HOOVER, Alabama – The Texas A&M Aggies handed the No. 1-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores their first shutout of the season in a 5-0 blanking at the SEC Baseball Tournament at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.
In just his fifth career start, Parker Ray (1-1) earned his first win of the season as he stymied Vanderbilt hitters over a career-long 8.0 innings. Ray scattered three hits and three walks while striking out three. He walked the first batter of the ninth inning, but AJ Minter fanned Conrad Gregor and Jason Jester induced groundouts by Zander Wiel and Rhett Wiseman to complete the shutout.
The three pitchers combined to hold the Commodores to their lowest hit total of the season and it marked the first time Vanderbilt (48-8) had suffered a shutout since Mississippi State blanked the Commodores 3-0 in the SEC Tournament championship game last May.
On the offensive side of things, the Aggies registered three home runs in the game. Through the first seven games of the SEC Tournament, A&M accounted for the only four home runs hit at the cavernous Hoover Met.
In the second inning, Hunter Melton got the good times rolling as he hooked a 0-1 offering inside the leftfield foul pole for a one-out solo home run. It was Melton’s second home run of the tournament and his team-leading sixth of the season.
Texas A&M (32-25) staked claim to a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning when Cole Lankford tattooed a 2-0 offering, sending it over the rightfield fence for a leadoff dinger.
The Aggies inflated the cushion to 3-0 in the fifth inning. With one out, Krey Bratsen bounced a single through the right side of the infield and stole second base. After Jace Statum struck out looking for the second out of the frame, Mikey Reynolds deposited a double into the gap in right centerfield, plating Bratsen.
Troy Stein joined the long ball party in the sixth inning. With one out, he launched a full-count pitch down the leftfield line for his fifth home run of the season and a 4-0 lead.
The Aggies trimmed the Commodores’ topmast further with an insurance run in the ninth. With one out, Daniel Mengden reached on an infield single and was replaced at first by pinch-runner JB Moss. A grounder to first base by Brandon Wood pushed Moss to second and he scored when second baseman Tony Kemp made an ill-advised through on an infield single by Bratsen. The throw went wide of first base for an error and Moss raced home for the 5-0 lead.
The Vanderbilt bats were unable to save Walker Buehler (4-2) as the Commodore starter was saddled with the loss, allowing four runs on seven hits while striking out six over 6.0 innings.
The Aggies return to action on Thursday at approximately 7:30 pm when they face the winner of Wednesday night’s Mississippi State/South Carolina game.
Texas A&M Postgame Quotes
Head Coach Rob Childress
“I’m just really proud of our team. We played extremely well. It all starts on the mound and behind him (Parker Ray) we pitched extremely well. We played defense at a very high level. We grabbed the lead early and were able to extend it with some good swings. Parker wasn’t able to finish, but the bullpen made a stand up.”
On Parker Ray
“He was a walk-on. He came in and was an infielder. I told him if he came back he was going to try out. The kid came back to walk on tryouts his 3rd semester and we kept him. He had a good fall, but wasn’t going to pitch on that staff. I told him if he wanted to pitch at Texas A&M he needed to go to a junior college and prove you can pitch. Not many kids do that at Texas A&M. It’s a great place to be a student. He packed up his bags, went to Texarkana, pitched well and came back. All he does is keep his head down and grind. He was out of the bullpen last year and again this year. Every time he got the ball he kept doing well. It was a revolving door in our rotation about the middle of the year. The harder you work, the luckier you get. Everything he has ever gotten, he’s earned. He’s the definition of a grinder. He’s a guy that I want on my side. Now he’s one of our leaders, not just on the field, but in the clubhouse.”
On continuing in the tournament
“As far as the tournament, we haven’t done anything yet. We got into the eight-team tournament and won game one. There’s still a lot of baseball left to be played. There’s a trophy on the line and that’s what we’re here for. We’re here to win the tournament and do everything we can. We’ll have a big challenge tomorrow. If there’s a trophy or a ring on the line, why not play for it?”
On his performance today
“I felt really good coming in. I had a short rest but I knew this was a big game so I needed to step up for the team and have the fastballs working so I could get ahead on the counts, and then the slider and the changeup fell nice for me there. Hats off to Coach Childress on a great game calling pitches, I have so much respect for him for giving me the opportunity to be in this situation. I tried to make the best of it.”
On his second homerun of the tournament
“It started it off with a fastball, and then a slider and honestly I didn’t get the best of it. Luckily the ball carried out and that helped out a whole lot.”