COLLEGE STATION, Texas—"You throw the ball. You hit the ball. You catch the ball." It's a simple concept, and a line that was made famous by the 1980's movie Bull Durham. It's also what Texas A&M head coach Rob Childress said was the difference between the Aggies' 16-game conference winning streak and the recent eight-game skid down the stretch.
But on Friday night against Illinois-Chicago, the Aggies looked like the Big 12 Champions once again in a 15-1 win over UIC in game one of the College Station Regional—the most lopsided score on the first day of the NCAA Tournament (with two games remaining on the west coast).
They were throwing strikes, they were knocking the cover off the ball, and they were making spectacular plays in the field, which left UIC head coach Mike Dee with nothing but high praise for the Aggies.
"This is my 20th year at this level and the only team I can think of that we've played in recent memory that has executed as well as they did was Stanford in 2003—and they got to the National Championship game," Dee said. "Their starter did a tremendous job on the mound and they were extremely disciplined at the plate. I can only think of three pitches that they swung at out of the strike zone all night. We've had success getting guys to expand the strike zone and they just refused to do that tonight which makes anybody pretty difficult to get out. I thought they did a great job."
A&M starter Brooks Raley gave up a run in the first inning that seemed to cast a feeling of "here we go again" around Olsen Field, but after getting out of a jam in the second inning, he was untouchable, scattering another three hits over the next seven innings and allowing just one earned run in his first ever regional outing.
"Brooks Raley was outstanding tonight," Childress said. "Once he came off the field in the second inning I thought he dominated. I thought we played good defense as well, incredible plays in left field and right field. It was just a good night."
It was a great night for the Aggies at the plate as well.
Every A&M offensive starter had at least one hit, seven of which scored at least one run and six of them recorded at least one RBI.
The Aggies were led by first baseman Luke Anders who reached base five times on a 4-for-4 night at the plate with a home run, a double and two singles to go along with a hit by pitch. The lanky first baseman tied a school record with five runs (seventh time in school history and first time since 1999) with an RBI as well.
But what may be an even better sign of things to come for the Aggies was the play of Darby Brown and Blake Stouffer.
The two had struggled in the Aggies' last five games, combining for just two hits between the two of them had combined for just two hits and one RBI in the Aggies' last seven games, which was part of the reason for Stouffer's move from the No. 2 spot to the No. 7 spot in the Aggie lineup.
But Stouffer looked like the All-American of a year ago, opening up the game for the Aggies with a clutch two-run double in the bottom of the fourth, and Brown came through on several occasions, going 3-for-4 with four RBI and three runs scored.
The two combined for four hits, seven RBI and four runs scored in eight total at bats.
Childress was extremely pleased with Stouffer's at bat in the fourth inning, after an intentional walk to Brown loaded the bases.
"He got down with two strikes and he kept fighting and fighting," Childress said. "Their guy left one up and made a mistake and he didn't miss it. It was a huge hit."
The Aggies will return to Olsen Field on Saturday night at 6:30 in game four of the College Station regional against No. 3 seed University of Houston.
SATURDAY PITCHING MATCH UP
A&M R - Barret Loux (5-2, 4.25)
UH R - John Touchton (5-3, 3.98)
of A&M head coach Rob Childress and players Blake Stouffer, Brodie Green and Brooks Raley.
of UIC head coach Mike Dee and players.
Aggies look like Big 12 Champs in 15-1 win
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