Texas bests A&M in NCAA Tournament opener

Daniel Clay

When Texas A&M left the Longhorns and the Big 12 in 2012 for the greener pastures of the SEC, it looked like the death of an ancient and sacred rivalry. On Friday the Longhorns and Aggies renewed their rivalry, and the promised green pastures of the SEC did not yield for A&M, as the Longhorns cruised to an 8-1 victory over their old enemies in the Houston regional of the NCAA baseball tournament.

Texas' senior ace Nathan Thornhill took the mound against Aggie junior Daniel Mengden in front of a record crowd at Reckling Park in Houston, in what appeared early on to be a pitcher’s nightmare.

Thornhill had to work carefully to escape a threat in the first. Aggie second baseman Blake Allemand reached on a scorcher off the heel of freshman first baseman Kacy Clemens’ glove and stole second, only to be stranded after three straight outs.

Junior second baseman Brooks Marlow led off the Longhorn half of the inning by pulling a line drive over the right field wall for a solo homerun. The Longhorns added another run in the frame after senior centerfielder Mark Payton drove in sophomore left fielder Ben Johnson from second for a 2-0 Texas advantage to provide Thornhill with an early cushion.

“We have a really good defense behind us at all times, and whether they are getting hits or not I know they are good hitters,” Thornhill said. “It makes you comfortable on the mound knowing you have your guys behind you.”

Thornhill’s solid pitching made sure that the Longhorns would not need any more offense for the afternoon. After giving up a run in the second following a single and a wild pitch, the senior fought through some tough calls and several A&M scoring threats to pitch seven innings of one run ball.

The Longhorns did make sure to add plenty of insurance runs, as a four-run third inning drove Mengden out of the game trailing 7-1.

Lefty sophomore Matt Kent steadied the Aggie ship by pitching five and two-thirds efficient innings and only giving up one run in relief of Mengden.

Texas freshman right-hander Morgan Cooper picked up Thornhill’s effort in the eighth to close out an 8-1 victory that bodes well for head coach Augie Garrido’s squad moving forward.

“I think during the stretch where we put up about five zero's on the board we still hit the ball hard and competed at the plate,” Garrido said. “If you can stay in the winner's bracket, that's the right ride.”

The win sets the stage for a matchup Saturday at 7 pm against the winner of Friday night’s tilt between Rice and George Mason.