NASHVILLE, Tennessee – The Texas A&M Aggies became the 12th NCAA Division I program and the first SEC team to hit the 2,500-win plateau with a 10-4 win over the No. 7 Vanderbilt Commodores on Friday evening at Hawkins Field.
Freshman Nick Banks led an Aggie armada that pounded out 12 hits, including four extra-base hits. Banks went 2-for-4 with one double, two runs and one RBI. Blake Allemand, Cole Lankford and Krey Bratsen each logged two hits.
The Aggies fired the first shot across the Commodores’ bow in the top of the second inning, scoring four runs. Hunter Melton sparked the rally by legging out an infield single to short to start the frame. Banks followed by snaking a single past the glove of a diving Vanderbilt shortstop Vince Conde and into shallow left-center to put two runners on. Melton came around to score when Commodore second baseman Dansby Swanson was unable to glove a throw at first on a sacrifice bunt by Logan Nottebrok.
With two runners in scoring position after the error, Troy Stein grounded out to second base to knock in Banks for the 2-0 advantage. After Ronnie Gideon struck out swinging for the second out of the inning, Bratsen singled off the glove off the glove of Swanson up the middle to push Nottebrok across. Bratsen stole second base and came around to score when Allemand deposited a triple down the leftfield line for the 4-0 advantage.
Vanderbilt (26-9, 6-7 SEC) got on the board in the home half of the third. Nolan Rogers gapped a double to right-center to start the frame and a sharp single back to the mound by John Norwood put runners on the corners. Ro Coleman put sacrifice squeeze down the first base line to push Rogers across and cut the lead to 4-1. Aggie starter Jason Jester got out of the jam by inducing a pop up from Xavier Turner and a grounder to third base by Swanson to end the inning.
Texas A&M (21-14, 6-7 SEC) reclaimed a four-run lead in the top of the fourth inning. With two outs, Bratsen punched a hit out of the reach of a diving Vanderbilt outfielder Rhett Wiseman down the rightfield line that rolled to the wall for a triple. Allemand plated Bratsen by slapping a sharp single to leftfield for the 5-1 advantage.
The Aggies inflated the cushion to 7-1 in the top of the fifth. Lankford poked a leadoff single to the gap in left-center and Hunter Melton followed with a six-pitch walk. Banks one-hopped a ball over the wall in right-centerfield for the ground-rule double, driving in Lankford. After the Nottebrok drew a six-pitch walk to load the bases, Stein grounded into a double play to push Melton across for the six-run advantage.
The Commodores trimmed the Aggies’ sails a bit in the home half of the fifth. Norwood started the rally with a single to centerfield and Coleman drew a five-pitch walk to put two runners on with no outs. Turner worked the count full before he bounced a single through the left side of the infield, plating Norwood and driving Jester from the contest. Parker Ray came in and committed a throwing error on Swanson’s sacrifice bunt attempt to allow Coleman to score and cut the Aggie advantage to 7-3. Ray rebounded by striking out the next three batters in the frame.
The Aggies used a three-run seventh inning to secure the mutiny of the Commodores. Jace Statum was hit by a pitch to start the inning and Banks dropped a single into centerfield. A passed ball moved both runners into scoring position and after Nottebrok grounded out to short for the first out of the inning, Stein drew a five-pitch walk to fill the bags with Ags. Ryne Birk cleared the bases with a three-run single down the rightfield line for the 10-3 lead.
Vanderbilt’s last rally came up short in the seventh. With one out, Turner singled up the middle and scored on a two-out double by Bryan Reynolds.
In his first career start, Jester received no decision for his effort. He allowed three runs, two earned, on six hits and two walks while striking out over 4.0 innings plus three batters in the fifth. Ray (4-2) fanned a career-high 10 in the win. He allowed just one run on two hits in 5.0 innings of relief.
All-American Tyler Beede (5-4) allowed seven runs, four earned, on nine hits and four walks while striking out four over 5.0 innings in the loss.
Reynolds led Vanderbilt’s offense going 3-for-4 with two doubles and one RBI. Turner and Norwood both went 2-for4.
Texas A&M and Vanderbilt return to action at Hawkins Field for game two of the series at 2 pm on Saturday.
TEXAS A&M QUOTES
Head coach Rob Childress…
On approach against Tyler Beede…
If he was in the strike zone we needed to get after the fastball and I think we did that well. We were able to jump on him in the second inning. It all started with the big boy (Hunter Melton) hustling down the line to beat out a throw for a second. And we were able to take advantage of their fielding error which is what you have to do against teams of Vanderbilt’s caliber.
On Jason Jester’s start…
Both the guys who pitched today are seniors and I think that paid off tonight. Jason’s been our closer and set our school-record for saves last year. There haven’t been a lot of opportunities for him and we haven’t done that well on Friday nights. This also give Mengden an extra day of rest, which I think he can use, but we hadn’t been playing well on Friday’s, so we wanted to shake things up and try something different.
On Nick Banks…
He’s a great combination of speed and strength. And he’s not scared. When you have that kind of package in a player who is fearless, you have a special player. He’s a very talented guy who is forcing us to play him every night against lefts and rights and that’s a good thing.
On Ryne Birk’s pinch-hit triple…
That was a huge at-bat. The game was still in the balance and they were one good inning from making a run at us in their home park. For him to come off the bench cold and clear the bases with a triple was huge for us.
Senior relief pitcher Parker Ray
On Jason Jester’s start…
Jester’s been our closer all year. We expected him to go light’s out at the beginning and give us everything he had and that’s exactly what he did. He came out hot for the first three or four innings and let us build the lead. He ran out of some steam in the fifth, but hats off to him. He helped us get the lead and we had motivation and momentum in our dugout.
On mixing his pitches…
I had a feel for all of my pitches. It felt good to get back on the mound against Vanderbilt. They’re a great hitting team and a very well-coached team and they’re going to attack the fastball. That’s what they’re trained to do. I was fortunate to get them off balance early and was able to keep the guessing and deceive them a little bit.