COLLEGE STATION, Texas - The No. 24 Texas A&M Aggies captured their opening series of the season, taking the rubber match from the UIC Flames, 5-1, in a sun-drenched Sunday afternoon on Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park.
UIC (1-2) brewed up trouble early in the contest, loading the bases to lead off the first inning. Alex De LaRosa doubled to left field and a bunt single by Ryan Shober put runners on the corners. Tyler Detmer was issued a walk to load the bases. The Flames took the 1-0 lead when Rafael Pineda's pick-off attempt on the runner at second base sailed into centerfield. Looking to add to the lead, UIC put down a sacrifice bunt to put two runners in scoring position with one out. Pineda induced Harry Kammholz into a pop up to shortstop and got Alex Grunenwald to strike out swinging to end the rally.
Texas A&M (2-1) bounced back with three runs in the home half of the first. Mikey Reynolds hit a leadoff single to the gap in left centerfield and Krey Bratsen reached on a bunt single. Daniel Mengden was issued a walk to load the bases. Troy Stein bounced a potential double-play ball to short, but it was bobbled by Shober, and UIC could only get the out at second, giving Stein the RBI on the equalizer. Cole Lankford followed with another grounder to short and this time Shober was credited with an error as Bratsen scored the go-ahead run. A third-consecutive RBI grounder, this one by Jonathan Moroney, plated Stein for the 3-1 lead.
The Aggies added a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. With two outs, Charlie Curl doubled to centerfield and moved to third on a balk. Jace Statum tripled down the rightfield line to drive in Curl. Mikey Reynolds capped of the rally with a single through the left side of the infield, plating Statum.
Reynolds paced the Aggies, going 3-for-4 with one run and one RBI.
Detmer reached base in all four of his plate appearances going 3-for-3 and getting hit by a pitch.
Pineda (1-0) earned the victory for the Aggies. He yielded just one run, scattering seven hits and one walk while striking out five over 6.0 innings.
The Aggies had four relief pitchers make their first-ever appearance in the Maroon and White. In the seventh inning, Ty Schlottmann got the only batter he faced to bounce into a double play and Zach Brashear closed out the frame by inducing a groundout. Grayson Long pitched a scoreless eighth with one hit and two walks. Andrew Vinson made it interesting in the ninth by loading the bases, alternating base runners with outs. The inning consisted of a hit batsman, strikeout, walk, fly out, infield single and an inning-ending strikeout.
Joey Begel (0-1) was saddled with the loss for the Flames. He allowed five runs, four earned, on five hits and two walks while striking out two over 3.2 innings.
Both squads were unable to reach their full potential at the plate with the Flames stranding 12 runners and the Aggies grounding into three double plays.
Texas A&M returns to action on Tuesday when they host the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks in a 6:35 pm contest on Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park.
TEXAS A&M QUOTES
Head Coach Rob Childress
Opening Statement: “We know a lot more about our team than we did on Friday. Illinois-Chicago is an older group, a veteran group. They play with a chip on their shoulder. The deciding factor in the game was the first inning. They load the bases with nobody out and only come away with one run. We loaded the bases with no outs and came away with three. They made a couple of mistakes. We were able to extend the lead in the fifth and sixth with some timely two-out hits. Our pitching held up for us. Pineda had a great start. We had some young guys come out of the bullpen that did a really nice job. Illinois-Chicago had a chance to get some key hits, but we were able to get a big pitch when they did. I was proud of those young guys on the mound. I was proud we were able to win today and win the series.”
On Mikey Reynolds: “He had a great game. He played great defense all weekend long. Offensively, he got it going yesterday and that carried over into today. He’s a big key for us, hitting at the top. When he and Krey are on, they can create havoc. He had a special weekend.”
On Rafael Pineda: “I think he always likes me to go out early in the game and get his motor running. I asked if he’d like me to just talk to him in the dugout before he takes the field but I don’t think he does. We weren’t able to locate a pitch on a 0-2 count and the guy doubles to center. We don’t get off the mound on a bunt and just like that we’re in trouble. We had a guy picked at second and we make a poor throw, allowing them to score a run. He found a way to get out of it. His maturity allowed him to get through that first inning. The Raffy that I knew in the past would’ve let all that get to him. Once he got through that first inning he had a great performance.”
Senior Shortstop Mikey Reynolds
On his performance: “We were putting runners on with two-outs today. That’s when we scored our runs. All of us are happy with two-out runs. I’m glad we were able to stick with our approach and do that.”
On batting leadoff: “I love batting leadoff. I’ve done it pretty much my whole life. I like being up there and setting the tone. I was able to do that today.”
Junior Pitcher Rafael Pineda:
On pitching on Sunday: “Sunday’s great. I’m used to it. It’s part of the routine. I know Kyle (Martin) and Daniel (Mengden) have their own approach. We’re just getting after it the best we can.”
On the first inning struggles: “It was tough. I had a rough time of hitting my spots today. Stein did an amazing job back there. The defense did a great job as well, making plays and taking care of everything.