COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The Texas A&M Aggies fell victim to a six-run fifth inning by Ole Miss in an 8-4 loss to the Rebels in the series opener Thursday on Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park.
Texas A&M (32-22, 13-15 SEC) drew first blood in the bottom of the fourth inning. With two outs, Logan Nottebrok launched a 2-1 offering from Rebel ace Chris Ellis off the top of the rightfield fence for a solo home run, marking his second consecutive SEC game with a dinger.
Troy Stein kept the fourth frame going by punching a single to rightfield and Patrick McLendon followed with a hit-and-run single to the hole vacated by the covering second baseman to put runners on the corners. Jace Statum staked the Aggies to a 2-0 lead, gapping a double to right-center to plate Stein. With two runners in scoring position, Krey Bratsen hit a Baltimore chopper to third, but was unable to beat out the throw to first as Ole Miss escaped further damage.
The Aggies’ grasp of the momentum was short-lived as the Rebels offered an immediate response in the top of the fifth. Preston Overbey worked a six-pitch walk to start the frame and Errol Robinson singled to rightfield to put runners on the corners. Braxton Lee appeared to offer up a tailor-made double play, but the throw from shortstop Blake Allemand to first base for the second out sailed over Cole Lankford’s head and into visitor’s dugout. Lee was awarded an RBI on the fielder’s choice and moved to second on the error.
The inning continued to unwind as Aggie starter Daniel Mengden plunked Auston Bousfield with a 2-2 pitch to put two on and Austin Anderson hit a two-hop grounder that Lankford erred on, allowing Lee to score the equalizer. A sacrifice fly by Will Allen gave Ole Miss their first lead of the game and the Rebels piled on with an RBI single by J.B. Woodman and a two-run single by Overbey to inflate the cushion to 6-2.
Stein launched a solo home run, his second of the season, in the sixth inning to trim the margin to 6-3.
Texas A&M shaved another run off the lead in the seventh. Bratsen laced a single through the left side of the infield, but Blake Allemand bounced into a double play to second to give the Aggies’ two outs. Ole Miss went to the bullpen, calling on Jeremy Massie to face Ryne Birk. Birk hit his second double of the day, this one over the head of centerfielder Bousfield. Birk moved to third on a passed ball on ball-four to Lankford to put runners at the corners. Nick Banks pounded a chopper over the head of the Massie and the charging second baseman was unable to glove in time, scoring Birk on the single to cut the Ole Miss edge to 6-4.
The Aggies got two runners aboard in the eighth, but were unable to manufacture a run. Stein worked a walk, but was thrown at second on a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play with Jonathan Moroney swinging and missing at strike three. Jace Statum followed with a single up the middle, but Mitchell Nau was unable to conjure up a hit in a pinch.
Ole Miss (39-15, 18-10 SEC) padded the lead with two insurance runs in the ninth for the 8-4 advantage. The inning featured back-to-back doubles by Anderson and Allen to score the first run and a pinch-hit single by Colby Bortles to plate Allen after the Aggies were once again unable to roll a double play on a grounder by Orvis that would have ended the frame.
Four different Aggies sported multiple hits on the evening, including Banks, Birk, Statum and Stein with two apiece. Birk went 2-for-4 with two doubles, one walk and one run. Stein went 2-for-3 with two runs, one home run and one RBI. Statum went 2-for-4 with one double and one RBI.
Ole Miss had nine different players log hits, including three with multiple hits. Orvis, Woodman and Robinson each notched two base knocks.
Mengden (4-7) was the hard-luck loser for the Aggies, yielding six runs, one earned, on nine hits and two walks while striking out two in 8.0 innings.
Ellis (9-0) earned the win for Ole Miss. He allowed three runs on eight hits and one walk while striking out two in 6.2 innings. Aaron Greenwood worked a scoreless 2.1 innings to earn his third save of the season, scattering one hit and one walk while striking out two.
Texas A&M and Ole Miss return to action with game two of the series Friday on Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park. First pitch for the ESPNU telecast is slated for 7:03 pm.
TEXAS A&M QUOTES
Head Coach Rob Childress
On the game…
“It was a pretty good game. I thought we played fantastic tonight, if you take away one inning. We make three errors and give them two free base runners, and they made us pay dearly. We chipped away and put a little pressure on them late. We weren’t able to get a stop there in the ninth, and they ended up running away from us. But, we played pretty good up until that one inning and after that one inning. I thought Mengden was fantastic. I thought we were pretty good offensively, and play pretty good defense less that one inning. That’s usually what a good team does. They wait for you to make a mistake and they take you down. That’s Ole Miss did to us tonight.”
On giving up the big inning…
“We always tell our pitchers, ‘We score, you score. How fast can you get us back in here?’ We walk that leadoff hitter and we make three mistakes defensively, and it came unwound on us. You look up and he’s got us through eight innings. He had a great performance less that one inning, and we didn’t give him a whole lot of help either.”
Senior Catcher Troy Stein
On the game…
“I thought we played good for most of the game. We had one inning where a couple free base runners, a couple errors, set up an inning for them, and then they got some big hits. They got hits when they needed them.”
On his home run…
“I got a pitch to hit in a count. I thought we hit a lot of good balls tonight. A lot of people hit some balls right at people. I thought we were pretty good offensively as a unit tonight. We were just trying to stay in the game at that point. Try to keep it close enough to try to make a comeback.”
Junior Starting Pitcher Daniel Mengden
On his outing besides the big inning…
“They got a couple of jam shot hits, we made a couple errors behind me, and then it turned into a big inning. That’s how big innings start; one thing leads to another. Besides that, I thought I did pretty well.”
On pitching efficiently…
“I think I was doing well the whole game. I think I had four or five innings under 10 pitches. I was in a groove pretty well. I was getting them out, popping them up, grounding them out, letting the defense play. That one inning will get you.”