COLLEGE STATION, Texas—Dane Carter, Jose Duran and Brian Ruggiano posted three hits apiece and the Texas A&M bullpen tossed four innings of two-hit, shutout baseball to lead the 20th-ranked Aggies to a 9-5 win over Northern Colorado on Friday night in front of 5,731 fans at Olsen Field.
The crowd, which included nearly 2,200 students, was the second largest on opening-day in A&M history.
"The fans were incredible," third-year A&M coach Rob Childress said. "We had a great student crowd. That's why we're playing 39 home games, because of the crowd that we get. I was so impressed before the game, looking up in the stands and seeing there wasn't a seat to be had in the upper deck."
With the game tied at five entering the sixth inning, Childress went to the bullpen and sophomore Shane Minks, who did not allow a run in the frame and set the stage for what would become a four-run Aggie sixth.
Left fielder Ben Feltner (Leander, Texas) led off the inning with a four-pitch walk, then promptly swiped second base and took third when the throw down sailed into center field. He would be driven home on a grounder to third by center fielder Kyle Colligan (Houston, Texas), who reached safely due to an error on the play, making the score 6-5 in favor of the Aggies.
After a bunt single by Carter (Graham, Texas), a sacrifice by second baseman Blake Stouffer (San Antonio, Texas) and an intentional walk to designated hitter Darby Brown (Lubbock, Texas) loaded the bases, Duran (Fort Worth, Texas) ripped a single through the right side to plate two more runs. Two batters later, an infield grounder by Ruggiano (Austin, Texas) would plate Brown and give A&M the 9-5 lead.
Minks (West Columbia, Texas) tossed a scoreless seventh and was followed by freshman Brooks Raley (Uvalde, Texas) and sophomore Travis Starling (Yoakum, Texas), who each tossed an inning of shutout relief.
"Shane Minks, Brooks Raley and Travis Starling were outstanding tonight," Childress said, "and those are some of the guys we are going to count on out of the bullpen this year. That's the way it's supposed to work right there. That's what we need."
Minks (1-0) picked up his first career win on the night, going the two innings and allowing just one hit while walking one and fanning four.
UNC reliever Joe Sawicki (0-1) suffered the loss, as he was tagged for four hits and four runs (two earned) in his three innings of work.
The game was tied at two entering the fourth. Aggie starter Kirkland Rivers (Henderson, Texas) struck out the first batter of the inning, but surrendered three straight hits-including a two-run double to left center by Bear second baseman Jeff Horn. UNC would extend their lead to 5-2 in the frame on a two-out single up the middle by shortstop Cory Morales.
A&M would answer quickly off Northern Colorado starter Chris Reap. Duran led off the bottom of the inning with a single up the middle. Junior first-baseman Luke Anders (College Station, Texas) followed with a fly ball into center, on which Duran (Fort Worth, Texas) tagged up and just beat the throw to second to move into scoring position. The gamble would pay off for the Aggies and Duran, as the next batter-Ruggiano-singled up the middle to drive in the junior and cut the Bear lead to two. Later in the frame, an RBI groundout by Feltner and a two-out RBI single through the left side by Colligan would tie the game at five.
"I thought Northern Colorado came out to play and swung the bats well," Childress said. "But, even when we were down, I didn't sense any panic out of our dugout, and that was the thing I was most pleased with."
Rivers lasted five innings, giving up seven hits and five runs, four of which were earned. He did not walk a batter, hit two and struck out a career-high seven.
"I thought Kirkland gave us a good start and pounded the strike zone really well," Childress said. "He struggled a bit, hitting some batters here and there, but he went back out there and had a great fifth inning for us. I thought their hitters did a nice job making an adjustment after the first inning and going the other way against him, but it was nice to see him recover and finish his outing strong."
Reap also went five, allowing nine hits, five runs (all earned) and five walks while striking out four.
The series continues with a doubleheader on Saturday beginning at 1 p.m. Tickets are available at the gate or online at aggieathletics.com.
Fans in Bryan-College Station will be able to listen to the games on Sports Radio 1150 The Zone with the pregame show beginning at 12:45 p.m. Free live video will also be available on aggieathletics.com.
POSTGAME NOTES: The crowd (5,731) was the second largest on opening-day in Olsen Field history…the record is 7,669 against Washington on Feb. 25, 2005…A&M pitchers fanned 14 batters, the most since a 14-strikeout effort against Houston on Feb. 10 of last season…The Aggie staff also struck out 14 in last season's opener against Texas Southern (Feb. 6, 2007)…Kyle Colligan notched his sixth career game-winning RBI on his grounder that plated Ben Feltner in the sixth…Kirkland Rivers' seven strikeouts was a career high, besting his previous mark of three…Dane Carter tallied a career-high three hits and the third multi-hit game of his career…Brian Ruggiano also set a new career-best with three hits in his sixth-ever multi-hit game…Colligan went 2-for-5 in the 29th multi-hit game of his career…Northern Colorado's five runs was the most they have scored against the Aggies in four games all-time…A&M now leads the series between the schools, 4-0…The Aggies wore all-white uniforms with maroon caps…Game-time weather was 56 degrees and clear skies with the wind blowing in from center field at 10 mph.