COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The Texas A&M Aggies scored five runs in the bottom of the first inning and rode one of Grayson Long’s top performances of the season to a 14-2 win over the No. 17 Kentucky Wildcats in a Sunday matinee on Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park.
Long (5-1) worked 8.0 innings, yielding two runs on eight hits and one walk while striking out eight to pick up the win. Andrew Vinson allowed a walk to start the ninth, but retired the next three batters, including one strikeout, to close out the game.
A couple of colts led the hit parade for the Aggies. Freshman Nick Banks went 3-for-5 with one home run, two runs and two RBI and freshman Ryne Birk, who entered the game with six RBI on the season, plated five runs on the afternoon, going 2-for-4 with one home run and two runs.
Senior Jace Statum went 2-for-2 with one walk, one sacrifice fly, one run and three RBI. Fellow senior Krey Bratsen stole three bases on the afternoon, moving into a tie for second place with Chuck Knoblauch (1987-89) on A&M’s career list with 83.
Texas A&M (24-17, 8-10 SEC) smoked the Bluegrass pitching staff for 16 hits, including three extra-base hits. In a sustained attack, every player in the starting lineup registered a hit, including six players who registered multiple-hit games. Every player in the batting order also scored a run, including five players who touched the plate on two occasions.
Kentucky (26-14, 9-9 SEC) was unable to strike out an A&M batter until the bottom of the eighth. Texas A&M’s damage was limited by three double plays on the afternoon.
The Wildcats drew first blood with two outs in the top of the first inning when AJ Reed hit a 2-2 offering over the leftfield fence for his second home run of the weekend.
The Aggies responded immediately with five runs in the home half of the first. With two outs, Cole Lankford, Banks and Jonathan Moroney all singled with Moroney’s knock evening the game at 1-1. Troy Stein followed with a single up the middle. Banks looked like he might be retired on the basepaths heading home, but the throw to the plate by Kentucky shortstop Matt Reida was errant and after a hesitation Banks flew home to beat the tag for the go-ahead run. Birk followed with a three-run home run into the visitor bullpen in rightfield to stake the Aggies to a 5-1 lead.
A&M added a run in the second as Statum led off with a walk and Blake Allemand singled to leftfield to put runners on the corners. Logan Taylor bounced into a double play, bring Statum home for the 6-1 lead.
With one out in the fourth, Bratsen reached on an infield single, stole second base and scored on a Statum single for the 7-1 cushion.
Nick Banks unleashed a two-run dinger in the fifth, his second home run of the season as the Aggies kept their foot on the gas pedal, stretching the margin to 9-1.
The Wildcats showed signs of life in top of the sixth. With two outs, Ka’ai Tom singled to rightfield and when not enough attention was paid to him at first base, he got a huge jump to steal second base. Thomas Bernal sent Tom home with a gapper to right-center for a double, trimming the A&M lead to 9-2.
The Aggies once again offered an immediate response to a Kentucky run. In the bottom of the sixth, Bratsen got things rolling, running around the base paths like a wild turkey. He drew a one-out walk, stole second and third base and scored on a sacrifice fly by Statum. Allemand breathed new life into the inning with two outs, singling to leftfield, advancing to second on a wild pitch and scoring when Taylor slapped a single into shallow right-center leaving Kentucky with long faces, staring at an 11-2 deficit.
The cavalcade of runs continued in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Moroney drew a walk and Stein doubled to leftfield to put two runners in scoring position. Birk’s single to rightfield plated both runs to inflate the cushion to 13-2. Birk moved to second on a groundout by Bratsen and scored the final run of the game when Statum bounced a single up the middle.
Andrew Nelson (1-4) was saddled with the loss for Kentucky. He allowed eight runs on 10 hits and one walk over 4.0 inning.
Bernal was the lone Kentucky player with multiple hits going 2-for-4 with one double and one RBI.
Texas A&M returns to action on Tuesday when they travel to Houston for a 6:30 pm contest against the No. 21 Rice Owls at Reckling Park.
TEXAS A&M QUOTES
Head Coach Rob Childress
On answering back…
“We’ve had a lot of moments throughout the course of the season thus far that we’ve had our backs against the wall and needed to be able to answer as a group. Every time that opportunity has presented itself, our guys have always answered. I couldn’t be more proud of them with the way we played today.”
On scoring in the first inning…
“When AJ (Reed) hit the ball, he’d accounted for seven of the last 12 runs that Kentucky had scored. He was the one guy going into the weekend that we didn’t want to let beat us. That’s how good a hitter he is. He kind of took the air out of the stadium. We come in, and with two outs and nothing going, nobody on and two outs, just like that we score five runs. Breathed some life into our team and our dugout.”
Sophomore starting pitcher Grayson Long
On his performance…
“That was a really good team. Going out there I said to myself, ‘You’re going to have to be perfect today. You’re going to have to be great today.’ Parts of the game I wasn’t great, but I relied on my defense. I relied on Troy (Stein) and Coach (Childress) to call the right pitches. I trusted everybody for this win.”
On giving up the home run early…
“That was a great pitch. I still don’t know how he hit that ball. It was at the knees on the black outside, and he hit it probably 375 feet. That’s incredible, so you have to tip your hat to him. After that, I knew he was a big influence on their success, so I didn’t get caught up in that. I kept telling myself, ‘He’s not going to beat me. He’s not going to beat me.’”
Freshman second baseman Ryne Birk
On the game today…
“The whole team, they’ve been really hitting the ball well. Yesterday was a little struggle for us. But other than that, we played well Friday. The past two weeks we’ve been hitting the ball well. It was a big win for us, for sure.”
On his home run…
“They hit the home run in the first to give them a lead. Hitting that one, got us back in the game and put us ahead. It was a nice boost for our team.”