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Rice bests A&M in Tuesday night loss, 5-4

Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 23:07

baseball

Tanner Garza — THE BATTALION

Freshman Corey Ray pitches in the Aggies 5-4 loss against No. 7 Rice.

In a wacky game that saw both teams’ starters pulled before the end of the first inning, No. 2 Texas A&M fell to the No. 7 Rice Owls, 5-4, at Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park Tuesday night. The Aggies plated four runs in the opening inning but were unable to muster offensive firepower thereafter.

“Pretty disappointing loss,” said head coach Rob Childress. “We played just good enough to lose. We talked about it before the game started — you only get so many opportunities against Rice, and ours was in the first inning.”

Freshman pitcher Gandy Stubblefield didn’t make it out of the first inning after allowing two free bases and walking in the first run of the game.

In the bottom of the frame, four runs by the Aggies also sent Rice’s starter, Jordan Stephens, to the showers prematurely. Junior right fielder Tyler Naquin’s 2-RBI single turned into three bases after a fielding error, and senior designated hitter Matt Juengel brought in the All-American with an RBI double. Freshman left fielder Chance Bolcerek knocked in another as the Aggies finished the inning with a 4-1 advantage.

“With a 45-minute first inning, we were right on schedule for a 9-hour game,” Childress said. “Pretty ugly to start.”

The Owls swooped in for a score in the second and another in the fourth. The combined effort of freshman Corey Ray, freshman Daniel Mengden, senior Estevan Uriegas and freshman Jason Freeman kept Rice from scoring an additional run until the eighth inning.

“We had some pitchers step up and make big pitches for us and get us out of jams,” Childress said. “All three of those guys made big pitches and made plays behind them to keep it close.”

Junior reliever Kyle Martin, one of the stalwarts of the Aggies’ deep bullpen this season, uncharacteristically allowed two runs — one in the eighth as well as the ninth — giving the Owls a 5-4 lead heading into the bottom of the frame. Martin (4-3) was credited with the defeat.

“In the eighth inning, what more could be said?” Childress said. “We give up an 0-2 base hit and you know in the ninth again they’re trying to sac bunt with two strikes and we hit the guy. I mean, two free runs. And that’s about what we deserve tonight — a loss.”

With two outs and runners on first and second in the bottom of the ninth, Naquin took the plate. J.T. Chargois, who spent the majority of the night designated hitting, took the mound in the save situation.

Down one ball, two strikes, Chargois delivered a pitch on the outside corner that left Naquin looking and home plate umpire Mike Morris pumping his fist and signaling the game’s final out.

“For whatever I did earlier in the game, 2 RBI and what not, that’s not remembered,” Naquin said. “I was the last guy at the plate and took a called third strike, so I’ll wear that. I’m the guy that needs to be in the plate in that situation. I got a pitch to hit and I didn’t pull the trigger, and that falls on me.”

Naquin said that the loss won’t affect the team’s focus on their next game, a Friday night home stand against Baylor, a team sitting on top of the conference standings and heading into Aggieland riding a 20-game win streak.

“You want to make sure your team’s ready to go and being an older guy, you want to take that role,” Naquin said. “Other guys need to take that as well, but I believe that if everyone takes that leadership role, no matter how old you are, you’ll be a pretty good team throughout the season.”

 

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