COLLEGE STATION, Texas—The Big 12 Champion Texas A&M baseball team opened the NCAA College Station Regional in style Friday night, pounding out 15 hits en route to a 15-1 victory over the University of Illinois at Chicago before 3,863 fans at Olsen Field.
Luke Anders went 4-for-4 and tied a school record with five runs scored on the night to pace the offensive attack, while Darby Brown drove in four runs and Blake Stouffer and Brodie Greene picked up three RBI each.
In his first-ever regional outing, true freshman Brooks Raley scattered five hits and allowed one earned run in eight innings of work to pick up his team-leading seventh win of the year.
The Aggies improved to 44-16 and will face Houston (40-22) in a winner’s bracket game Saturday at 6:30 p.m. UIC (34-21) will battle Dallas Baptist (37-18), 9-5 losers to the Cougars earlier in the day, in an elimination game on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
“I thought we were great offensively, but more than anything I thought it started on the mound,” A&M coach Rob Childress said. “Brooks Raley was outstanding, especially after the first two innings. A lot of guys had great nights at the plate, and we played really good defense with some incredible plays in the outfield. It was just a good night.”
The Flames took a first-inning lead, when a two-out fielding error scored leadoff hitter Steve McGuiggan from second base.
Anders tied the game in the second, blasting his team-leading 15th home run of the season off the light pole in right field.
The Aggies would blow the game open with 12 runs in the middle innings.
After a one-out intentional walk to Brown loaded the bases in the fourth for Stouffer, the senior broke the deadlock with a two-strike double to right center field, plating Anders and shortstop Jose Duran to make the score 3-1. Following an error that plated another run, Brodie Greene would bring Stouffer home with a sacrifice fly to center field.
Back-to-back RBI singles the fifth by Brian Ruggiano and Brown pushed the lead to 7-1. Stouffer would follow with a bases-loaded walk to plate A&M’s eighth run of the evening and, after an RBI fielder’s choice by Kevin Gonzalez, Greene tripled to the wall in center to drive in a pair and extend A&M’s advantage to 10 runs.
“UIC is an outstanding and well-coached team,” Childress said. “I just felt like we got some things going offensively there in the fourth and fifth innings and were able to put the game away. Every time we scored, Brooks went out there and answered them with a zero, and that was huge.”
Texas A&M would add a pair in the sixth on Brown’s 10th home run of the year, and close the scoring with two more in the eighth.
Flames starter Mike Kool (6-5) suffered the loss, allowing five runs and five hits over 3 1/3 innings.
Every starter in the A&M lineup picked up at least one hit, with six driving in at least one run.
Freshman Barret Loux (5-2, 4.25 ERA) will get the ball for A&M on Saturday night and will square off with UH righty John Touchton (5-3, 3.98). First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. and the game will air locally on WTAW-AM 1620.
“It’s going to be a big game,” Childress said. “Houston is probably the hottest team in this tournament. Offensively, they bring pressure at you one through nine, and it doesn’t stop. We know we’ve got our hands full tomorrow.”
TEXAS A&M POSTGAME NOTES:
• Luke Anders’ five runs tied a school record…it was the seventh time in school history that an Aggie scored five times in a game and the first time since Dell Lindsey on April 2, 1999 against Nebraska…Anders also tied a career high with four hits.
• Texas A&M improved to 52-49 all-time in NCAA play and 41-32 in regional action…the Aggies have now won four straight regional games and eight of their last 10.
• With a pair of triples on the night, A&M now has 29 on the year…the Aggies are three shy of tying the school record of 32, set in 1982 and matched in 1989.
• Luke Anders was hit by a pitch for the 20th time this season, tying Justin Pouk’s school record set in 2003.
• Friday’s game marked the first-ever meeting between A&M and UIC on the baseball diamond.
• Brooks Raley matched a season and career high with eight innings of work Friday…Raley also went eight (complete game) in a start at Texas on May 16.
• The Big 12 was an impressive 5-1 in the first day of NCAA Regional play with A&M, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Nebraska all posting victories.
• Game-time temperature was 91 degrees with clear skies and winds blowing out to left center at 12 miles per hour.