COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The No. 25 Texas A&M Aggies rode the back of a five-run fourth inning on Saturday afternoon to post a 6-5 win over the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs on a rain-soaked Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park.
The win is the fourth in a row for the Aggies who improve to 11-4 on the season and look to complete the three-game series sweep on Sunday.
Texas A&M logged 11 hits on the afternoon, highlighted by the performance of Cole Lankford. The junior first baseman notched a career-high with four hits, going 4-for-5 with one run and one RBI. Krey Bratsen, Hunter Melton and Logan Taylor each added two hits.
The Aggies pounced on the Bulldogs early with a run in the bottom of the first inning. JB Moss led off the frame by drawing a five-pitch walk. With one out, Lankford roped a single to rightfield and Melton was issued a six-pitch walk to load the bases. Logan Nottebrok lofted a ball to centerfield, driving in Moss with the sacrifice fly for the 1-0 lead.
A&M missed an opportunity to build an unassailable lead in the first third of the contest, leaving two men on base in each of the first three innings.
Louisiana Tech (4-10) posted an equalizer in the top of the fourth inning. Bre’shon Kimbell gapped a double to right centerfield to start the rally, moved to third on a fly out by Tyler Ervine and scored when Taylor Love trickled a single through the right side of the infield, knotting the game at 1-1.
The Aggies offered up an immediate response in the home half of the fourth behind four hits and three Louisiana Tech errors. Logan Taylor found the gap in right centerfield for a lead-off double. After Patrick McLendon was unable to push Taylor to third with a sacrifice bunt on two attempts, he drove him home with a single to right centerfield, staking A&M to a 2-1 lead. JB Moss was awarded first base when he was tripped by the catcher heading to first on a grounder to third base to put two ducks on the pond.
The rally continued as the Aggies loaded the bases on the Bulldogs’ second error of the inning. Krey Bratsen hit a shallow fly ball to right centerfield. After Bulldog second baseman Thomas Simoneaux was unable to make the catch with his back to the infield, centerfielder Taylor Burch picked the ball up with an opportunity to retire Moss at second base. Throwing with unnecessary haste, Burch missed the target allowing each runner to reach their destination. An RBI single to rightfield by Lankford drove in Bratsen and Moss came around to score when Kimbell, in rightfield, misplayed the hit, for a 4-1 run. After Lankford and Bratsen pulled off the double steal to put two runners in scoring position, Melton singled to leftfield to plate Bratsen. Nottebrok completed the cavalcade of runs with a sacrifice fly, knocking home Lankford for the 6-1 advantage.
The Bulldogs began to chip away at the five-run lead in the top of the sixth. Colby Johnson and Ervine both drew walks to start the inning and drive Aggie starter Parker Ray from the contest. Tyler Stubblefield got Love to bounce back to the pitcher for the first out of the inning, but the grounder pushed both runners into scoring position. Stephen Gandy drove in Johnson with a sacrifice fly to centerfield, cutting the lead to 6-2.
The momentum continued to swing in Louisiana Tech’s direction in the seventh inning. Taylor Burch doubled down the leftfield line and Conner Tobias drew a pinch-hit walk to start the frame. Stubblefield got Ryan Jones to whiff on a 1-2 pitch for the first out. Kimbell appeared to bounce into an inning-ending double play, but Logan Taylor misplayed the ball at short allowing Burch to score and Tobias to move to third. After Johnson struck out swinging, the Bulldogs pulled off the double steal with Kimbell swiping second and Tobias heading home on the throw, trimming the margin to 6-4.
The situation became more precarious for the Aggies in the top of the eighth. With AJ Minter coming out of the bullpen, Stephen Gandy hooked a ball around the leftfield foul pole for a one-out solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-5. Minter issued a walk to Tyler Qualls on four pitches to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. Andrew Vinson came in and forced a groundout from Stephen Blanchard and fanned Taylor Nichols on five pitches to get out of the jam.
Jason Jester worked the ninth inning on the mound for A&M. He retired the first two batters before giving Johnson a free-pass on five pitches. Johnson stole second base, but Ervine grounded out to third base to end the game.
Ray (2-0) earned the win for the Aggies. He yielded two runs on four hits and three walks while striking out one over 5.0 innings. Jester earned his second save of the season. It marked Jester’s 16th career save, moving him into a tie with Chris Russ (1998-2001) for second place on A&M’s all-time saves list. The duo trails only Scott Centala (1987-89) who booked 23.
Aggie pitchers held Louisiana Tech to 1-for-12 (.083) hitting with runners in scoring position and 1-for-14 (0.71) with runners on base.
The loss was hung on Phil Maton (0-2) for the Bulldogs. He allowed six runs, three earned, on nine hits and three walks while striking out one over 4.0 innings. Mark Baughman allowed Louisiana Tech to claw back into the contest. He held A&M scoreless on two hits and one walk over 3.1 innings.
The Aggies and Bulldogs wrap up the three-game series on Sunday with a 1:05 pm contest on Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park.
TEXAS A&M QUOTES
Head Coach Rob Childress
On the team’s performance...
“I thought we showed an awful lot of toughness today. We were fantastic for five or six innings from an offensive standpoint. Parker Ray retired the first nine batters he faced and got us off to a great start. Our bullpen did a nice job. We allowed them to get back into the game by not throwing strikes and not making a couple of routine plays. Logan Nottebrok made an outstanding play there in the ninth though. We made the plays when it counted.”
On Parker Ray’s performance...
“Parker’s going to find a way to compete and pitch deep into the game. He gives us a chance to win every time he’s out there. He’s a winner. I’m glad he’s on my team.”
On the timely hitting by the offense...
“The middle of our order got some big hits for us. The top and bottom of the order set them up for us. You can see that the more at-bats Logan Taylor gets the more comfortable he is at the plate. He had a good day. Cole Lankford also had a great day at the plate. Hopefully we can carry this over to tomorrow.”
On the team’s performance...
“It was a brutal day. I’m just glad we got out of there with a win. Parker (Ray) maybe didn’t have his best stuff, but he was very competitive. This was just an awesome win for us.”
On the weather...
“This won’t be the last time we play in weather like this. It’s a good learning experience for us to get ready for SEC play. I’m sure we’ll play on a rainy day again.”
On the team’s performance...
“Wins are hard to come by, especially with weather like this. You are going to have some mis-takes. We made big plays when we needed to. Playing in this is going to help us in the long run because we’ll see it again.”
On Parker Ray’s performance...“Parker’s a competitor. Whether he’s got his stuff or not, he’s always going to compete with the other team.”