COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The Texas A&M Aggies dropped the SEC series opener to the Alabama Crimson Tide, 5-1, Friday evening on Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park.
The Aggies had an opportunity to strike first loading the bases with two outs, but Troy Stein grounded out to second base to end the frame.
The Crimson Tide drew first blood in the top of the third inning. Hunter Webb started the frame by bouncing a single up the middle and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Georgie Salem. After Mikey White struck out looking for the second out of the inning, Ben Moore snaked a ball up the middle past the glove of diving Aggie second baseman Patrick McLendon to drive in Webb and stake Alabama to a 1-0 lead.
Texas A&M (18-13, 4-6 SEC) responded with an equalizer in the bottom of the fourth inning. Nick Banks slapped a leadoff single to the gap in left centerfield and moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Troy Stein. After Logan Taylor grounded out for the second out of the stanza, Jace Statum laced a single through the right side of the infield to push Banks across, evening the score at 1-1.
Alabama (21-8, 7-3 SEC) took advantage of a walk and aggressive defensive play by the Aggies in the fifth inning to score two runs. After Chance Vincent drew an eight-pitch walk from A&M starting pitcher Daniel Mengden, Webb laid down a sacrifice bunt attempt. Aggie catcher Stein pounced on the ball and rather than taking the out at first, made a throw to get the lead runner which arrived late and wide of the bag. Salem followed with a sac bunt attempt of his own, but reached on a single when Mengden made an unsuccessful attempt to dive and catch it in the air, loading the bases. Consecutive sacrifice flies by White and Moore inflated the Tide cushion to 3-1.
The Crimson Tide took advantage of another leadoff walk in the sixth. Wade Wass was issued a free pass on five pitches and was given an easy route to steal second on a throw in the dirt on strike three to Austen Smith. After Casey Hughston flied out for the second out of the inning, Vincent deposited a single down the leftfield line to knock Wass in for the 4-1 lead.
Alabama closed out the scoring in the ninth. Vincent drove a first-pitch offering from reliever Jason Freeman up the middle for a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Webb. A passed ball on a pitch from reliever Ty Schlottmann moved Vincent to third and he scored when Salem trickled a single through the left side of the infield for the 5-1 advantage.
Mengden (2-4) was saddled with the loss, allowing four runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out nine over 8.0 innings.
Spencer Turnbull (4-1) picked up the win for Alabama, holding the Aggies to one run on five hits and two walks while striking out three over 7.0 innings. Nick Eicholtz and Thomas Burrows combined retired six of the seven batters they faced in the last two innings.
Banks paced the A&M offense, going 3-for-4 on the evening.
Mikey White went 3-for-4 with one RBI to lead the Crimson Tide at the plate. Chace Vincent was 2-for-3 with two runs and one RBI. Georgie Salem was 2-for-4 with one sacrifice bunt, one stolen base and one RBI.
The teams wrap up the series on Saturday with a doubleheader starting at 2:05 pm. The second game of the twin bill, previously scheduled for Sunday, was moved up a day to avoid inclement weather expected to sweep through the Brazos Valley.
TEXAS A&M QUOTES
Head Coach Rob Childress
“Friday night, the team that makes the fewest mistakes is going to win. Unfortunately for us, we were the ones that made more mistakes. We tied it up. I thought we did a really good job against Turnbull. The guy has got a big arm, and we took 29 pitches from him in the first. Their crooked number inning—they don’t get a hit in the entire inning. Leadoff walk, don’t get an out on two bunts, two sac flies and we find ourselves down 3-1. We had an awful lot of opportunities with runners in scoring position, probably more than they did. They capitalized on every one that they had.”
On needing to score in the first…
“I felt like it was important, but I thought Daniel got us off to a good start. It would have been nice to have gotten a big hit there, but it wasn’t like we had a runner on third with less than two outs we didn’t get him in and it was demoralizing. It was just a matter of getting a big hit. For us, for four innings it was pretty good. The fifth inning was our undoing. Stein made an aggressive play and you can’t fault him for that, and so did Daniel. Would’ve like to have taken the out at first base, but I’m not going to fault our guys for aggressive mistakes.”
Junior Starting Pitcher Daniel Mengden
On his outing…
“It’s always nice getting out of that first inning—first time in a while. From my standpoint, I just have to be better. Four runs on a Friday night is not going to do it. We can’t ask our guys to score 6-7 runs a game. Friday night is going to be bite, scratching, hammer time, 1-1 game, and I just have to be better and make better pitches. I made some good pitches here and there, but leadoff walks got me. I have to be better for our guys.”
On the walks…
“I just have to get ahead. I don’t think it really matters in, out, up, or down. It’s a ball. They are all the same thing. I just have to get ahead and stay ahead.”
Freshman Rightfielder Nick Banks
On Friday night games…
“It’s a big game. They have a potential first rounder on the mound. We knew what we were getting into, and I think we hit the ball well to start off the game. We just couldn’t get a couple big hits to get something going. I like the way we swung it against him. We just couldn’t get it done.”
On his recent performance…
“I’m feeling really good. I have teammates who are pushing me to get better and better, and I have teammates who are constantly on me about everything—coaches same way. Without them, I don’t think I’d be here today.”