KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – After yielding just one run over 8.0 innings in each of his last two starts, Texas A&M right-handed pitcher Daniel Mengden finally broke through for his first career complete-game. The sophomore pitched the Aggies to a 5-1 win over the Tennessee Volunteers at Lindsey Nelson Stadium on Thursday evening.
Mengden allowed just one run on seven hits and two walks while striking out four over 9.0 innings. He lowered his ERA to 1.84 on the season and has yielded just three runs in his last three starts, totaling 25.0 innings.
The Aggies harvested a run in the top of the third inning to take the early lead. Jace Statum knocked a leadoff single up the middle and was replaced at first base by Mikey Reynolds who was unsuccessful in a sacrifice bunt attempt. Reynolds moved to second on a wild pitch and advanced to third on a groundout by Blake Allemand. Cole Lankford broke the scoring seal, knocking Reynolds home with a single to the shortstop for the 1-0 lead.
Tennessee (21-29, 7-19 SEC) tied the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the fourth. Will Maddox started the inning with a single to rightfield and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by AJ Simcox. An infield single by Scott Price put runners on the corners with one out, and Ethan Bennett sent the Maddox home for the equalizer with a groundout to the shortstop.
The Volunteers were feeling charitable in the top of the fifth, yielding an unearned run to the Aggies. With one out, Statum drew a five-pitch walk and moved to second on a groundout to the shortstop by Reynolds. Allemand bounced a ball into the hole on the left side, but shortstop Simcox fumbled the ball for an error, putting runners on the corners. Lankford took advantage of the extra out, driving a single through the left side of the infield to plate Allemand with the two-out run and the Aggies staked claim to a 2-1 edge.
Texas A&M (29-24, 12-15 SEC) created separation with a three-run seventh inning. Centerfielder Parker Wormsley made a diving attempt on soft line drive by Krey Bratsen, but he couldn’t keep it in the glove for the leadoff single. The Volunteers were unsuccessful in an attempt to retire the lead runner at second on a sacrifice bunt by Statum giving the Aggies two runners with no outs. Reynolds pushed both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt for the first out of the inning. After Allemand struck out swinging, Lankford was intentionally walked to set up the double play opportunity.
With the bases saturated with Aggies, Hunter Melton hit a ball deep in the hole on the left side of the infield. Simcox corralled it and went to second in an unsuccessful attempt at a force out and Melton was credited with the RBI single, driving in Bratsen. Stein capped off the rally by pushing two runs across with a single up the middle for the 5-1 lead.
Zack Godley (5-7) worked a complete-game in the loss, allowing five runs, four earned, on nine hits and three walks while registering a career-high with 13 strikeouts over 9.0 innings.
Lankford and Melton each had two hits for the Aggies. Lankford went 2-for-4 with one run, one walk and two RBI. Melton went 2-for-5 with one double and one RBI.
Christin Stewart led the Volunteers with three of their seven hits. Price was the only other Tennessee player with multiple hits, going 2-for-3 with a walk.
The Aggies and Volunteers return to action at Lindsey Nelson Stadium for game two of the series on Friday at 5 pm Central.
TEXAS A&M QUOTES
Head coach Rob Childress
On Daniel Mengden’s outing: He has been getting stronger every outing down the stretch. He was efficient tonight and was making very good pitches. He went head-to-head with a real workhorse on the other side. (Zack) Godley is a really good pitcher and Daniel was able to keep us in the game until we got some key hits. We needed a good outing from him. Our staff is fresh for the rest of the weekend and Daniel didn’t have to stretch himself out too far so he’ll be ready to go early in the week next week at the SEC Tournament.
On the two-out hits: That was huge. All five of our runs came on two-out hits. That’s something we have to feel good about going into the rest of the weekend.
On the defensive play of the Aggies: I think the last three weeks we have been playing defense on a very high level. The outfield has been catching balls in the gaps and down the line and we have quite a few outfield assists. The infield has been strong all the way around the horn. Tonight we executed a play to snuff out a double steal and we got a key outfield assist in the first inning to keep Tennessee from getting momentum.
Sophomore pitcher Daniel Mengden
On his first career complete-game: It feels good. I knew my pitch count was pretty low, so as long as I kept getting guys out I was in good shape. It got close there at the end. Had that last batter got on base, I think coach would have gone with Jason (Jester) to close things out.