas doubled down the left-field line, scoring Tyler Shelnut.  Michael Robertson added to the Gator comeback effort with an RBI groundout, scoring Thomas.  

Texas A&M turned the ball over to Devin Aschenbeck to record the final out of the seventh and entrusted him to hold the one run lead.  Aschenbeck faced heavy traffic after giving up a double to Luke Heyman before walking Shelnut to load the bases in the top of the 8th.  The National College Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year was able to get Thomas to ground out to end the Gator threat.  

Aschenbeck remained in for the 9th inning, allowing Robertson to reach base, bringing the go-ahead run in Cade Kurland to the plate.  The A&M reliever received an act of heroism from Laviolette who leapt at the wall to rob Kurland of a go-ahead home run.  Aschenbeck allowed Caglianone to reach before setting Ashton Wilson down on strikes to seal the Aggie victory, earning his 10th save of the season.

On Ashenbeck's performance, Schlossnagle said "we trust Evan, even to Cags... he made a great pitch to get him (Wilson) at the end". The A&M pitching staff recorded 16 strikeouts, setting a College World Series record for punch outs in a game.

Texas A&M will play Kentucky in the winner's bracket on Monday evening and Florida will take on NC State in an elimination game. Schlossnagle identifies Kentucky as a well coached team that does everything well with "a lot of synergy and confidence".

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