Feb. 28, 2009

HOUSTON -  Luke Anders homered and drove in four runs and Brooks Raley tossed a strong six innings to lead No. 1 Texas A&M to a 9-2 win over No. 5 UC Irvine Friday afternoon in the first game of the Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park.

The game was a tight affair until the top of the sixth inning, when the Aggies (6-1) sent 12 men to the plate and scored seven times to put the game out of reach. The Anteaters fell to 3-2 with the loss.

UCI struck first in the last of the second. Casey Stevenson led off the inning with a walk, and moved to second on a two-strike sacrifice bunt by Cory Olson. After Aggie starter Brooks Raley coaxed the next batter into a pop-up to short, Sean Madigan pulled a 1-1 pitch just inside the bag at first and down the line, giving the Anteaters an early 1-0 lead.

A&M would even the game in the top of the fifth. Nick Anders led off with an infield single to shortstop and the next batter, Caleb Shofner, chopped one at third that was misplayed. After a failed sacrifice attempt, Adam Smith lined a hit through the left side to load the bases. With Kyle Colligan at the plate, Irvine starter Daniel Bibona uncorked a wild pitch to bring home Shofner and tie the game.

The Anteaters threatened to retake the lead in the last of the frame, putting a runner in scoring position with one out, but Raley worked out of the jam to set the stage for the A&M outburst.

Dylan Petrich led off the rally with a single on the infield, and Luke Anders followed by blasting a 2-2 pitch into the Crawford Boxes in left. His second round-tripper of the year gave the Aggies a 3-1 lead. Three batters later, Shofner lined a double inside the bag at third to score Nick Anders and chase Bibona from the game.

Kevin Gonzalez greeted UCI reliever Matt Dufour by smashing a 2-0 pitch off the top of Tal's Hill in center field, plating Shofner and extending the Aggie lead to four. Two batters later, Brodie Greene would double off the diving shortstop Ben Orloff and into shallow left field to push home Gonzalez. After Petrich drew a four-pitch walk, Luke Anders lined the first pitch of his second plate appearance of the inning through the right side, scoring Greene and Adam Smith to push the Aggie lead to 8-1.

UC Irvine responded with a two-out RBI double off the bat of Casey Stevenson in the sixth. The Aggies would get the run back in the next half inning on a sacrifice fly by Gonzalez, making the score 9-2.

Kyle Thebeau would allow only one baserunner in three shutout innings of relief to pick up his first save of the year and 10th of his career.

Raley (2-0) went six complete, giving up five hits, two runs and four walks while striking out two.

Bibona (1-1) lasted 5 1/3 and allowed five runs on seven hits, while walking two and fanning six.

Luke Anders' game-high four RBIs and three hits led the way at the plate for the Aggies, while Nick Anders and Petrich had two hits apiece. Gonzalez also drove in a pair on the afternoon.

Texas A&M continues play in the Houston College Classic on Saturday evening at 7 p.m. when the Aggies face No. 9 Rice. Tickets are available at the gate or online at astros.com. A&M junior Alex Wilson (1-0, 0.00 ERA) is scheduled to face off against Owl junior Ryan Berry (0-0, 9.64). Fans can listen to the game in Bryan/College Station on WTAW-AM 1620 or inside Minute Maid on the low end of the FM dial.

POSTGAME NOTES

• Four members of Texas A&M's 1989 team were in attendance at Friday's game--first baseman Mike Easley, shortstop Chuck Knoblauch, second baseman Terry Taylor and center fielder Kirk Thompson.

• Texas A&M is now 8-5 all-time at Minute Maid Park and in the Houston College Classic.

• Caleb Shofner extended his career-high hit streak to seven games with his sixth-inning double...Nick Anders and Dylan Petrich extended their hit streaks to five games.

• Luke Anders' sixth-inning home run into the Crawford Boxes in left field was the first by an Aggie at Minute Maid Park since Craig Stinson (Feb. 11, 2007 vs Rice).

• Friday's game marked the first-ever meeting between the schools on the baseball diamond.

• Gametime weather was 81 degrees with cloudy skies and winds blowing out of the west-southwest at 20 miles per hour (gusting to 34)...the game was played with the roof open.

POSTGAME QUOTES

A&M COACH Rob Childress: "It was an outstanding pitcher's duel, and then we had the big inning in the sixth. But I don't think that was the big inning for us, I think it was the fifth. We only came away with one run but we took 26 pitches away from Bibona. I felt like that was the turning point of the game. We played outstanding defense, and I saw us compete from start to finish. And that's kind of what we've been looking for all year long. It's one game but I felt we played hard today."

(on the effort of Brooks Raley) "I thought he was very efficient. You looked up and we were in the fifth inning, and he was only at 45 pitches. We took him out after 82, and to me, he just competed. He threw all his pitches for a strike. They wanted to create action early. They didn't want to get down in the count and try to hit his slider with two strikes."

(on the success against Bibona) "He's got outstanding stuff. He's got a great three-pitch mix and his fastball is sneaky fast. We got some balls up and fouled some tough pitches off, and when he made a mistake we didn't miss them there late. Again, I think the inning was the fifth when we took 26 pitches from him."