On an unseasonably cool night at Travis Field, the Brazos Valley Bombers went about their business as usual, defeating the Baton Rouge Rougarou 4-1 on Tuesday.
The Bombers established a team-best start to the season by remaining undefeated through 10 games, while handing Baton Rouge its 11th loss in 12. The two have met six times already, and the Bombers have outscored the Rougarou 49-16.
“I don’t think it’s possible to do much better than 10-0, so we are definitely happy with it but not satisfied with it,” Bombers coach Brian Nelson said.
Brazos Valley’s Henry Bird pitched five innings to earn the win. He allowed three hits and a walk and struck out three. The only time he was in trouble came in the second inning when the Rougarou loaded the bases on a single by Lukas Polanco, a walk by Reid Baty and a bunt single by Carson Clowers. Bird got Trevor Rugg to pop out to shortstop on the first pitch of the at-bat, then struck out Kalun Dronette and induced a fielder’s choice grounder from Kyle Boudreaux to escape the jam.
“We’ve been fortunate these 10 games to get good starting pitching, and that has allowed our bullpen to stay fresh and healthy and come in and do what they do on the back end,” Nelson said.
Dontae Woodard followed Bird and struck out five while giving up one hit over two innings.
“[Woodard] is definitely tough from the left side, and he’s got a little funk to his delivery that helps to keep hitters off balance,” Nelson said. “When he throws strikes he is as good as anybody.”
Rudder graduate Brian Williams pitched the eighth, surrendering one run while striking out two, and Texas State’s Tristan Stivors struck out the side in the ninth to earn the save.
“We know we are going to have nights where we are not going to explode and have seven runs. That’s why it’s so important to have the bullpen rested and ready to go,” Nelson said.
The Bombers scored all of their runs in the fourth. Brenham graduate Sam McElreath was hit by a pitch, and Chase Kemp followed with the lone extra-base hit of the game, a double to right-center. Jacob Padilla then grounded to third baseman Logan LeJuene, who threw home to try to retire McElreath. McElreath turned, headed back to third and reached safely when Polanco dropped the ball.
Bryant Shellenbarger singled to right to drive in McElreath, and Kemp scored when Baton Rouge’s Kalun Dronette misplayed the ball. Padilla scored on Tyler Smith’s ground out to third off reliever and Lamar teammate Luke Baley, who took over for starter Jacob Snyder. Baley then walked two batters, and Shellenbarger scored on a wild pitch for a 4-0 lead.
Baley induced a double-play groundball to get out of the inning.
“It’s kind of been our thing, grind out our at-bats first couple of times through the lineup, and then we get to the middle innings and our guys are pretty locked in at that point,” Nelson said. “We play aggressive, and so when you are aggressive, you tend to be able to take advantage of mistakes from the other team, and we were able to capitalize in that one inning.”
The Bombers had a couple of other opportunities score but had runners thrown out at home and third. Padilla tried to score from second base on an error by the second baseman Boudreaux in the second inning, but Baton Rouge easily threw him out. In the fifth, Hunter Coleman singled but later got thrown out at third by right-fielder Baty on a hit-and-run single by Kemp.
Baton Rouge pinch-hitter Johnny Johnson and center fielder Scotty Scott led off the top of the eighth with singles to right field. The second was mishandled by right-fielder Shellenbarger, allowing both runners to advance an extra base, and Logan LeJuene knocked in Johnson with a ground out to second. Williams then struck out the No. 3 and 4 hitters Braydon Morrow and Polanco.
The Bombers will play four straight against the Texarkana Twins starting at Texarkana at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday. The teams will play again in Texarkana on Thursday then play two straight at Travis Field on Friday and Saturday.