COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The Texas A&M Aggies were triumphant in their SEC baseball debut with a 4-1 victory over the Georgia Bulldogs on Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park on Friday evening.
Texas A&M (12-7, 1-0 SEC) drew first blood in the bottom of the first inning. With one out, Krey Bratsen was issued a six-pitch walk, stole second base and moved to third on a grounder to first base by Blake Allemand. Mitchell Nau broke the scoring hitting a ball deep into the hole in short that Farmer could get a glove on but couldn’t corral, for an RBI single, plating Bratsen for the 1-0 lead.
The Aggies cultivated a run in the home half of the second. Daniel Mengden was issued a five-pitch walk and Troy Stein dropped a single into shallow right centerfield to start the inning. Charlie Curl attempted to sacrifice both runners into scoring position, but Stein was retired at second base to put Maroon and White on the corners. Jace Statum pushed Mengden across with a sacrifice squeeze bunt back to the pitcher for the 2-0 lead.
Georgia (8-10, 0-1 SEC) shaved a run off the lead in the top of the sixth. With two outs, Nichols hit a wall-banger over the head of Statum in leftfield. Brett DeLoach was issued a six-pitch walk and Jared Walsh deposited a 1-1 offering down the leftfield line for an RBI single, cutting the Aggies’ lead to 2-1. Aggie starter Kyle Martin retired Zack Bowers on a swinging strikeout to end the frame.
UGA brewed up trouble in the top of the seventh. With one out, Nelson Ward doubled to the gap in left centerfield and Curt Powell drew a four-pitch walk to chase Martin from the game. Parker Ray came in from the bullpen and didn’t let the ‘Dogs out for any more runs. He took a line drive by Farmer off his thigh, but regrouped in time to retire him at first and followed up by inducing a fly out by Hunter Cole to end the frame.
The Aggies tacked on two insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth. Statum worked a five-pitch walk and Mikey Reynolds, attempting to bunt Statum over, reached on a single to extend his hit streak to 18 games. Bratsen knocked both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. A wild pitch scored Statum and Reynolds scored when Allemand looped a ball into shallow centerfield over Georgia’s drawn-in infield.
Martin (2-2) earned the win, allowing one run on seven hits and two walks while striking out six over 6.1 innings. Ray needed only six pitches to retire the only two batters he faced to close out the seventh inning. Jason Jester allowed one hit while striking out one over 2.0 scoreless frames to earn his fifth save of the season.
Sean McLaughlin (3-1) was saddled with the loss in his longest career outing. He yielded two runs on four hits and three walks while striking out three over 7.0 innings.
Six different players accounted for the Aggies’ six hits. Statum did not have an official at-bat, with two sac bunts, one walk, one run scored and one RBI.
Nichols led Georgia’s offense going 3-for-4 with one double and one run scored.
The Aggies and Bulldogs return to action on Saturday for game two of the series at 2:05 pm. Members of the 1993 Texas A&M team that won the Southwest Conference title and advanced to the College World Series will be recognized at Saturday’s contest.
TEXAS A&M QUOTES
HEAD COACH ROB CHILDRESS
On the win: “It was certainly a Friday night game. Both pitchers were outstanding, and there were a lot of great defensive plays, three on our part in particular that I thought were special. Kyle Martin set the tone, we grabbed the lead early and those two runs probably felt like four to them. For us to score two runs in the eighth was huge. Jason Jester then did what he does best, and that’s finish the game.”
On the significance of the first SEC game: “I know it was a big game for the fans. I just asked our guys to play the game and not the event. We’ve got 29 more of these after tonight, and I was proud of our guys, staying in the moment and playing the game and not making more of it than it was. From the start I thought we were ready to play the game. I didn’t think there was a whole lot of anxiety on the field on our part.”