COLLEGE STATION, Texas - The No. 4 Texas A&M baseball team extended its season-opening winning streak to four games Tuesday night on Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park as the Aggies defeated Stephen F. Austin 4-3 in front of 4,284 fans.
As they have each game so far this young season, the Aggies jumped out to an early lead by scoring in the bottom of the first inning. Leadoff batter Mikey Reynolds singled through the right side to start the frame and was immediately joined on base by junior right fielder Tyler Naquin, who doubled to give A&M runners on second and third with no outs.
Enjoying another solid outing, Naquin continued his hot streak to begin the season by going 2-for-4 to give him a .533 batting average and eight runs scored in just four games this season.
Following a walk issued to senior third baseman Matt Juengel and a fly out, junior left fielder Brandon Wood cashed in on the opportunity to drive in the game's first run with a sac fly to center field. Texas A&M was able to add a run on a balk called against SFA starter Justin Choate (0-1) later in the inning, ending the first frame with a 2-0 advantage.
"I really was proud of our bullpen," Texas A&M head coach Rob Childress said. "They all came out and did a great, great job with five shutout innings. I'm glad we played that game. They're (SFA) a well-coached team and we knew what we were going to get out of Choate. Fortunately, we were able to jump on him early and score two quick runs."
Texas A&M starter Derrick Hadley was able to work through the first two innings of the contest unscathed but a two-run single by 'Jacks designated hitter Bobby Loveless tied the game in the top of the third. SFA was able to take the lead in the top of the fourth as first baseman Max Lamantia led off the inning with a solo home run to left center off Hadley.
The Aggie right-hander finished his night with four innings pitched and was charged with five hits and three runs against his ledger, but the story of the game after his exit quickly became the Aggie bullpen. A group of four A&M relievers cooled the SFA bats and kept the visitors off the scoreboard for the remainder of the contest.
Redshirt freshman Jason Freeman (1-0) picked up the win as he tossed a pair of perfect innings with three strikeouts to give the Aggies a chance to retake the lead during the bottom of the sixth when freshman Cole Lankford came up with the big hit. Stepping to the plate with a pair of runners in scoring position and two outs, the Houston native singled sharply through the right side to plate both runners and give the Aggies a 4-3 advantage.
Relievers Parker Ray and Kyle Martin combined to blank the 'Jacks in the seventh and eighth innings to set the scene for freshman closer Daniel Mengden, who racked up a pair of strikeouts while pitching a perfect ninth inning for his first career save.
"He's (Mengden) got a big arm and is a freshman who doesn't think he's a freshman," Childress added. "We wanted him to be in that spot with four or five thousand people here in the ninth inning of a one-run game. That's the spot we want him to be in. The more spots we can get him in just like that, the better off he's going to be and the better off we're going to be."
The Aggies are back in action this weekend as they host Holy Cross in a three-game set at Blue Bell Park.