STILLWATER, OK -- Texas A&M jumped on Oklahoma State starter Andrew Oliver for five first-inning runs and got another good outing from the pitching staff as the 17th-ranked Aggies defeated the Cowboys, 9-5, Friday night before 1,169 fans at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium.
A&M, winners of 16 of its last 18 games, improved to 17-4 and 3-1 in the Big 12. The Cowboys fell to 13-6 and 1-3. The victory for the Aggies came in their first road game of the 2008 season.
Oliver, who had allowed a total of six runs all year, left in the sixth trailing 8-3. It would be all the run support A&M starter Brooks Raley would need, as the freshman lefty combined with Kyle Thebeau and Travis Starling to hold the league’s best offense to five runs.
“I was proud of the way we got after it tonight,” A&M coach Rob Childress said. “We started fast, got out to a five-run lead, and were able to relax a little bit on the road. Brooks was outstanding as well, and I was proud of the way the guys behind him came in and pitched. It’s important to play well in your first time on the road, to come out and just play the game. That’s what we needed to do and we did that.”
Texas A&M touched Oliver for five hits and five runs in the top of the first. After striking out the first batter of the game, Oliver gave up a two-strike single to Blake Stouffer, a full-count walk to Dane Carter and a base hit to right by Jose Duran to load the bases.
Darby Brown then continued his hot streak at the plate, driving a 1-0 pitch through the right side to plate a pair of runs. True freshman Nick Fleece followed with his first career home run, a three-run shot to right, to lift the Aggies to a 5-0 lead.
The Cowboys countered with back-to-back hits off Raley to open their half of the first, and scored their first run of the evening on a Matt Hague sacrifice fly. Raley then settled in, retiring the next eight batters in order.
Three straight hits to begin the OSU fourth, the last a 2-run single by left fielder Donnie Webb, cut the Aggie lead to two. One out and one hit later, Carter made a nice play on a hard grounder off the bat of Dylan Brown to turn a double play and end the inning.
A&M gave itself a little breathing room in the middle innings. Leading by two runs in the top of the fifth, Brown drove in Carter on a sacrifice fly. Then, one inning later, Stouffer hit his first home run of the year, a two-run shot to left, to extend the lead to 8-3.
Oklahoma State would again try to rally, as a single followed by another hit and throwing error put runners at second and third with nobody out for the Cowboys in the bottom of the seventh. Raley responded with back-to-back punchouts and was one strike away from escaping the jam, but hit the next batter to load the bases. Raley then walked Hague to force in a run and bring the tying run to the plate.
Junior Kyle Thebeau entered in relief and got OSU cleanup hitter Rebel Ridling to hit an infield grounder that ended the inning.
In the top of the eighth, a two-out infield single off the glove of the pitcher by catcher Kevin Gonzalez would push the A&M lead to 9-4.
“That was the probably the biggest run of the night,” Childress said. “Gonzo put the ball in play, and made something happen, and that run turned out to be huge.”
After two swinging strikeouts in the ninth, the Cowboys scored an unearned run off Aggie sophomore Travis Starling on a walk, dropped fly ball and base hit. Starling then fanned pinch hitter Davis Duren to end the game.
Raley (3-0) picked up the win, lasting 6 2/3 innings and allowing eight hits and four runs (all earned) while walking one and striking out four.
Thebeau walked a pair and struck out one in a hitless, and scoreless, inning of relief. Starling fanned four in 1 1/3 innings of work.
Oliver (2-1) went 5 1/3 for the Cowboys and was tagged for eight runs (seven earned) on eight hits. He walked five and fanned four in suffering his first loss of the year.
The series continues on Saturday at 2 p.m. A&M will send freshman Barret Loux (1-0, 3.86 ERA) to the mound, while OSU will counter with sophomore Tyler Lyons (2-2, 3.24). The game will air locally on WTAW-AM 1620.
“Hopefully we’ll come out tomorrow and play as well as we did tonight,” Childress said. “We need to eliminate some of the mistakes, but I was proud of the way we competed. Tomorrow’s not going to be any easier—it doesn’t matter whether you’re playing at home or on the road, Big 12 wins are hard to get.”
TEXAS A&M POSTGAME NOTES:
• Texas A&M touched Oklahoma State ace Andrew Oliver for five runs, all earned, in the first inning…In 25 2/3 previous innings of work on the year, Oliver had allowed a total of six runs, four of which were earned. On the night, Oliver gave up eight runs, seven of which were earned.
• True freshman Nick Fleece hit his first career home run, a three-run shot, in the first inning…he also became the ninth Aggie to homer this season.
• A&M’s 5-run first was its largest first-inning output of the year, besting a 4-run first against Rutgers on March 9…it also marked the most first-inning runs by the Aggies since their 2005 home opener against Washington (Feb. 25, 2005), when they also plated five.
• Blake Stouffer’s two-run shot in the sixth was his first of the season…it also gave Texas A&M its sixth multi-home run game of the year.
• With a first-inning single, Darby Brown extended his hit streak to five games.
• Jose Duran also extended his hit streak to five games with a first-inning single…with that hit, Duran has now hit safely in 10 of the last 11 games and in 16 of A&M’s 21 overall…Of those 16 games in which he has gotten a hit, Duran has totaled two or more hits in 11.
• Duran’s throwing error on Oklahoma State’s first batter of the sixth inning snapped a string of 129 consecutive chances by the Aggie defense without a miscue…A&M’s last error had come in the second inning of last Saturday’s 12-1 win over Texas Tech.
• For the eighth time in the last 11 games and the 13th overall, the Aggies reached double digits in the hits column with 10.
• Friday marked the first time in eight meetings between the schools that the game was not decided by two or fewer runs…overall, 14 of the last 17 contests in the series have been decided by two runs or less.
• The Aggies won their second straight Big 12 road opener.
• The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Aggies in Stillwater and marked A&M’s first on the OSU campus since April 4, 2004.
• Oklahoma State now leads the overall series between the schools, 31-22, and 21-17 since the formation of the Big 12 in 1997.
• Game-time weather was 67 degrees with clear skies, with winds blowing in from left at 15 miles per hour.