Aggie Baseball Kicks Off Regional Play Today

Courtesy: Texas A&M Athletics

After an up-and-down (and more down than up, if we're being honest) season in 2013, Aggie Baseball finished the season strong enough to secure a berth in the NCAA Regionals. The Ags will start by facing UC Santa Barbara today from Corvallis, OR.

Well, WE MADE IT. It turned out to not actually be as close as a lot of us expected it to; although A&M was the last team listed during the ESPN selection show, the fact that the Aggies are a 2 seed means that we were actually safely in the tournament. Crazy stuff if you ask me, but no one's asking me! Moving on...

Up First: (3) UC Santa Barbara

Who: UCSB Gauchos (34-23, 17-10 in Big West play)
When: Friday March 31 (today), 2:00pm CT
The Matchup: RHP Daniel Mengden (8-3, 1.84, 91 K, 21 BB)
vs
RHP Austin Pettibone (9-3, 3.11, 55 K, 20 BB)
UCSB Players to Watch:
1B Tyler Kuresa (.304, .469 SLG, 16 2B, 5 HR, 45 RBI)
DH/P Robby Nesovic (.343, .461 SLG, 9 2B, 4 HR, 33 RBI)
LF Joey Epperson (.317, .444 SLG, 8 2B, 10 RBI, 15 SB)
2B Woody Woodward (.335, .426 SLG, 9 2B, 33 RBI)
RHP Dylan Hecht (0-2, 1.93, 8 SV, 42 K, 14 BB)
Breakdown:
The Aggies certainly could have drawn a worse matchup to start tournament play, as the Gauchos appear to be a team on paper that is not vastly different from Texas A&M. UCSB has 77 stolen bases on the year while A&M has 83. UCSB has a team batting average of .280 and team ERA of 3.99, while the Aggies feature a .270 average a 3.42 team ERA. Santa Barbara has a good closer in Dylan Hecht, and Friday starter Austin Pettibone has been solid if unspectacular. A sophomore from Yorba Linda, CA, Pettibone picked up the win in his last start against UC Davis by going 8 innings and allowing 4 runs on 7 hits with 4 strikeouts and no walks. Pettibone's last loss was May 3rd at the hands of UC Irvine, where he allowed 9 earned runs on 8 hits in 5 1/3 innings of work.

This will be the first time that the Aggies and Gauchos have squared off, although UCSB has some opponents in common with A&M this year, as well as one other of interest. The Gauchos lost 2 of 3 games at Cal State Fullerton, exactly as the Aggies did, and they split a pair of Tuesday games with Pepperdine, a team who won 2 of 3 in College Station. Oh, aaaaaaaaaaand the Gauchos got swept by Texas. Yes, the same Longhorn squad who stumbled their way to a last place finish in the Big 12. Granted, it was the second weekend in March, but still... WORSE THAN TEXAS (*clap clap clap clap clap*).

Next: (1) Oregon State

Obviously it goes without saying that this matchup assumes that both A&M and Oregon State win their first games. Let's hope that the first of those 2 things happens, and hey maybe let's root for the Roadrunners?! Regardless..

Who: Oregon State Beavers (45-10, 24-6 in Pac12 play)
When: Saturday June 1, 7pm CT (should we both win)
The Matchup (likely): RHP Parker Ray (1-1, 1.83, 36 K, 18 BB)
vs
RHP Andrew Moore (12-1, 1.22, 55 K, 21 BB)
Oregon State Players to Watch:
RF Dylan Davis (.344, .521 SLG, 20 2B, 4 HR, 53 RBI, 8 SB)
LF Michael Conforto (.332, .512 SLG, 8 2B, 9 HR, 42 RBI, 6 SB)
1B Danny Hayes (.270, .416 SLG, 11 2B, 5 HR, 33 RBI)
3B Kavin Keyes (.306, .418 SLG, 11 2B, 2 HR, 30 RBI)
RHP Scott Schultz (2-1, 2.13, 10 SV, 31 K, 8 BB)
LHP Max Engelbrekt (4-1, 1.46, 4 SV, 17 K, 8 BB)
Breakdown:
The Beavers received the #3 national seed for a reason. They are a really, really good ballclub. They are extremely consistent, they pitch very well, and they get big hits when they need them. Oregon State comes into regional play having won 16 of their last 18 games, so they will certainly be a very tough challenge. Their Friday ace is senior southpaw Matt Boyd (10-3, 2.09, 98 K, 24 BB), although I can't say for certain whether coach Pat Casey will go with Boyd in the opener against UTSA or save him for Game 2. Andrew Moore has been one of the biggest surprises of the season for the Beavers, a true freshman from Eugene, OR who has had an outstanding first season in Corvallis. In my opinion, this Oregon State team is actually built quite a bit like A&M teams in recent memory. The Beavers sport a team ERA of just 2.15, hit for a combined .289 average, and have just 25 home runs this season, one less than the Aggies do. The difference, obviously, is timely hitting and coming up big in clutch situations, something that separates the Pac 12 champions from the second-to-last team in the SEC West.

