HOOVER, Ala. — Texas A&M made a bold introduction to Florida and the SEC Tournament on Tuesday, eliminating the Gators with a 6-3 victory at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
Behind a gem from sophomore starter Daniel Mengden, the Aggies overcame an early two-run deficit and stifled the Florida bats for the latter innings.
"Ultimately, this was a well-played game on both sides," said Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan. "The difference in the ball game was that their starter got stronger as the game went on. We weren't given very much, but we have to tip our hats to Texas A&M. We pitched well enough, but we weren't able to do enough offensively.
Mengden notched his second consecutive complete game, surrendering just one earned run on five hits with a season-high 11 strikeouts. Mengden seemed to only get stronger as the game went on, retiring the final 13 batters he faced, including seven strikeouts in the last three innings.
"The seventh, eighth and ninth innings were as good as he'd thrown all day," Sullivan said. "He pitched well and kept the ball down. It was very impressive. Very, very impressive."
Florida did get to Mengden early, striking for a pair of runs in the second. The first came without a hit as Justin Shafer reached on an error by the second baseman. He advanced to second on the first of two Mengden balks, then moved to third on an errant pickoff attempt.
He scored on a grounder to second by Vickash Ramjit. Cody Dent would add the second run, bringing in Zack Powers, who reached on a single then advanced to third via a Harrison Bader base hit and stolen base.
"We were trying to be aggressive on the base paths, and I think that disrupted [Mengden's] rhythm a little bit and his timing," Sullivan said.
Meanwhile, the Aggie bats had no answer for Florida starter Johnny Magliozzi through the first three innings. Magliozzi retired the first 10 batters he faced before things unraveled a bit in the fourth.
After he hit A&M 2B Blake Allemand and surrendered a single to 1B Cole Lankford, 3B Hunter Melton belted a three-run blast to left-center field on a two-out, two-strike count.
"I felt pretty good, but I just had one bad pitch," said Magliozzi, who got the loss, surrendering four earned runs on four hits with six strikeouts. "He hit the home run, but other than that I felt pretty good."
That homer appeared to drastically shift the momentum in A&M's favor, but Florida did tie it in the fifth. Josh Tobias led off the frame with a single to left, then moved to second on a Dent sacrifice bunt before making it to third on a Richie Martin grounder to first.
With two outs in the inning, Casey Turgeon checked his swing on a pitch in the dirt that got away from A&M C Troy Stein. Thinking Turgeon had struck out, Stein went to apply the tag while Tobias attempted to score from third.
The umpires ruled that Turgeon held his swing, and the tying run counted.
"There was some confusion on our catcher's part," said A&M coach Rob Childress. "He thought [the home plate umpire] had punched him out, and he was trying to tag the hitter rather than get the base runner from third."
But Magliozzi and the Florida defense let things slip away in the sixth, as A&M jumped ahead 5-3. Allemand led off the inning with a single to right before an error by Dent put two on with nobody out.
Magliozzi then hit Stein to load the bases, and Melton drove home his fourth RBI of the game with a blooper to center. The Aggies tacked on one more on a hard grounder to the left side. Tobias fielded it and made the force at third, but his throw to first was errant, allowing the run to score.
"The game shifted just like that," Sullivan said. "I felt really good about the way we were playing. They put together some good rallies, but I thought Johnny pitched well. He's been our go-to guy all year long."
Texas A&M added one more insurance run in the ninth, but Mengden had all the cushion he needed, leading his team to the next round of the SEC Tournament.
Gators have no answer for Mengden in 6-3 loss
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