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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Aggies cruise past Cowboys 15-0 in season opener

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  • A young fan gets a bubble gun before A&M’s game against McNeese on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)

  • Texas A&M Football head coach Mike Elko throws the first pitch during Texas A&M’s game against McNeese on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Blue Bell Park.(Ishika Samant/The Battalion)

  • Texas A&M Baseball head coach Jim Schlossnagle during Texas A&M’s game against McNeese on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Blue Bell Park.(Ishika Samant/The Battalion)

  • Texas A&M Baseball head coach Jim Schlossnagle shakes hands with Texas A&M Football head coach Mike Elko during Texas A&M’s game against McNeese on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Blue Bell Park.(Ishika Samant/The Battalion)

  • New football Head Coach Mike Elko hugs baseball Head Coach Jim Schlossnagle after throwing the first pitch before A&M’s game against McNeese on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)

  • Texas A&M pitcher Ryan Prager (18) throws the ball during Texas A&M’s game against McNeese on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Blue Bell Park.(Ishika Samant/The Battalion)

  • A couple reads The Battalion newspaper before A&M’s game against McNeese on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)

  • Texas A&M outfielder Braden Montgomery (6) swings during Texas A&M’s game against McNeese on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (Lana Cheatham/The Battalion)

    Photo by Lana Cheatham
  • Texas A&M outfielder Braden Montgomery (6) scores the first home run of the season during Texas A&M’s game against McNeese on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Blue Bell Park.(Ishika Samant/The Battalion)

  • Texas A&M outfielder Braden Montgomery (6) scores the first home run of the season during Texas A&M’s game against McNeese on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Blue Bell Park.(Ishika Samant/The Battalion)

  • Texas A&M outfielder Braden Montgomery (6) scores the first home run of the season during Texas A&M’s game against McNeese on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Blue Bell Park.(Ishika Samant/The Battalion)

  • Construction Science majors Morgan Orme and Connor Harper yell during A&M’s game against McNeese on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)

  • Agricultural Economics major Jacob Bush and Pre Med major Grace Cokinos celebrate with bubbles during A&M’s game against McNeese on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)

  • Texas A&M pitcher Blake Binderup (46) runs during Texas A&M’s game against McNeese on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (Lana Cheatham/The Battalion)

    Photo by Lana Cheatham
  • Texas A&M infielder Ali Camarillo (2) runs during Texas A&M’s game against McNeese on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (Lana Cheatham/The Battalion)

    Photo by Lana Cheatham
  • Fans pose for a picture while they wait for the gates to open before A&M’s game against McNeese on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)

  • A fan celebrates after a home run during A&M’s game against McNeese on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)

  • Texas A&M outfielder Jace Laviolette (17) reacts during Texas A&M’s game against McNeese on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (Lana Cheatham/The Battalion)

    Photo by Lana Cheatham
  • Texas A&M utility Jett Johnston (36) and Texas A&M infielder Ali Camarillo (2) celebrate during Texas A&M’s game against McNeese on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (Lana Cheatham/The Battalion)

    Photo by Lana Cheatham
  • Texas A&M pitcher Brad Rudis (32) pitches during Texas A&M’s game against McNeese on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (Lana Cheatham/The Battalion)

    Photo by Lana Cheatham
  • Texas A&M outfielder Braden Montgomery (6) celebrates during Texas A&M’s game against McNeese on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (Lana Cheatham/The Battalion)

    Photo by Lana Cheatham
  • Texas A&M infielder Ali Camarillo (2) throws ball during Texas A&M’s game against McNeese on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (Lana Cheatham/The Battalion)

    Photo by Lana Cheatham
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Texas A&M baseball’s season opener versus McNeese State featured all the signs of a fan base with high expectations for the 2024 season.

Over 7,000 fans packed Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park, not including those watching from Aggie Alley between left field and the Student Rec Center. Horses trotted around the perimeter of the field for the national anthem. Bubble blasters were given away to fans. Even football coach Mike Elko got in on the fun, delivering a strike of a first pitch to coach Jim Schlossnagle.

For all of the hype off the field, the Aggies gave plenty of reasons on the field to validate it, as the Maroon and White cruised to a 15-0 win over the Cowboys on Friday, Feb. 16, spurred by three innings of four runs or more.

Yet the night’s most impressive performance came from a player that didn’t play organized baseball this time last year. Over 600 days after his last outing in 2022, redshirt sophomore LHP Ryan Prager made his return from Tommy John surgery in a night to remember.

