The Rice Owls and Texas A&M Aggies entered Tuesday night’s game from opposite directions. The Owls began the day winners of nine of their last ten games, while the Aggies were losers in four of their last five. Rice was sporting a perfect 3-0 record against Big XII competition this season, including an early season 2-0 defeat of Texas A&M in the Houston College Classic. That would all change on Tuesday night, as the Aggies would pick up a big-time road win and snap a six game losing streak against their old Southwest Conference rival.
Texas A&M scratched the board early. Brodie Greene lead off the game with a sharp liner to left field. A subsequent double into the left field corner by Brooks Raley on a perfectly executed hit-and-run scored Greene from first and gave the Aggies a 1-0 lead. The Aggies threatened to tack on some more runs in the top of the first, but Rice left fielder Michael Fuda made an outstanding throw to get Raley at the plate to end the inning after a Kevin Gonzalez flyout.
Rice would answer in the bottom half of the inning. Brock Holt lead off with a single to right field, and with two outs, Anthony Rendon doubled into the gap in right center to score Holt from first and tie the game at one.
Rice starting pitcher Travis Wright was lifted from the game after only one inning of work in favor of left hander Matt Evers. The Aggies would get to Evers in the third inning when Adam Smith lead off the inning with a solo shot off the scoreboard in right center. Greene would then draw a walk and advance to second on a Raley base hit to right field. Luke Anders then grounded into a double play, advancing Green to third. After a walk to Kyle Colligan, Rice coach Wayne Graham made a call to the bullpen, this time bringing in Matthew Reckling. Gonzalez welcomed Reckling to the game by driving Greene home with a two-out RBI single down the right field line to increase the Aggie lead to 3-1.
Texas A&M looked to increase its lead in the top half of the sixth inning. With one out, Caleb Shofner doubled to right field and advanced to third on a David Alleman single to left. Rice then brought in its fourth and final pitcher of the night, right hander Mark Haynes. Smith then picked up his second RBI of the game on a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Shofner from third. Greene drew his second walk of the game, giving the Aggies runners on first and second with two outs. Raley followed with a base hit, his third of the evening, on a soft liner to left center, plating Alleman for a 5-1 Texas A&M lead.
Rice cut into the Aggie lead in the bottom of the sixth. Ross Stripling took the mound for Texas A&M to start the inning, replacing Aggie starter Barret Loux. Loux worked five innings, allowing only one earned run on four hits while striking out nine. Stripling walked Rick Hague to open the frame, and he would advance to second on a Chad Mozingo groundout. Hague would then come around to score on back-to-back balk calls, something I had personally never witnessed before.
Alex Wilson, the usual Saturday starter for Texas A&M, entered the game to pitch in the seventh inning. Steven Sultzbaugh reached on a fielder’s choice to third base and advanced to third on a Holt single up the middle. Sultzbaugh would come in to score on a Wilson wild pitch, cutting the lead to 5-3 in favor of Texas A&M.
The Aggies would tack on two more insurance runs in the top of the ninth when Luke Anders hit a two-run bomb over the right field fence after Raley was issued a one-out walk. The two extra runs wouldn’t be needed, as Aggie closer Nick Fleece came on to retire the Owls in the ninth and seal a 7-3 Aggie victory.
The winning pitcher for Texas A&M was Loux. Evers took the loss for the Owls, allowing two earned runs on three hits and two walks over one and two thirds innings of work.
Rice goes to 25-9 on the year and return to Conference USA action Friday when Marshall visits Reckling Park for a three game series. Texas A&M improves to 22-14 and hosts Nebraska this weekend in a Big XII conference series beginning Friday night in College Station