COLLEGE STATION, Texas—A grand slam by Nick Fleece and a three-run home run by Adam Smith blew open a close game and lifted the No. 1-ranked Texas A&M baseball team to a season-opening 18-2 win over Wright State Friday night before an overflow crowd of 7,343 fans at Olsen Field.
Fleece (Fort Worth, Texas), making his first career start, stepped to the plate in the last of the fifth with the bases loaded and two outs in a 1-1 tie. The sophomore hit the first pitch he saw from Raider lefty Jon Durket over the wall in left-center field to give the Aggies a 5-1 lead.
Then, after back-to-back singles by Kevin Gonzalez (Houston) and Caleb Shofner (Hewitt, Texas) to start the A&M sixth, Smith—a true freshman from Spring—crushed the first offering from Durket over the center field wall to make the score 8-1.
Later in the inning, Smith would add an RBI triple to cap a 10-run frame. Also highlighting the offense in the sixth was a three-run triple by Shofner, a run-scoring single by Dylan Petrich (Wichita, Kan.) and bases-loaded walks to Gonzalez and Nick Anders (College Station).
Texas A&M would add to its lead in the seventh on a two-run triple by freshman pinch-hitter Scott Arthur (Spring) that made the score 17-2. Senior Luke Anders (College Station) drove in the final run of the night with a bullet up the middle in the last of the eighth.
Fleece’s career-high five RBIs led the way for the Aggies. Smith finished his debut 2-for-5 with 4 RBIs, while Shofner—also making his first career start—was a perfect 3-for-3 with three RBIs and three runs scored. Senior Kyle Colligan (Houston) and Petrich also posted two hits on the night.
“This was a great way to start the season,” A&M coach Rob Childress said. “Offensively, we had three ‘new’ guys have big nights for us, but not necessarily guys that are new to the program. Caleb Shofner had a great night for us all around. Nick Fleece and Adam Smith were outstanding as well.”
The fifth-inning grand slam would be more than enough for Aggie starter Brooks Raley (Uvalde, Texas). The sophomore tossed six strong innings, giving up five hits, one run and one walk while striking out six, to pick up his first win of the year.
The A&M trio of Hank Robertson (Nocona, Texas), Denny Clement (Tulsa, Okla.) and Steven Martin (Brenham, Texas) combined to allow three hits and one run in three innings of relief.
“Brooks Raley was outstanding tonight,” Childress said. “He gave us a quality start. It was nice as well to get those three guys behind him in the game. Getting Hank (Robertson) back on the mound was big, and then the two new guys after him—Denny Clement and Steven Martin—were very good.”
Wright State was led offensively by third baseman Quentin Cate’s 3-for-4 effort. The junior also drove in the game-tying run for the Raiders in the third. Shortstop R.J. Gundolff was 2-for-4 with a run scored.
Durket (0-1) suffered the loss, allowing 10 hits and 10 runs in 5 1/3 innings. He walked one and struck out four.
The crowd—the second-largest in A&M opening-day history—included nearly 3,200 students.
The series continues on Saturday with a 1:05 p.m. doubleheader at Olsen Field. Sophomore Barret Loux will face off with WSU senior Rylan Ostrosky in the first game, while junior transfer Alex Wilson will make his first-ever start at A&M in game two against Raider junior Travis LaMar. The twinbill will air locally on Sports Radio 1150 The Zone.
• Texas A&M’s 18 runs was the most scored by an Aggie team in a season opener since Feb. 10, 1989 (20-7 win over Pan American).
• Adam Smith became the first true freshman to start at shortstop for Texas A&M on opening day in at least 24 years…in records going back through the 1985 season, no other true freshman earned the nod at short in the season opener.
• Five Aggies made the first starts of their A&M careers on Friday night: juniors Nick Anders and Dylan Petrich, sophomores Nick Fleece and Caleb Shofner, and freshman Adam Smith.
• The crowd of 7,343 was the second-most in opening-day history, trailing only the 2005 Olsen Field lid-lifter against Washington (7,669 on Feb. 25, 2005)…3,190 A&M students were in attendance on Friday night.
• A&M won its ninth-consecutive home opener and improved to 29-3 all-time at Olsen Field in home openers…the Aggies are now 72-30-5 all-time in season openers and have won nine straight.
• A&M sent 14 batters to the plate in the 10-run sixth inning.
• Friday’s game marked the first-ever meeting between the schools on the baseball diamond.
• Game-time temperature was 66 degrees with clear skies and winds blowing out to center at 5-10 miles per hour.