Texas A&M (7-1; 0-0) at Fresno State (6-2; 3-0)
For the first time in 2014, the Aggies hits the road for a series against the Bulldogs of Fresno State. A&M took care of business in the midweek game by beating Houston Baptist 5-1 after winning last weekend's series against Sacramento State. Fresno State, meanwhile, saw their midweek game against CSU Bakersfield postponed after sweeping last weekend's series against Nevada. The Bulldogs did actually fall to Sacramento State 6-4 in a midweek game last week.
The Aggies and Bulldogs have met on the diamond 3 times before, and Fresno State posted a record of 3-0 in those games. The most recent of those meetings came in the Palo Alto NCAA Regional in 1997, with the Aggies falling 2-1 in that game. Weather has already played a factor in this series with Friday night's game being postponed. The teams will attempt to play a Saturday doubleheader today. The forecast for Saturday has improved from what it looked like a day ago, with only a 40% chance of showers now.
Saturday, Gm1 (4:05pm CDT)
RHP Daniel Mengden (1-1, 1.38, 0.92, 20 K, 4 BB)
RHP Jordan Brink (1-0, 0.61, 0.63, 10 K, 4 BB)
Mengden pitched pretty well on Friday against Sacramento State, but the Aggies were unable to muster any run support and an unearned run proved to be the difference, saddling Mengden with the tough-luck loss. Daniel threw 7 innings and allowed just 3 hits to go along with 9 strikeouts and 2 walks.
This first game has the potential to be a real pitcher's duel, with Mengden going against Fresno State ace Jordan Brink, who has been excellent in his first 2 starts this season. Brink pitched the Bulldogs to a win against Nevada last weekend, going 8.1 innings and allowed just 1 run on 4 hits while striking out 4 and walking 2. Brink was also tremendous in his first game at UC Irvine, working 6.1 scoreless innings and giving up just 1 hit with 6 strikeouts and 2 walks.
This game was originally scheduled for Friday evening, but got postponed due to rain. The teams will play a Saturday doubleheader - weather permitting - starting at 4:05pm Central time.
Saturday, Gm2 (Doubleheader)
RHP Parker Ray (1-0, 2.31, 1.52, 9 K, 5 BB)
RHP Jimmy Lambert (0-1, 3.48, 1.39, 5 K, 4 BB)
Parker Ray again wasn't quite at his best on Saturday, although he was in line for the win until Jason Jester's blown save in the 9th inning. The Aggies would walk-off with a Logan Nottebrok homer in the bottom half of that inning, but it cost Ray his 2nd win of the season. Parker went 6.2 innings and allowed 6 hits and 2 earned runs, with 2 strikeouts and 3 walks.
The Bulldogs will turn to Jimmy Lambert, a true freshman from San Dinas, CA, for the 2nd game of the series. Lambert was not great in his last start against Nevada, unable to make it out of the 5th inning after allowing 3 earned runs on 6 hits with 3 walks and 2 strikeouts. Lambert actually started the Sunday game in the opening series against UC Irvine and picked up a loss in that one. He allowed only 1 earned run on 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 4 in 5.2 innings of work, but Fresno State would end up losing that game by a 1-0 score.
Sunday (2:05pm CDT)
RHP Grayson Long (1-0, 0.00, 0.79, 9 K, 4 BB)
RHP Tim Borst (0-0, 3.86, 1.43, 2 K, 2 BB)
Long wasn't quite as dominant against Sacramento State as he was against Northeastern, but he still pitched well enough to earn his first win of 2014. Grayson tossed 7 innings and, for the second straight week, did not allow a run to score. He also walked a batter and struck out 2.
Borst, a sophomore, has made 4 appearances already in 2014 but his first and only start came last Sunday against Nevada. Borst went just 3 innings in that game, allowing 3 earned runs on 6 hits with no walks or strikeouts. In his other 3 appearances out of the bullpen, Borst was actually much better. He did not allow a run in 4 innings worked over 3 appearances, giving up just 2 hits with 2 walks and 2 strikeouts.
What to Watch
The Bulldogs have been a bit inconsistent to start this season, both at the plate and on the mound. Their first 2 games actually went to extra innings, with Fresno State winning the first in 10 and the second in 13. The Bulldogs are averaging 5.25 runs scored per game, and allowing just an average of 3.5 runs to their opponents. Here's a look at the hitting comparison between the Aggies and Bulldogs. As you can see, Texas A&M has been better than Fresno State in virtually all offensive categories.
In addition to the 3 weekend starters, Fresno State's bullpen has done a nice job so far this year. Leading the way there is junior RHP Derick Velasquez, who has tossed 7.2 scoreless innings over 4 appearances, allowing just 4 hits and no walks and striking out 4 and picking up a pair of wins in the process. Junior RHP Garrett Mundell has also been quite good in relief, allowing just 1 earned run on 4 hits in 6.1 innings of work along with 8 strikeouts and 3 walks. Let's see how the teams stack up against each other on the mound.
Here is my best guess at the lineup that the Bulldogs will feature this weekend.
If I'm being entirely honest, I can't say that their lineup exactly strikes fear into me. Their leading hitters are C Trent Woodward, DH Taylor Ward (who is also a catcher), and 1B Kevin Viers. Those 3 hitters combine for 23 of Fresno State's 40 runs batted in and for 7 of their team's 20 extra-base hits. They don't appear to be a team that's going to be very aggressive on the bases either, having stolen just 4 bases on 8 attempts so far this season. They have also struck out a lot this year, with 56 strikeouts through 8 games - more than double the amount that the Aggies have.
I missed on last week's prediction thanks to a "that's how baseball go" type of game on Friday night, but the Aggies did bounce back and take the series at least. Despite this weekend's series being on the road, this is a very beatable opponent for A&M and it's a series that they really should win.
We'll see how the doubleheader will affect the series. It shouldn't affect the pitching rotation for either team, but if rain happens to play a factor again on Saturday then things could get interesting.
I'll go ahead and say that A&M takes the series in the same fashion as last week, dropping the first game and winning the next 2. Brink has been really good for Fresno State, and the Aggies may have trouble putting runs on the board against him.
BTHO Fresno State!