COLLEGE STATION, Texas – No. 25 Texas A&M held Louisiana Tech to just four hits and the Maroon and White scratched out single runs in five different innings as the Aggies scored a 5-3 decision over the Bulldogs on Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park on Friday evening.
The win was the third in a row for the Aggies who improved to 10-4 on the season.
Louisiana Tech (4-9) took advantage of a pair of Aggie errors to take a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning. With one out, Tyler Qualls drew a six-pitch walk. Taylor Nichols followed by bouncing a grounder to Logan Nottebrok at the hot corner. Nottebrok’s throw for the force play at second pulled Patrick McLendon off the bag, giving the Bulldogs two base runners on the error. Thomas Simoneaux put a bunt down the third base line and this time Nottebrok’s throw skipped past Cole Lankford at first base for his second error, allowing Qualls to score and putting two runners in scoring position. Aggie starting pitcher Daniel Mengden worked out of the jam by inducing a short flyout to the shortstop in leftfield and a groundout to shortstop.
Nottebrok atoned for his errors in the top of the inning with a dinger in the home half. The junior led off the frame, pouncing on a 2-1 pitch to provide pyrotechnics with a home run to the left of the videoboard in leftfield, his fourth tater of the season, knotting the game at 1-1.
JB Moss manufactured a run in the bottom of the third inning, staking the Aggies to a 2-1 advantage. The sophomore outfielder drew a six-pitch, stole second base and hustled to third on a groundout by Krey Bratsen. Moss scored when Louisiana Tech starting pitcher Adam Derouen balked on his first pitch to Cole Lankford.
The Aggies used a pair of hits to inflate the cushion to 3-1 in the bottom of the fourth. Troy Stein laced a double down the leftfield line and came around to score with two outs when Patrick McLendon gapped a single to left centerfield.
The Bulldogs trimmed a run off the lead in the top of the fifth inning. Ryan Jones reached on an infield single deep in the whole at short to start the inning and Bre’shon Kimbell followed with a seven-pitch walk. A wild pitch by Mengden put both runners in scoring position and Colby Johnson bounced a grounder to second to knock in Jones, cutting the Aggie edge to 3-2.
Texas A&M tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh inning. McLendon drew a four-pitch walk to start the frame and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Moss. Bratsen drew a four-pitch walk to put two runners on base and Lankford flied out to leftfield for the second out of the inning. Blake Allemand pinch-ran for McLendon at second base and scored when Hunter Melton dropped a double down the leftfield line for the 4-2 lead.
Louisiana Tech provided a firework of their own to start the eighth inning as Tyler Ervine sent a 1-1 offering over the fence in left centerfield, to cut the A&M margin to 4-3.
The Aggies re-established a two-run lead in the bottom of the eighth inning. With one out, Logan Taylor reached on a single off the glove of a diving Bulldogs’ third baseman. Allemand followed with a single to leftfield and Moss loaded the bases with a single to rightfield. Bratsen bounced into a fielder’s choice grounder to short, driving in Taylor for the 5-3 lead.
The Bulldogs threatened to mount a rally against Aggie closer Jason Jester in the top of the ninth. With one out, Jones and Kimbell were issued walks, but Jester enticed Johnson into flying out to left and Ervine followed with a fly out to centerfield to end the game.
Moss, Melton and Stein each logged two hits for the Aggies who pounded out 10 for the game, including four extra-base hits. Moss went 2-for-3 with one run, one double, one stolen base and one sacrifice bunt. Melton went 2-for-4 with one double and one RBI. Stein went 2-for-3 with one double and one run scored.
Mengden (2-2) earned the victory on the mound for the Maroon and White. He allowed two runs, one earned, on two hits and four walks while striking out eight over 7.0 innings.
Jester earned his first save of the season, issuing two walks in 1.1 shutout innings. The save marked the 15th of his career, tying with Travis Starling (2007-09) for third place on A&M’s all-time save list.
Bratsen got the start in centerfield for Texas A&M. It marked his 200th career game, making him the 16th player in school annals to reach the 200-game plateau.
Derouen (0-1) was saddled with the loss for the Bulldogs. He allowed three runs on six hits and one walk while striking out one over 4.0 innings.
The Aggies and Bulldogs continue the series on Saturday with Game Two slated for 1:05 pm on Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park.
TEXAS A&M QUOTES
Head Coach Rob Childress
“It was a hard fought win. I thought we swung the bats really good tonight. I know the scoreboard doesn’t show it, but we hit the ball hard all night long. I thought we had a great approach. Two of the three times they scored we answered back. We gave them hope early by not playing good defense. A wild pitch moved a runner in scoring positions and they scored a free run. Daniel wasn’t super sharp but he competed well and left in the seventh inning with the lead. That’s all you can ask of out of any starter. It was good to get Jester back on the horse. That first one is not going to be easy or clean, but we got his first save of the year. Hopefully, there are a lot more to come.”
On insurance runs...
“It was the difference in the game. Two of the three times they scored we answered back. That run in the eighth that extended the lead was huge. Our guys at the top of the lineup played really good tonight. Patrick McClendon got a start. I thought he was fantastic and had great at-bats all night long. The middle of our order got some big hits. Hunter Melton got a hit when it mattered.
Senior Relief Pitcher Jason Jester
On getting the save...
“That was big for me—getting the first one out of the way. I have to cut the walks down. If Coach is going to roll me out there in the ninth, it is my responsibility to shut it down. I’m still a little sloppy and I have a lot of room for improvement, but I’m pumped to get a result.”
On bouncing back from his last couple outings...
“Baseball is a game of failure. You have to have quick memory. That would cut myself and the team short if I’m out there being a head case. It was a good team win. There is only one stat that matters at the end of the day and that’s getting a W. I’m looking forward to coming out tomorrow and getting another shot on the mound.”
Junior Starting Pitcher Daniel Mengden
On getting the win...
“It feels great. Last weekend was kind of rough for us. That’s one thing bad about being a starter. If you sit on a good win, it’s a nice 7-day rest, or like last weekend I wasn’t very satisfied with it and I was itching to get back out there.”
On his performance...
“Honestly I don’t think I did very well. I didn’t command the fastball as well as I can. Four walks is unacceptable on any pitching staff. I know the defense made a couple good plays behind me. I helped myself out at times too, but I can’t put us in that hole. One of the walks ended up being a run, and down the stretch in the SEC you can’t have that.”
Senior Catcher Troy Stein
On what he saw behind the plate...
“Great pitching. Competing like they always do. Dan goes out and does a great job. He gets us through seven innings with the lead. That’s all we can ask from a starter. If we can get a starter through seven innings with the lead, we feel pretty good about where we can go in the bullpen. If we can get the ball to Jester and get him going, he is going to save a lot of games for us this year.”
On Jester getting the save...
“It’s going to be great for him. That is all he needed. He is a guy that needs a little spark and he got it tonight. He is feeling good; he’s throwing well. He’s going to start catching breaks and start getting a lot of guys out.”