Prager’s last outing in an A&M jersey brought the Aggies’ 2022 College World Series run to a close as he gave up three runs over 2.1 innings in a loss to Oklahoma. Nearly two years later, he gave Schlossnagle good reason to offer him the green light to begin the season.

“There were a lot [of emotions],” Prager said. “Anxious, nervous, excited, all of them kind of run together and they all feel the same. More so just grateful. When you’re told that you’re going to miss a year and be 600 days since you pitched, you just have to turn into being grateful to be out there. You kind of get a second love for it and just treat every moment like it could be your last.”

Prager looked the part of a Friday night starter, notching five scoreless frames of one-hit ball along with nine strikeouts.

“It just felt good to be out there,” Prager said. “I felt great throughout the day. There wasn’t any of that, ‘Oh, it’s opening day’ feel. I just felt excited to get out here and be around the guys. Once I got here, it became even more calm to be around everybody.”

Adding to Prager’s composure was a 1-2-3 first inning that saw him punch out a pair of Pokes and set the tone for his outing.

“That first inning was awesome,” Prager said. “There was the combined mixed emotions and to get the first out was a ‘welcome back.’ The first punchout, ‘welcome back.’ It was great, and after the first, we just went.”

A&M mashed five home runs, including a trio by its All-American duo of sophomore CF Jace LaViolette and junior RF Braden Montgomery. Despite breaking in a lineup with just two players that saw significant time for the Aggies in 2023, the team totaled 17 hits, with three transfers plus Montgomery picking up at least two hits.

Montgomery didn’t make the 12th Man wait long to see what the two-way player was capable of. In the bottom of the first, the Stanford transplant lasered a 3-2 offering to Section 12 in right-center field. Over 400 feet later, A&M grabbed a 1-0 lead that proved to be insurmountable.

“I didn’t really set much expectation, I was just getting ready to play another ballgame, but that was special,” Montgomery said. “I love people that love baseball, and, man does the 12th Man love baseball.”

Six freshmen position players saw the field, adding five hits and four walks. Third baseman Gavin Grahovac exhibited why he earned the Opening Day starting nod, contributing an RBI single with two runs scored and two walks. First baseman and College Station product Blake Binderup went 3-for-6 with a home run and three RBI after redshirting his rookie year.

As it turns out, Prager’s lone hit, a single by senior RF Braden Duhon, was all the Cowboys could wrangle. RHP Isaac Morton added to the list of freshman appearances with two no-hit frames featuring four punchouts. Junior RHP Brad Rudis, in his third year as an Aggie, continued being a reliable reliever by keeping McNeese State off the basepaths.

A&M’s pitching staff earned its stress-free evening with an equally dominant effort by the starting lineup. Montgomery’s long ball set the tone for the rest of the evening, with all but one Aggie that logged a plate appearance reaching base.

“We knew it was coming,” Montgomery said. “We know the talent and the ability that the guys have on the roster and the drive. We know that guys are always going to put their best foot forward. We know what happens when that happens … I don’t think anybody planned on it going that well, but we just went into it and wanted to stay with who we are, and when we execute our plan, good things happen.”

LaViolette one-upped his All-American counterpart with a homer of his own in the third inning, this one clearing Section 12 altogether. At a speed of 114 miles per hour, the two-run blast landed somewhere near the Wellborn Road train tracks.

Montgomery aside, each transfer in the lineup reached base safely in the frame. Penn C Jackson Appel and Cal State Northridge SS Ali Camarillo walked, while Columbia transfer LF Hayden Schott doubled before coming home on an RBI single by Michigan DH Ted Burton. The offense shifted from the experienced to the newcomer, as Binderup plated a pair of runs with a single.

A&M’s five-run burst in the fifth inning was led by the usual suspects. After smashing a freshman-record 21 home runs last year, LaViolette picked up where he left off with his second two-run shot of the evening. Grahovac added an RBI single before Burton’s two-run triple.

Like the trains cruising beyond right field, the Aggies chugged right along. Binderup and Camarillo led off the eighth with back-to-back jacks ahead of an A&M youth movement. Freshman LF Jett Johnston walked to load the bases and was followed by freshman OF Caden Sorrell’s RBI single and freshman 3B Jack Bell’s RBI sacrifice fly.

The Aggies and Cowboys return to action on Saturday, Feb. 17 at 2 p.m. at Olsen Field. A&M will turn to sophomore LHP Justin Lamkin on the mound.

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Luke White
Luke White, Sports Editor
Luke White is a junior telecommunication media studies major and sport management minor from Round Rock, Texas. He has served as head sports editor since May 2023.
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