A&M recovers for 2-1 series win
Baseball team loses opener, bags two straight to cap first weekend at home
Published: Monday, February 18, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 18, 2013 17:02
With two outs in the ninth inning and the tying run threatening from third base, junior reliever Jason Jester put an exclamation point on his college debut by striking out University of Illinois-Chicago first baseman Alex Grunenwald, sealing the Aggies’ 4-3 victory on Saturday afternoon.
The strikeout not only clinched the Aggies’ first win of the young 2013 season but also recouped a tough 2-0 opening day loss at the hands of the Flame on Friday night. The remainder of the No. 24 Aggies’ weekend went smoothly, however, as they closed out the three-game series with a resounding 5-1 decision on Sunday for a 2-1 series win.
“It was amazing to finally get out here and give back to everybody what they’ve been giving to me,” Jester said following Saturday’s win “It’s very humbling to be able to come out here and put this jersey on. There were definitely some nerves. This whole experience is a blessing.”
After a slow day offensively on Friday, the Aggies surged during the fifth inning of Saturday’s matchup. Junior outfielder Jace Statum drew first blood, driving in sophomore Cole Lankford off a shallow hit down the left field line. Junior Krey Bratsen pushed two more home behind his infield-splitting RBI single, allowing A&M a 3-0 lead.
UIC responded an inning later, cutting the score to 3-1. During the seventh, the Aggies garnered a key insurance run when Reynolds drove in senior pinch-runner Brandon Wood with another single, picking up a three-run advantage.
After the Flames added two more in the eighth inning, A&M head coach Rob Childress called on Jester, who shut down UIC and secured the victory. The Aggies’ sophomore starter Daniel Mengden (1-0) earned the win over his five and two-thirds innings, notching two strikeouts with only three hits.
"I was proud of our team. We showed a lot of composure today,” Childress said. “We were able to come through and get a big hit. Illinois-Chicago kept fighting, scratching and clawing to get back in it. We were able to finish the game off. I was proud that we found a way to come away with a win.”
Saturday’s offensive prowess bled over into Sunday as A&M kicked off the series-deciding game with a three-run first inning. With leadoff hitters Reynolds, Bratsen and Mengden loading the bases, junior catcher Troy Stein notched a RBI single to put the Aggies on the board.
Lankford followed with a groundball to shortstop, scoring Bratsen before freshman Jonathan Moroney plated Stein with a RBI single of his own, increasing A&M’s lead to 3-1.
The Aggies added two more scores during the fourth behind an RBI triple and single by Statum and Reynolds, respectively. A&M relief pitching — which featured four college debuts during the matchup — allowed only one hit following junior starter Rafael Pineda (1-0) giving up seven throughout his six innings.
“We know a lot more about our team than we did on Friday,” Childress said after Sunday’s win. “Our pitching held up for us. Pineda had a great start. We had some young guys come out of the bullpen that did a really nice job. I was proud of those young guys on the mound. I was proud we were able to win today and win the series.”
Despite falling to UIC in the season opener, senior leaders for A&M remain confident that the team is learning and gaining invaluable experience. The Aggies (2-1) continue their season this Tuesday at home against Stephen F. Austin.
“We’re getting to know each other more and chemistry builds. That’s what we’re doing [right now],” Reynolds said. “If we don’t come out here with a chip on our shoulder we’re going to get beat. We’re going to come out here and play like we always play.”