COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The No. 24 Texas A&M Aggies picked up their first win of the season with a 4-3 victory over the UIC Flames on a sun-soaked Saturday on Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park.
The Aggies once again got a solid effort from a starting pitcher as Daniel Mengden (1-0) allowed just one run on three hits and one walk while striking out two over 5.2 innings to pick up a win his first career weekend start. Jason Jester picked up a save in his first career game. He allowed three hits while striking out two over 1.2 innings.
Texas A&M (1-1) drew first blood in the bottom of the fifth inning. Cole Lankford started the rally with an infield single to short. With one out, Charlie Curl pushed Lankford to second with a grounder to second. Jace Statum put a run on the board, depositing a single down the leftfield line. Mikey Reynolds doubled to leftfield to put a pair of runners in scoring position. Krey Bratsen capped off the rally, slashing a two-run single into centerfield for the 3-0 lead.
UIC (1-1) responded with a run of their own in the top of the sixth. John Coen hit a leadoff single through the left side of the infield and Alex De LaRosa was hit by a pitch to put a pair of runners on. Ryan Shober put both runners in scoring position with a sacrifice bunt and Tyler Detmer plated Coen with a sacrifice fly to centerfield, cutting the lead to 3-1. Ryan Boss drew a walk to put runners on the corners and the tying run on first. Matt Kent came into to relieve Mengden and induced an inning-ending grounder to short to get out of the jam.
The Aggies tacked on a key insurance run in the home half of the seventh. Jonathan Moroney reached on an infield single and was replaced on the base paths by pinch-runner Brandon Wood. Curl advanced Wood to second with a sacrifice bunt and Reynolds drove him home with a two-run single to leftfield for the 4-1 advantage.
The Flames continued to flicker in the top of the eighth. With Aggie reliever Corey Ray on the mound, Coen was issued a base on balls to start the frame and Shober reached on a one-out walk. A wild pitch put both runners in scoring position and Detmer cut the lead 4-3 with a two-run single to centerfield.
Jester entered the game with a runner on second and one out. He forced a fly out by Boss before Curl saved a tying run with a nice defensive play. Harry Kammholz singled up the middle, but Curl, playing second base, was able to keep the ball from reaching the outfield, forcing Detmer to stay at third base. Jester induced an inning-ending groundout by Alex Grunenwald to keep the tying run off the board.
In the ninth inning, Jester was able to sandwich three outs around a pair of hits to close out the game.
The Aggies registered eight hits for the game, including two apiece by Reynolds, Bratsen and Lankford. Lankford went 2-for-3 with his first career-extra base hit, a double. Reynolds went 2-for-4 with one run, one double, one stolen base and one RBI. Bratsen went 2-for-4 with one stolen base and two RBI.
Detmer paced the UIC offense, going 1-for-2 with three RBI.
Jack Andersen (0-1) was saddled with the loss, yielding four runs on eight hits while striking out four over 7.0 innings.
The Aggies and Flames wrap up the three-game series with a 1:05 pm contest at Blue Bell Park on Sunday.
TEXAS A&M HEAD COACH ROB CHILDRESS
Opening Statement: "I was proud of our team. We showed a lot of composure today. We were able to come through and get a big hit. Illinois-Chicago kept fighting, scratching and clawing to get back in it. We were able to finish the game off. I was most proud of that we found a way to come away with a win. We always talk to our team about Sundays. Tomorrow’s going to be championship Sunday. Tomorrow, Illinois-Chicago and ourselves will try and find a way to win the series."
On the big fifth inning: "Jace got the big hit for us. Just like that we found a way to get some hits rolling. We’ve got a good offense. It’s going to be ever evolving. We’ve got a lot of baseball to play. It was good to see Statum get the big hit. Charlie Curl had another good day. The box score doesn’t show that."
On Jason Jester: “I thought he was really good. It was his first time on the mound here at Texas A&M when the game was on the line. I thought he had great composure out there at the end. I told him ‘losing’s easy, all you have to do is show up.’”
TEXAS A&M JUNIOR PITCHER JASON JESTER
On finally making his first appearance: “It was amazing to finally get out here and give back to everybody what they’ve been giving me. It’s very humbling. This whole experience is a blessing. It’s very humbling to be able to come out here and put this jersey on.”
On nerves: "There definitely were some nerves. I wasn’t near as nervous as I thought I was going to be. It was awesome. I’m looking forward to more appearances."