Texas State players spill into the infield at Bobcat Field Tuesday night to celebrate a 6-5 win against No. 23 Texas A&M in 11 innings. Texas State sports information photo.
Texas State played big ball and small ball to score twice in the bottom of the 11th inning Tuesday night, coming from behind for a 6-5 win against No. 23 Texas A&M at Bobcat Field.
The Bobcats trailed, 5-4, before Kyle Kubitza led off the Texas State 11th with a long homer to right field on an 0-1 fastball over the inner half from A&M reliever Jake Feckley. The next batter, Jeff McVaney, hit a high hopping grounder to third baseman Caleb Shofner, who barely missed playing a hop at the top of his leap. The ball grazed Shofner glove and died in left field as McVaney pulled into second base with a double.
Texas State suddenly had the winning run in position as catcher Jordan Kopycinski came to the plate in a bunt situation. But on 2-0 with the infielders moving to cover a bunt, Kopycinski faked the bunt before dialing up a high bounding grounder to second baseman Andrew Collazo, who made the play at first while pinch runner Colton Burnett took third base.
Texas A&M intentionally walked left-handed hitting Shaun Garcia so the right-handed Feckley could take his chances with right-handed Laurn Randell, who came to the plate with 10 hits in his last 26 at-bats (.385). With the infield and outfield playing in, Randell dumped a fly ball into medium right field approaching the line, far from any fielder. The ball landed without a play and Burnett scored the winning run, reaching the plate to a happy greeting from his teammates who spilled out from Texas State’s third base dugout.
Texas State improved to 15-8, while Texas A&M fell to 17-8. It was Texas A&M’s first visit to San Marcos since 2000. Tuesday night’s attendance was announced at 2,603, the largest crowd of the season at Bobcat Field. The Bobcats drew 1,867 against Rice on March 3 and less than 1,000 for every other home game this year.
“Texas State wants to be able to say that we can play with Texas A&M,” Texas State head coach Ty Harrington said. “… It used to be that we could sneak up on people. Maybe teams would come in here and we didn’t have a very good stadium, and now you come in here and we have 2,600 people and they’re feeling the energy in their dugout and they’re competing just like we are.”
Randell, something of a forgotten man in Texas State’s run to the NCAA Tournament last year, rekindled memories of his freshman year heroics in 2007, when his game-winning hit gave the Bobcats a 3-2 win against Rice, which was ranked No. 1.
The win added credibility to Texas State’s resume, should that be salient when the NCAA selects at-large teams for the tournament in May. The Bobcats now have split their games with A&M (they lost, 6-2, at a tournament in Waco on Feb. 28). They’ve split two with Baylor and have two left with the Bears.
They lost the only games they’ve played against Rice (5-0), Texas (4-3) and Texas Christian (4-0), though the Texas game didn’t get away until late. The Bobcats will play again in Austin on April 13. They will play Texas Christian at home on May 12. The Bobcats also won their only game against Texas Tech and won three games at Houston.
So, the Bobcats are a respectable 6-5 against Texas schools from the larger conferences, and they have four such games left, all on Tuesdays in between weekend series against Southland Conference opponents. In a way, the Bobcats play in two conferences — the Southland and the Tuesday night at-large conference where they can build a tournament worthy reputation in case some fluke sidetracks the automatic bid from conference tournament.
“These weekday games are great, especially when we play a Big 12 team,” Kubitza said. “It helped us a lot last year when we didn’t win the conference tournament.”
The Bobcats, who ended the year 41-17, built up enough credibility throughout their schedule to be seeded second in the Austin Regional last season.
Texas State never trailed in Tuesday’s game until the 11th, when A&M broke a 4-4 tie. Kevin Gonzalez led off with a double against the right field wall against McVaney, then took third on a sacrifice bunt by Scott Arthur. Desperately needing a strikeout, Harrington hooked McVaney in favor of new Friday night starter Carson Smith. But Brandon Wood hit an 0-1 fly out to right field and Randell’s throw to the plate ran up the third base line as Gonzalez crossed the plate.
Jason Martinson staked the Bobcats a 1-0 lead when he led off the second inning with his fourth homer of the year. Texas A&M tied it in the next half inning after Texas State starter Brian Borski walked leadoff hitter Brodie Greene and Greene stole second base. Borski was in position to diffuse the threat after throwing strikes to induce fly outs from Shofner and Joe Patterson, but Joaquin Hinojosa singled on his first pitch to drive in Greene.
The Bobcats scratched out three runs in the fourth to take a 4-1 lead. After Kyle Livingstone led off by reaching on second baseman Kenny Jackson’s error, he took second on a bad pick-off throw by pitcher Shane Minks. After Martinson walked on a full count, Kubitza singled to center, driving in Livingstone and moving Martinson to third. Kubitza moved to second on McVaney’s infield out, then Andrew Stumph hit a sacrifice fly to center field, driving in Martinson and moving Kubitza to third. Clint Vest reached on an error by Jackson that allowed Kubitza to score.
But Texas A&M scored a run to make it 4-2 in the seventh, when Wood tripled in Arthur, who led off with a single. Then, the Aggies tied the game in the eighth on Adam Smith’s two-run homer with one out against Texas State reliever Covey Morrow.
As has often been the case, though, the Bobcats held their composure in the late innings.
“We’ve been doing a good job of that this year,” Kubitza said. “You create momentum through your head. Even with that homer, it still only brought them even.”
The Bobcats held firm with strong relief from Garret Carruth, who struck out four in his 1 2/3 innings, then McVaney, who locked up A&M hitters with his curve for an inning before Gonzalez doubled him off the wall. Fielding Pittman picked up the final Texas A&M out in the 11th and claimed the win to go 1-0.
Borski finished the night with a solid line, allowing two earned runs in 6 1/3 innings, giving up eight hits and two walks while striking out three. The outing dropped Borski’s ERA from 7.18 to 6.34.
“He needed a moment like this, and he wants to pitch in this kind of game,” Harrington said.
Offensively, Martinson finished three-for-four, while Kubitza and Randell each were two-for-four, accounting for seven of Texas State’s nine hits.
The competition doesn’t lighten up anytime soon for the Bobcats. This weekend, they go to Stephen F. Austin (SFA) for a three-game series that could change the order in the Southland Conference standings. The Bobcats and Southeastern Louisiana are tied on top at 7-2 in the league, followed by SFA at 6-2 and Sam Houston State at 6-3. Then, the Bobcats go to Baylor next Tuesday to play in that informal conference that could matter just as much.