OKLAHOMA CITY, OK -- The sixth-ranked Texas A&M baseball team used a four-run bottom of the fifth to break open a tight game and cruise to a 10-4 win over Kansas Wednesday afternoon in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship opener for both teams.
“I was really proud of our team today,” Texas A&M head coach Rob Childress said. “We knew what kind of test we had with Frank Duncan and how good a pitcher he is. It was the right move for us to start Daniel Mengden. I feel like our big time players got big time hits today. Tyler Naquin, Scott Arthur and Jacob House, those guys all stepped forward.”
The Aggies improved to 42-14 on the season and will face the winner of tonight’s contest between Texas and Missouri at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday. The victory also marked Texas A&M’s 11th consecutive win at the Big 12 Tournament, a run that dates back to the 2009 season. The streak leaves the Aggies just one victory shy of the all-time record of 12 straight wins at the event which is held by Nebraska from 2000-02.
Senior second baseman Scott Arthur drove in a career-high three runs in the victory while junior right fielder Tyler Naquin tied his season best with four hits as the Aggie bats totaled 15 hits at the plate.
“Momentum is everything and it definitely shows,” Naquin said. “We came back three times last weekend (against Oklahoma State). You can really ride that stuff especially when your guy comes out and give you a strong start on the mound.”
First baseman Jacob House also drove in three runs during the contest as the Aggies extended their winning streak to eight games and improved to 11-1 in the month of May.
Freshman starting pitcher Daniel Mengden (3-3) worked 6.2 strong innings on the mound for the Aggies, scattering five hits and just one unearned run to pick up his third consecutive win in as many starts.
In four games as a starter this season, Mengden is 3-0 with a 0.68 ERA and has issued only one walk to go along with 16 strikeouts in 26.2 innings of work.
The Houston native struck out five in Wednesday’s contest, pounding the strike zone all afternoon by throwing 64 of his 96 pitches for strikes.
After retiring the Jayhawks in order during the top of the first, the Aggies wasted no time giving the right-hander a lead to work with by scoring a run during their first turn at bat.
Naquin got the first-inning rally started with a single down the left field line and came around to score his first of three runs on the afternoon when House singled through the right side with one out.
The contest remained tight with KU starter Frank Duncan (6-8) holding the Aggies to just the lone run on the scoreboard until the bottom of the fourth when the Aggies were able to break through against the right-hander. Arthur got the scoring starting in the frame by tripling off the wall in deep left field to plate center fielder Krey Bratsen, who singled earlier in the inning.
Junior shortstop Mikey Reynolds, back in the starting line-up for the first time since May 11, kept the rally going with a run-scoring single to center before senior third baseman Matt Juengel brought home a pair with a two-run double.
After Kansas (22-33) scored its first run of the afternoon with an unearned tally in the top of the sixth, Arthur plated two more Aggie runs and extended the lead to 7-1 with a two-run single during the bottom of the frame.
Texas A&M tacked on three more runs in the home half of the seventh, scoring twice on a House double before adding a tally on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Bratson that swelled the advantage to 10-1.
The Jayhawks attempted to rally in the top of the ninth, scoring three runs off A&M reliever Corey Ray before senior lefty Estevan Uriegas came in from the bullpen to record the game’s final out and seal the Aggie victory.
For Uriegas, it was his 36th appearance on the mound this spring tying the school record for single season pitching appearances, a distinction he shares with Nick Fleece, who also made 36 trips to the mound during the 2011 campaign.