M&M Leads A&M to Win in SEC Tournament Opener
HOOVER, Alabama – Daniel Mengden recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts in his second consecutive complete-game and Hunter Melton registered four RBI, including a titanic three-run home run, to lead the Texas A&M Aggies to a 6-3 win over the Florida Gators in their first-ever SEC Tournament game on Tuesday afternoon at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
On the heels of his first career complete-game last Thursday at Tennessee, Mengden (8-3) allowed just one earned run on five hits and one walk over 9.0 innings to earn his fourth consecutive win. The sophomore cruised through the latter part of the game, retiring the last 13 batters he faced, including eight strikeouts.
It marked Mengden’s fourth consecutive start allowing only one earned run while working 8.0 or more innings. In his last four starts, Mengden is 4-0 with a 1.06 ERA and is holding opponents to a .168 batting average with 30 strikeouts over 34.0 innings.
Melton was the lone Aggie to record multiple hits, going 2-for-4 with one run and a career-high four RBI.
The Gators drew first blood in the bottom of the second inning. Justin Shafer reached base on an error by Aggie second baseman Blake Allemand to start the frame, advanced to second on a balk and moved to third when Mengden’s pickoff attempt sailed into centerfield. Vickash Ramjit plated Shafer with a groundout to second base for the 1-0 lead.
Zack Powers singled to rightfield and Harrison Bader reached on an infield single to breathe new life into Florida’s second inning. After a double steal put both runners in scoring position and Josh Tobias struck out for the second out of the inning, Cody Dent hit a ball up the middle. Allemand got a glove on the ball, but had no play, allowing Powers to score for the 2-0 lead. Bader, who thought the ball successfully made it to the outfield, attempted to score, but Allemand flipped the ball to shortstop Mikey Reynolds who gunned Bader down at the plate.
After going down in order in each of the first three innings, Texas A&M broke the scoring seal in the top of the fourth. With one out, Allemand was hit by a pitch and Cole Lankford blooped a single into centerfield to put a pair on. After Troy Stein popped up to second base for the second out of the inning, Hunter Melton connected on a 1-2 offering, sending moon shot over the left centerfield fence for a three-run home run and the Aggies staked claim to a 3-2 lead in the top of the fourth.
Florida knotted the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth. Tobias reached on a leadoff single to shallow left centerfield, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Dent and advanced to third on a grounder to first base by Richie Martin. With a 1-2 count on Casey Turgeon, a pitch from Mengden went into the dirt and trickled away from Stein, the Aggie catcher. Thinking Turgeon had swung at strike three, Stein applied the tag on Turgeon for what he thought was the final out of the inning while Tobias raced home, beating a delayed tag by Stein for the equalizer. After an appeal to the third base umpire, it was deemed that Turgeon had checked his swing.
Texas A&M reclaimed the lead in the top of the sixth. With one out, Allemand laced a single through the right side of the infield. An error by Dent at shortstop on a grounder by Lankford put two runners on base. Stein was hit by a pitch to loading the bases for Melton. The freshman came up big again, driving a first-pitch offering into centerfield for a single, plating Allemand for the 4-3 lead. With the bases still chocked full of Aggies, Mitchell Nau hit a sharp grounder to the hot corner. Third baseman Tobias snared the ball and touched third to retire Stein, but his throw to complete the inning-ending double play was wide of first base allowing Lankford to score, increasing A&M’s advantage to 5-3.
The Aggies tacked on an insurance run in the ninth. With one out, Jace Statum singled up the middle and stole second base. Mikey Reynolds drew a walk to put a pair of runners on base. Allemand bounced to the pitcher, but the throw was offline and Florida was unable to complete the double play, only retiring Reynolds at second. With runners on the corners, the Aggies ran a wounded gazelle play on the base paths with Allemand feigning a stumble on a break to second. He successfully drew the pickoff throw from Gator pitcher Daniel Gibson and Statum raced home to score before Allemand was retired in the run-down, giving A&M a 6-3 cushion.
Johnny Magliozzi (4-2) was saddled with the loss for Florida. He allowed five runs, three earned, on four hits and one walk while striking out six over 6.2 innings.
Florida had five different players account for their five hits. The No. 2 through No. 5 spots in the order went 0-for-15 with one walk in 16 plate appearances.
The Aggies return to action on Wednesday when they play the No. 1 Vanderbilt Commodores in a 4:30 pm contest at the Hoover Met.