Aggies topple Vols, on brink of first MCWS title

Aggies topple Vols, on brink of first MCWS title


OMAHA, Neb. — Gavin Grahovac homered to begin the game, Texas A&M broke it open with a five-run third inning and the Aggies beat Tennessee 9-5 in the Men’s College World Series finals opener Saturday night.

Evan Aschenbeck pitched 2 2/3 innings of shutout relief to turn back a Tennessee offense that was starting to get cranked up in the seventh inning. The Aggies (53-13) are a win from their first national title. Game 1 winners have won 13 of the 20 titles since the championship became a best-of-3 series in 2003.

Tennessee (58-13), trying to become the first No. 1 national seed since 1999 to win the championship, will go into Sunday’s Game 2 having lost consecutive games just once this season and not since March 16-17 at Alabama.

The No. 3 Aggies capitalized on a couple errors that led to two runs — Tennessee has committed eight in four MCWS games — and on the inability of pitchers Chris Stamos (3-1) and AJ Causey to consistently hit their spots.

Grahovac drove Stamos’ 0-2 fastball out to right for the first leadoff homer in a MCWS finals since Sam Fuld did it for Stanford against Rice in Game 2 in 2003.

Causey walked Jace LaViolette leading off the third, Jackson Appel’s comebacker deflected off Causey’s foot for a base hit and Hayden Schott followed with an RBI single to start the Aggies’ five-run outburst.

Kaeden Kent, son of ex-major leaguer Jeff Kent, made it a seven-run game in the seventh with his homer into the right-field bullpen. Kent, who entered the starting lineup two weeks ago after star Braden Montgomery broke his ankle in the super regionals, finished with three hits and four RBIs.

The Vols, the nation’s most prolific home-run hitting team in three decades, used the long ball to create some anxiety for the Aggies in the bottom of the seventh.

Dylan Dreiling’s two-run shot to right ended the night for reliever Josh Stewart (2-2), and Hunter Ensley’s high fly over the left-field fence off Brad Rudis made it 9-5. The Vols have 180 homers this season, eight behind LSU’s NCAA record set in 1997.

Ensley was the only batter Rudis faced. Aggies coach Jim Schlossnagle brought in Aschenbeck, and the left-hander retired six in a row before back-to-back singles put runners on the corners with one out in the ninth. The National Stopper of the Year struck out Ensley and Kavares Tears to end the game. Aschenbeck has allowed just one earned run in his last nine appearances, spanning 25 2/3 innings.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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