The first train of the 2020 Texas A&M baseball season seemed to never end as it chugged past Blue Bell Park behind the right field fence. To the gasping delight of the 5,192 fans watching the Aggies’ season opener, eight engines rolled by during the bottom of the third.
What seemed like a simple ballpark oddity turned into a metaphor for a revamped Aggie offense in a 17-1 win over Miami (Ohio) on Friday.
In that same half-inning, the Aggies drove in one more run than train engines that passed, highlighted by designated hitter Will Frizzell’s moon-shot grand slam.
As the ball sailed over the right-center fence, closer to the railroad tracks than the field, the junior stood at attention then flipped his bat before rounding the bases. The emotional display came in part to celebrate the end of a long journey back from injury.
Frizzell injured his knee toward the end of the 2018 season, requiring surgery. Odds were stacked against a successful return to action, head coach Rob Childress said.
“It was an unbelievable surgery and I’m just very happy for him,” Childress said. “For what he’s endured, to get rewarded tonight, I think it’s baseball paying him back for his toughness.”
Last season, Frizzell started in 29 games, hitting .215, two home runs and two RBIs. With one swing of the bat, he doubled that run production Friday.
“It meant a lot to me to be able do what I did tonight and to see everybody do what they did tonight after the way we played last year, kind of having to rely on the pitchers a lot,” Frizzell said.
A&M’s offense sputtered at times last season, scoring three or less runs in nine in the final 16 games. The Aggies averaged 5.5 runs per game last season, down from a peak 7.2 average in 2016. A&M’s 346 total runs ranked 101st in the country, down from a ninth-ranked 471 in 2016.
It took only two batters for A&M to get on the scoreboard. A leadoff walk by second baseman Bryce Blaum set the stage for junior transfer Logan Sartori, who doubled in Blaum for a 1-0 lead.
The Aggies added three more runs on three hits in the second.
Frizzell’s grand slam was one of only three hits in the third inning as the Aggies took advantage of two walks, a hit batter and an error.
Two innings later, the fireworks continued with a two-run homer by right fielder Zach DeLoach. The blast into the RedHawk bullpen was a part of DeLoach’s 3-for-3 night that fell a triple short of a the cycle. He also worked two walks.
A&M expected to showcase speed and aggressiveness this season under assistant coach Justin Seely and new hitting coach Chad Caillet. The Aggies showed Friday that they also may have plenty of power.
“We’ve got hitters up and down the lineup that can turn an outfielder around,” Childress said. “Obviously, the guys that did it tonight, but there’s a couple others as well. [The offense] has got a chance to be OK.”
Childress said he was most pleased with A&M’s nine two-out runs and 10 two-strike hits.
RedHawk starter Sam Bachman recorded just eight outs, giving up five earned runs to take the loss.
A&M ace Asa Lacy earned the win, allowing just one run on three hits in six innings.
The RedHawks scored their lone run in the top of the fifth, moving a leadoff walk around with a single and a groundout to first.
While Lacy said he didn’t have quality command of his fastball in 96 pitches thrown, he was able to rely on his changeup and slider to strikeout eight batters.
“It’s incredible,” Lacy said of the run support. “It just kind of lets you relax and, in a game like this, you can really work on stuff.”
While the Aggies were busy scoring nine in the third, Lacy said he had to run down to the bullpen to get ten warm-up pitches in, before returning to the dugout only to wait approximately ten more minutes before the Aggies recorded the third out.
Freshman shortstop Trevor Werner posted a 2-for-4 night with an RBI in his Aggie debut, as one of eight freshmen who got playing time Friday. Combined with Sartori and center fielder Ray Alejo, ten newcomers made their first A&M appearance in the season opener.
Right-hander Christian Roa (3-2, 3.56 ERA in 2019) will start for A&M on Saturday against sophomore left-hander Tyler Bosma (2-1, 5.54).