COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The Texas A&M Aggies fell to the Florida Gators, 5-3, in 11 innings in their SEC home opener Friday on Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park.
The Gators jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning with three hits and a walk. After striking out the leadoff batter, A&M starter Daniel Mengden surrendered a single to Casey Turgeon through the left side. Harrison Bader then slugged a double down that was misread by Jonathan Moroney down the leftfield line before advancing to third on an error on the play. Taylor Gushue then singled to shallow left center to plate the second run for the Gators. Mengden would work out of a bases-loaded jam later in the inning, striking out Josh Tobias to limit the damage.
The Aggies would cut into the lead in the bottom of the second after back-to-back singles by Mitchell Nau and Blake Allemand to lead off the frame. Moroney drove a 2-2 pitch into left, scoring Nau from second. Despite getting two runners in scoring position with no outs, the Aggies were unable to push across the equalizer after a strikeout, flyout to shallow center and a groundout to third.
Florida (15-7, 3-1 SEC) regained a two-run advantage on a sacrifice fly in the top of the fourth. Bader led off the inning with a single, Gushue was hit by a pitch and Peter Alonso singled to right to load the bases. Nick Banks made a diving catch in right for the first out which allowed Bader to score from third; however, the Gators would be unable to push anything else across after flyouts to rightfield and centerfield, respectively.
The Maroon and White wasted no time in narrowing the gap again in the bottom of the fourth. Patrick McLendon reached on an error by the third basemen to lead off the inning, but consecutive flyouts would limit the Aggies chances. Nau reached on a fielder’s choice and Allemand drew a five-pitch walk to load the bases. Moroney came through again with a single through the left side, giving him his second RBI on the night.
Texas A&M (15-8, 1-3 SEC) would put runners on the corners again in the fourth, but were unable to push across the equalizer.
The Gators would threaten to add insurance in the top of the sixth, loading the bases with no outs on three-straight singles. Mengden would fan the next two batters for his sixth and seventh strikeouts on the night before inducing an easy grounder to first to get out of trouble.
With the newfound momentum, A&M rallied to tie the game in the sixth. Jace Statum led off the frame with a single before advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt by Krey Bratsen. A slow roller to shortstop by McLendon allowed Statum to move up 90-feet before Cole Lankford went to the opposite field on the first pitch of his at-bat to even the game with an RBI single off Florida reliever Kirby Snead.
Both teams would exchange scoreless frames over the next three innings. A&M put runners on base in each of the final four innings, but was unable to get the game-winning hit.
The Gators would take the lead for good in the top of the 11th off A&M reliever Jason Jester (2-1) after Turgeon led off the inning with a single up the middle. The next batter, Bader, reached despite a bad sacrifice bunt offering back to the pitcher’s mound. Jester’s throw to second was in time to retire Turgeon, but the umpire deemed the throw pulled shortstop Logan Taylor off the bag at second. After a successful sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk loaded the bases, Mattson slapped a single to opposite field, just past the outstretched glove of McLendon at second to score the go-ahead run. Florida would add an insurance run on a squeeze play when Justin Shafer laid down a bunt for a hit.
Despite struggling in the opening frame, A&M starter Mengden posted a quality-start, giving up three runs on 10 hits while walking one and striking out seven over 7.0 innings. Jester took the loss for the Aggies, his first setback of the season, yielding two runs, one earned, over 2.0 innings while Parker Ray pitched two scoreless innings of one-hit ball.
Lankford went 3-for-6 with an RBI while Moroney went 2-for-4 with two RBI in the loss.
AJ Puk (2-2) picked up the win for the Gators and Aaron Rhodes notched his third save. Gushue went 3-for-4 with an RBI in the winning effort.
Texas A&M will be in action again tomorrow at 2:05 against the Gators at Blue Bell Park. To learn more about the team, visit AggieAthletics.com and follow @Aggie_Baseball on Twitter.
TEXAS A&M QUOTES
Head Coach Rob Childress
On the team’s performance…
“It’s a disappointing loss. We misplayed a ball in left field in the first inning and we tried to grab some momentum there in the second with runners at second and third and nobody out, but we couldn’t come up with any more. I thought our guys competed well. We got some big hits along the way. Moroney and Lankford each got some big RBI tonight. Mengden got out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam. We had the momentum; we just weren’t able to get the key hit at the end of the game to walk-off. We’ve got to play better defense.”
On Daniel Mengden…
“I thought he competed well. I thought he was crisp and sharp. Us not catching that ball in left kind of deflated him. He made some big pitches down the stretch for us. He did a good job of minimizing damage. He did a good job of getting out of the jam.”
On Jonathan Moroney…
“He swung the bat really well for us. He hit a double. He scored a run. I thought we were going to be able to put up a crooked number in the second inning.”
On taking the loss…
“That’s how the game goes. There’s nobody to blame but myself. It’s my job to stop things when I get put in the game. I let my team down. That’s the great thing about baseball: we get to play again tomorrow. We’re excited to get back out here tomorrow.”
On the offense…
“I feel like our offense is doing well. We had some key opportunities to get guys in, we just couldn’t capitalize on those opportunities. We’ll come out tomorrow ready to play.”
On his night at the plate…
“Coach gave me the bunt twice in my first at-bat and I missed them both. I got an RBI double. I try and not let anything get in my head.”
On how close this team is…
“We’re a click short. All we have to do is find a way to make routine plays. We’re honestly just a click away. We have the talent and the depth. All it’s going to take is us to play baseball the way we can play.”