The Houston College Classic kicked off Friday with a pair of top ten teams in Texas A&M and UC Irvine squaring off at Minute Maid Park. On what was just an absolutely beautiful day at the ballpark, many fans slipped work and school to support their teams.
Daniel Bibona toed the rubber for UC Irvine and Brooks Raley countered for the Aggies. It was UC Irvine who scratched the first run of the game in the bottom of the third inning. Second baseman Casey Stevenson lead off the inning with a walk, and center fielder Cory Olson laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Stevenson to second base. With two outs, right fielder Sean Madigan ripped a double down the right field line to drive in the first run of the game.
The score would remain 1-0 in favor of UC Irvine until the top of the fifth inning when Texas A&M second baseman Nick Anders lead off the inning with an infield single in the hole between second and third. An error by Irvine third baseman Eric Deragisch on a ground ball from the bat of Texas A&M’s Caleb Shofner left the Aggies with runners on first and second. A failed sac bunt attempt gave the Aggies runners on first and second with one out. A subsequent single by freshman short stop Adam Smith loaded the bases with one out. A wild pitch by Bibona scored Shofner from third to tie the game 1-1.
The game went to the seventh inning still tied at one, but that wouldn’t last long. Texas A&M busted the game wide open with a seven run sixth inning. The inning started with a Dylan Petrich infield single followed by a two-run opposite field homerun into the Crawford Boxes off the bat of Aggie first baseman Luke Anders. Aggie designated hitter Nick Fleece drew a walk, but he was put out at second as Nick Anders reached on a fielder’s choice. Shofner then drove a ball into the left field corner for a double, scoring Anders from first base to make the game 4-1. The Shofner hit chased Irvine starting pitcher Bibona from the game in favor of senior right handed pitcher Matt Dufour.
Kevin Gonzalez, the first batter Dufour faced, smashed a double to the infamous hill in center field, scoring Shofner from second. Smith then drew a walk, and Aggie right fielder Brodie Greene came through with a two-out double to bring Gonzalez across and stretch the lead to 6-1. Texas A&M was not done yet, as Petrich stepped to the plate for the second time in the inning and drew a walk to load the bases. Luke Anders, who had already homered in the inning, then laced a sharp single through the hole between first and second to bring home two more runs and make the lead 8-1 in favor of the Aggies.
The Anteaters answered with a run in the bottom of the sixth when left fielder Dillon Bell drew a one-out walk. A two-out single from Deragisch gave Irvine runners on first and second. Stevenson then delivered with a RBI single to left field, before Olson grounded out to end the inning.
That would be all the scoring for Irvine on the day because Aggie reliever Kyle Thebeau stepped to the mound in relief of Raley and closed out the game with three scoreless innings. Texas A&M added one more insurance run in the top of the seventh inning off Anteater reliever Cory Hamilton when Gonzalez drove in Nick Anders on a sacrifice fly to center field.
Brooks Raley picked up the win for the Aggies, working six innings while giving up five hits, four walks, two earned runs, and striking out two. The loss was shouldered by Daniel Bibona for UC Irvine, and his stat line was 5.1 innings pitched, seven hits, two walks, five earned runs, and six strikeouts.
Both teams return to action tomorrow at Minute Maid Park with UC Irvine squaring off with hometown Houston at noon and Texas A&M battling Rice at 12 P.M.