FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Texas A&M freshman Jonathan Moroney brought home the bacon with a pinch-hit grand slam in the eighth inning to give the Aggies a 5-3 win over the No. 10 Arkansas Razorbacks on Friday evening at Baum Stadium.
With the Aggies trailing 3-1 after seven innings, Cole Lankford and Troy Stein laced singles through the infield off reliever Jalen Beeks to start the eighth inning. A passed ball moved both runners into scoring position, but Lankford was thrown out at home on a grounder to shortstop by Hunter Melton to put runners on the corners with one out. Mikey Reynolds drew a pinch-hit walk to load the bases. The base on balls extended Reynolds streak of reaching base to 37 games.
Arkansas brought in Chris Oliver to face Moroney, who was pinch-hitting for leftfielder Brandon Wood. Oliver’s first two offerings were low, but the third pitch was in the wheelhouse and Moroney launched it over the fence in left centerfield to stake the Aggies to a 5-3 advantage.
Jason Jester came in from the bullpen and retired all six Razorbacks he faced, including two strikeouts, in the eighth and ninth innings for his 10th save of the season.
Arkansas (25-15, 9-7 SEC) broke the scoring seal in the bottom of the second inning. Brian Anderson singled through the left side of the infield and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Dominic Ficociello. Matt Vinson drew a walk and a wild pitch put both runners in scoring position. Jordan Farris sent a deep fly ball to rightfield to score Anderson and Vinson was able to touch home when Aggie second baseman Charlie Curl mishandled the relay throw, giving the Hogs a 2-0 lead.
The Razorbacks inflated the cushion to 3-0 in the bottom of the fourth. Anderson looped a leadoff single to centerfield and he moved to second on a balk with one out and scored when Vinson rattled a double in the corner down the leftfield line.
Texas A&M (22-17, 7-9 SEC) shaved a run off the Razorbacks’ lead in the top of the seventh. With one out, Jace Statum drew a seven-pitch walk and he moved to third on a throwing error by Arkansas pitcher Brandon Moore on a field pickoff attempt. Blake Allemand hit a deep fly ball to rightfield to plate Statum, cutting the margin to 3-1.
Allemand, Lankford and Stein had two hits apiece for Texas A&M. Melton drew three walks in his four plate appearances.
Daniel Mengden allowed three runs, two earned, on five hits and two walks while striking out six over 6.0 innings in the no-decision. Zach Brashear (1-1) earned the win after retiring the only batter he faced to end the seventh inning.
Barrett Astin was left with no-decision despite pitching 5.1 shutout innings in the start for Arkansas, scattering five hits and four walks while striking out three. Beeks (4-1) was saddled with the loss, yielding three runs on two hits and one walk over 0.1 innings.
Anderson had three of Arkansas’ five hits, going 3-for-4 with two runs.
The Aggies and Razorbacks converge on Baum Stadium for game two of the series at 7:30 pm on Saturday. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
TEXAS A&M QUOTES
Head coach Rob Childress
On battling back for the win: Almost everybody got to play tonight. For us, we didn’t play very well for the first four innings and Arkansas took advantage of the mistakes we made. To give away three runs to Arkansas the way we did, you usually don’t overcome that with their great pitching staff. But we found a way. We took advantage of one of their mistakes in the seventh inning to get a run. In the eight, we stacked four or five good at-bats together and we got a really big hit coming off the bench by Jonathan Moroney.
On if he had a hunch on going with Jonathan Moroney: Jonathan is a freshman that’s growing every day. He got off to a wonderful start this year, but he’s been scuffling a little bit lately. But Brandon (Wood) was having a tough night, so I felt like it was time to make that move and it paid off. He got into an advantage situation getting ahead on the count. There was no place to put him and he got a fastball.
Freshman outfielder Jonathan Moroney
On his home run: Coach came up to me before the at-bat and said ‘He’s going to be throwing hard, so he’s going to supply the power - just get the bat on the ball and good things will happen.’
On winning a Friday game in that fashion: That’s a great team we played. They played with intensity and toughness the whole game. So that’s a huge win for us. We have to match their intensity again the next two games.