We said last week that the Aggies would need to start an improbable run to close the season if they wanted any shot at making the NCAA regionals, and that would have to start on the road in Tuscaloosa. So much for that. The Aggies dropped a pair of 3-2 decisions before having Sunday's game get mercifully cancelled due to weather. Apparently I'm a masochist and/or hate my life but let's go ahead and break down the series.
Friday: Aggies 2, Tide 3
Daniel Mengden had a bit of a shaky start on the mound on Friday night, allowing home runs in both the 1st and 2nd innings that would ultimately prove to be all of the runs that Alabama would need to pick up the win. Mengden allowed a leadoff single to start the game, but he then retired the next 2 batters before surrendering a 2-run blast on a 2-strike count to RF Ben Moore. Alabama C Brett Booth would lead off the 2nd inning with a solo HR that would prove to be the eventual winning run for the Tide. After working around a single and a walk in the 3rd to keep the score at 3-0, Mengden went into cruise control and did not allow a hit through the next 4 innings. Jason Jester worked the 8th and kept Alabama from adding an insurance run, but A&M was unable to solve Alabama's closer Ray Castillo.
The Aggies were inconsistent at the plate yet again, collecting 6 hits and drawing 4 walks but managing to plate just 2 runs. Hunter Melton was responsible for knocking in both of those runs, smashing a 2-run double in the 6th inning that gave A&M a chance to get back in the game. Unfortunately, the Aggies managed no hits and just a walk in their final 3 innings and allowed Alabama to earn the 3-2 victory. A&M wasted an opportunity to cut into the Alabama lead in the 2nd inning, failing to get Troy Stein past 3rd base after he led off the inning with a double.
Saturday: Aggies 2, Tide 3
Parker Ray has been one of the few consistent Aggie pitchers as of late, so that naturally earned him the opportunity to start the Saturday game against Alabama. Ray cruised through the first 2 innings unscathed, but the Tide got to him in the 3rd and 4th innings. A pair of doubles in the 3rd plated the 1st run for Alabama, and a single and a double to lead off the 4th inning put Ray into a tough spot. He was able to get out of the inning without having the game broken open, as Alabama plated runs on a pair of groundouts. Ray nearly made it all the way through 8 innings, but a 2-out single in the 8th would be the end of his day.
The Aggies managed to waste countless opportunities at the plate in this one, which is obviously the theme of this painful 2013 season. A&M got their leadoff hitter on base in the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 6th innings, and yet somehow managed a combined zero runs from those 4 innings. The bats showed signs of waking up in the 8th inning, as Mitchell Nau smacked a pinch-hit 2-run double to cut the Alabama lead to 3-2, but a pair of strikeouts by Blake Allemand and Krey Bratsen left Nau stranded at 2nd as the tying run. Cole Lankford drew a 1-out walk in the 9th to give the Aggies the opportunity to draw level, but a groundout by Stein and a flyout by Melton allowed Alabama to hold on again for another 3-2 win.
What Does it Mean?
It's simple at this point. The only possible way for Texas A&M to make it into the NCAA Regionals is to win the SEC Tournament at the end of May. Period, end of story. The Aggies have dropped all the way down to #60 in the latest RPI, and bringing the SEC record up to .500 is a virtual impossibility at this point. A&M has series remaining against Missouri and LSU at home and Tennessee on the road. Even if the Ags somehow swept both Missouri and Tennessee, they would still have to win a series from LSU to get their SEC record above .500. That's an LSU team that had not lost a weekend series through all of 2013 until this past weekend against South Carolina. Yeah, you can laugh. It's not happening.
It also means that the Aggies will most likely miss the NCAA postseason since Rob Childress' first year in Aggieland, 2006. Let me make something else crystal clear here, and I'm sure I'll talk more about it after the season comes to a merciful end. Rob Childress is not getting fired after this season, unless he punches a player or has an affair with a student or something of the like. I'm well aware of the general feelings about Coach Childress at this point, and there are plenty of questions that do need to be asked and answered. But AD Eric Hyman will not be firing a coach who has made the NCAA Regionals in each of the last 6 seasons after 1 bad year. If the 2014 season were to go the same way? Then we'll be having that conversation. But calling for him to be fired right now is a waste of both your time and mine, so let's keep that confined to other A&M message boards.
The Aggies host Grambling State on Tuesday before welcoming fellow SEC newbies Missouri to Olsen Field this weekend. Missouri has also struggled in their first year in the SEC, so that should at least give the Aggies a chance to end their streak of weekend series losses.