EDINBURG — UTRGV surrendered two runs during the top of the first inning of its Western Athletic Conference opening series finale against Abilene Christian on Sunday at UTRGV Baseball Stadium.

The Vaqueros responded with 10 runs over the next three frames to run away with a 12-6 win over the Wildcats, claiming two games in their three-game series. UTRGV improved to 11-5 overall and 2-1 in conference.

“That right there is a first indication of a really good ball club. They’re never going to let some separation come between the runs — they score, we score,” UTRGV head coach Derek Matlock said. “It flip flops on the side with a good pitcher on the mound — they put up a zero, we put up a zero. That’s a good, older ball club that knows how to respond to the game and that’s definitely a big thing to see.”

Texas A&M transfers Cameron Blake and Bryan Sturges led the Vaqueros with nine combined RBIs during the series finale. It was Sturges’ two-run shot to left field during the bottom of the first that knotted the game at 2-2.

Blake followed it up with a grand slam to left center during the bottom of the second, and Sturges closed the show with another two-run homer during the sixth to put the Vaqueros in front 12-3. He finished 2-for-4 with five RBIs and two home runs, while Blake went 1-for-3 with the grand slam. Brandon Pimentel added three runs and one RBI with a 2-for-4 performance at the plate.

“We came out strong and capitalized on big moments,” Sturges said. “We feel like we can do that at any time. (Game 1) we had a lot of first and second opportunities and didn’t capitalize, and we capitalized today and that’s what it should look like.”

Junior right-handed pitcher Jesus Aldaz (1-1) earned his first career win. He struck out a career-high six while scattering four hits and two walks across five innings.

Abilene Christian was voted the unanimous preseason pick to win the WAC’s Southwest Division by its six head coaches, while the Vaqueros were picked to finish second, tied with Sam Houston.

“We competed, man. We had a good weekend,” Matlock said. “… What a good job of coming back from a loss and winning the series against the preseason pick to win it. I think they’re as good as anybody on the other side (WAC’s West Division). That’s going to be the team to beat down the road and it’s going to be tough going into Abilene, I’ll tell you that right now.”

The Vaqueros hit the road for their next five games beginning against Incarnate Word at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in San Antonio. The Vaqueros resume WAC play with a three-game series against Tarleton in Stephenville from Friday through Sunday, and round out their road trip with a nonconference game against Houston Baptist March 22.

UTRGV faces Abilene Christian again April 22-24 in Abilene to wrap up their home-and-home series.

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