Texas A&M’s Mitchell Kilkenny and Florida’s Brady Singer entered Friday night with a combined 17 victories and two losses, so something had to give in a Southeastern Conference series opener.
Turns out it was the Aggies, although A&M didn’t unravel until the sixth inning against the nation’s No. 1 team. Florida used a four-run sixth to cruise past A&M at Blue Bell Park 9-0, in snapping the Aggies’ nine-game home winning streak.
Rain had fallen for much of Friday in College Station, but cleared out in time for the game to start as scheduled. By game’s end, the Aggies wished it hadn’t. Singer, a junior from Eustis, Fla., is considered a top five prospect in this summer’s MLB draft. He looked every bit the part, in moving his record to 10-1 thanks to allowing six singles in a complete-game shutout.
Some of the biggest drama remaining in the Aggies’ regular season is whether they close strong enough to earn the right to play host to an NCAA Tournament regional. A&M (33-13, 11-11) needs to win the final two games of the series to continue making a solid case for one of the 16 home slots to start the postseason.
The Gators (37-10, 17-5) scored the game’s lone run over the first five innings when Deacon Liput led off the first inning with a double down the right-field line, and later scored on a throwing error to first base by A&M third baseman George Janca.
Kilkenny (8-2) was solid through two outs in the sixth, before the Gators busted open the game with some of their most impressive clutch hitting in a season loaded with it. Florida strung together five consecutive hits with two outs in scoring the four runs, led by Wil Dalton’s single up the middle off Kilkenny and capped by Keenan Bell’s single up the middle off reliever Kaylor Chafin.
The Gators are 33-0 on the season when leading after six innings, while A&M was shut out for the first time since 3-0 at Georgia on March 30 and for the second time this season.
The series continues at 4 p.m. Saturday with the finale scheduled for noon Sunday. The Aggies are on the road next weekend at No. 4 Arkansas for their final SEC road series of the season.
A&M is playing without outfielder Logan Foster, who injured his shoulder while diving for a catch last weekend at Mississippi State. Foster, third on the team with a .323 batting average, is expected back in the lineup soon.
The Aggies are trying to make their 12th consecutive NCAA Tournament under 13th-year coach Rob Childress, and make their second consecutive College World Series in Omaha, Neb. A year ago A&M squeezed into the postseason, then swept through a regional at the University of Houston and a super regional at Blue Bell Park against Davidson.
The Aggies lost both their CWS games against Louisville and TCU with much of the same lineup they possess this season.