Heading into Tuesday’s game with Incarnate Word, Texas A&M junior shortstop Hunter Haas had two career home runs to his name, both during his freshman year at Arizona State.
With two swings of his bat Tuesday, he doubled his career total in a 13-5 win over the Cardinals to kick off a five-game week for the Aggies at Blue Bell Park.
It was the first time Haas had ever hit two over the fence in a game, he said.
“I haven’t been much of a power hitter,” he said with a chuckle.
In the bottom of the fourth, Haas said he knew he would see a healthy diet of cut fastballs from reliever Micah Berens. With a 3-2 count, Haas got one and launched it into the net over the left-field fence for a two-run shot and an 8-0 lead.
The transfer made solid contact with another fastball in the seventh for a solo homer that landed well past the wall in left-center.
Both were no-doubters off the bat.
“You’re seeing a healthy Hunter Haas, right?” A&M head coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “Healthy, strong, confident, feels good about where he is, and he’s obviously a heck of a player on both sides of the ball.”
A&M freshman utility man Kaeden Kent tallied his fourth multi-hit game of the season, belting a pair of doubles in the first and the third for the Aggies (8-4). He went 2 for 3 and drove in a career high four RBIs while playing left field and third base.
“I’m just seeing the ball well and getting good pitches to hit,” Kent said. “Big thing for me is backing the ball up, and I’m doing that really well right now.”
Kent was forced to move from left to third base after starter Trevor Werner exited the game in the second with what Schlossnagle said was likely a cramp in his hamstring. After A&M played a 16-inning game Sunday, Schlossnagle said managing fatigue was key beginning their five-game week.
“He’s a super talented young player,” Schlossnagle said. “His best days are ahead of him, but he’s confident, comes from a great baseball family, a lot of grit, a lot of baseball IQ, has the ability to play multiple positions in the field.”
A throwing error and later back-to-back walks gave Incarnate Word (6-7) its first run of the game. Incarnate Word designated hitter Rey Mendoza and left fielder Alec Carr then roped back-to-back singles to left field off receiver Brad Rudis to cut A&M’s lead to 8-4.
But the Cardinals didn’t get closer and settled for just one more run on Carr’s solo homer in the eighth.
A&M starter Wyatt Tucker lasted 4 2/3 innings, allowing four unearned runs on just one hit and four walks with two strikeouts. Rudis (2-0) recorded just one out to earn the win.
Incarnate Word starter Seth Higdon (0-2) took the loss, allowing six runs on six hits with three walks and two strikeouts over 2 2/3 innings.
A&M returns to action Wednesday, traveling to Rice to face the Owls for the second time in less than a week. Right-hander Carson Lambert (1-0, 4.26 ERA) will get the start for A&M at Reckling Park in Houston.
While eight games in 10 days is a grind, it also provides a chance for more of A&M’s younger players to make a case for earning playing time as the Southeastern Conference season approaches, Schlossnagle said.
“It’s a big challenge,” Schlossnagle said. “We definitely talk to the team about it. Everybody knows we have five games in a week, but that’s also a lot of opportunity for a lot of players and a lot of opportunity for some pitchers. It’s really big that Tucker gave us almost five innings, because we have plenty of available guys to go down there and play tomorrow. ... It’s fun to get to play. Way more fun to play than practice.”