Oregon State and Texas A&M have split 8 meetings all-time, with the Beavers collecting 2 of those 4 wins in the Fort Worth Regional in 2009. The only common opponent between the Aggies and Beavers this year is Texas State, a team that beat A&M in a Tuesday game, and Oregon State swept the Bobcats in a 3 game series in Corvallis.

The Other Team: (4) University of Texas - San Antonio

Who: UTSA Roadrunners (35-23, 15-11 in WAC play)
When: Probably Sunday
UTSA Players to Watch:
3B RJ Perucki (.349, .556 SLG, 12 2B, 12 HR, 46 RBI)
CF Daniel Rockett (.338, .579 SLG, 13 2B, 10 HR, 48 RBI, 6 SB)
LF Riley Good (.336, .455 SLG, 11 2B, 2 HR, 33 RBI, 11 SB)
RHP Matt Sims (6-2, 2.13, 8 SV, 59 K, 23 BB)
Breakdown:
UTSA punched their ticket to the NCAA postseason by going a perfect 4-0 in last weekend's WAC tournament, and head to Corvallis as winners of their last 7 games overall. The Roadrunners are more or less your stereotypical mid-major type of team, with some talented hitters and a couple of guys that can pitch but not a lot of depth on the mound. UTSA has hit for a combined .304 average with 105 doubles and 37 home runs in 2013, but they feature a combined 4.34 ERA as a team. Other than closer Matt Sims, no Roadrunners pitcher who has thrown more than 2 innings in 2013 has an ERA lower than 3.

You will recall that the Aggies had to overcome a slow start against UTSA back in April to eventually take a comfortable 11-4 victory. The Roadrunners put up a 3 spot in the 1st inning, but the Aggies came back with 6 runs in the 4th and 2 in each of the final 2 innings to put the game away.

Who Are We? (2) Texas A&M

Who: Texas Aggies (32-27, 13-16 in SEC play)
When: Always
A&M Players to Watch:
3B Hunter Melton (.272, .505 SLG, 4 2B, 6 HR, 19 RBI)
SS Mikey Reynolds (.343, .424 SLG, 12 2B, 24 RBI, 18 SB)
1B Cole Lankford (.332, .482 SLG, 15 2B, 3 HR, 34 RBI)
CF Krey Bratsen (.287, 8 2B, 22 RBI, 17 SB)
RHP Jason Jester (3-3, 2.32, 13 SV, 37 K, 12 BB)
Breakdown:
Inconsistency has been one of the key words for this Texas A&M squad in 2013, but a strong enough finish to the season and a couple of big wins in the SEC Tournament earned the Aggies the right to make the trip to Corvallis. Hunter Melton has come up huge for A&M down the stretch, finding a power stroke and getting some massive hits. Here's a stat that may surprise you - if you had to guess what player led the Aggies in batting average in SEC play, who would you pick? Reynolds? Wrong. Lankford? Try again. It's actually Krey Bratsen, who hit for an impressive .340 against SEC pitching. Not far behind in that category was indeed Lankford, probably the breakout player of the season as a whole, who hit .327 in league play.

The biggest key for A&M this weekend is likely going to come down to pitching. Daniel Mengden has been outstanding on the mound all season, and Parker Ray has come on very strong to end the year, but outside of those 2 guys and closer Jason Jester it's a very big question mark. In fact, no pitcher other than Mengden and Parker Ray - not even Jester - had an ERA under 4 in SEC play. If that trend continues in Corvallis this weekend, the Aggies will most certainly see their season come to a close.

Regional Schedule (all times Central)

Game 1 (UCSB vs A&M): Friday, 2:00pm, ESPN3
Game 2 (UTSA v OSU): Friday, 7:00pm, ESPN3
Game 3 (Gm1&2 losers): Saturday, 2:00pm, ESPNU or ESPN3
Game 4 (Gm1&2 winners): Saturday, 7:00pm, ESPN2 or ESPNU or ESPN3
Game 5 (Gm3 winner v Gm4 loser): Sunday, 2:00pm, ESPNU or ESPN3
Game 6 (Gm4 winner v Gm5 winner): Sunday, 7:00pm, ESPNU or ESPN3
Game 7 (Same as Gm6, if necessary): Monday, 7:00pm, ESPNU or ESPN3

Prediction?

I'll cut to the chase - I have Oregon State advancing out of this regional in my bracket, and here's why - consistency. The Beavers have it, and as I mentioned Texas A&M has not this season. Having said that... that's the thing about this A&M team. They have been extremely inconsistent through all of 2013, but all it takes is one big weekend and you're through. We watched a TCU team do it in College Station last year. My other concern for the Aggies is pitching depth. In this sort of regional format, that becomes so important and beyond Daniel Mengden and to a lesser extent Parker Ray, that area just scares me for A&M. Which feels extremely weird to say, given Rob Childress' history. This is certainly a time where you have to have guys step up, regardless of the kind of seasons they have had, if you want to move on to the next round.

Good luck and give 'em hell today, boys! BTHO UCSB & everyone else!!

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