Perhaps we shouldn't have expected Texas A&M's season to end any other way. This was, after all, the team that won more games to start the season than any other baseball team in SEC history -- and then ended up failing to win its division, much less the conference. It was a team that was almost assured of a national seed in the College World Series -- until it wasn't. And this was a team that was going to host a super regional anyway, once N.C. State beat TCU, something that seemed assured until an almost unbelievable series of events in the final game of the Fort Worth Regional allowed TCU to win and host.
So the Aggies were largely following the way the season's gone when, during Monday night's super regional final, they always seemed to be one step away from both life and death, one well-hit ball away from going to Omaha or going home. Had they simply lost when they trailed 4-1 after the sixth inning or 4-2 after the eighth, it would have been an understandable if slightly disappointing capstone to the season. Instead, they went for "fitting."
Texas A&M tied the game in the ninth inning by scoring two runs without a hit. (A hit batsmen, two walks and a pair of ground-outs did the trick.) The Aggies allowed TCU's leadoff man to reach base in four of the first five extra innings. A set of great defensive plays by the middle infield preserved the tie at key points in the game. But the offense floundered, failing at times to get men on and then to drive those runners in when they did reach base.
And then came the bottom of the 16th. With runners on first and second and two outs, Evan Skoug hit a sharp grounder that was fielded by Texas A&M third baseman Ronnie Gideon. Or almost fielded. Gideon misplayed the ball, and Garrett Crain charged around third and headed for home. Gideon recovered, picked up the ball and threw it home -- but it was far from a perfect throw, it got by Michael Barash, and the Horned Frogs won, 5-4.
Aside from breaking Aggies' hearts, the loss prevented the SEC from having more than half the teams in Omaha. Instead, "only" four of the eight teams in the College World Series -- LSU, Florida, Vanderbilt and Arkansas -- come from the league. That is, as you might expect, more than any other conference in the nation, and equal to the number of national seeds that made the field. Texas A&M's season might have ended in pain, but for the SEC, the season goes on for at least another week.