Louisiana Tech (4-8; 1-2) at Texas A&M (9-4; 0-0)
The Aggies stumbled in a big way last weekend, getting swept by Fresno State, but they defeated UT-Arlington and Texas Southern in midweek games on Tuesday and Wednesday. A&M prepares to welcome Louisiana Tech to Olsen Field this weekend, and the Aggies need to clean up a number of areas in the last series before beginning conference play.
The Bulldogs come to College Station after losing a series at home to Minnesota last weekend and splitting a pair of midweek games against McNeese State. This is the first meeting between the two teams since 2008, and the Aggies hold a 24-7 all-time record against Louisiana Tech - including a 19-3 mark at Olsen Field.
Friday (6:35pm CDT)
RHP Adam Derouen (2-1, 3.18, 1.15, 2 K, 3 BB)
RHP Daniel Mengden (1-2, 3.15, 1.00, 27 K, 5 BB)
Derouen is a sophomore from Lafayette who will be making just his second start - and first on Friday - of the season against the Aggies. Derouen earned the start in Game 2 of a doubleheader last weekend against Minnesota, and tossed 4 strong scoreless innings. He allowed just 1 hit and 1 walk to go along with a strikeout. His only other appearance was out of the bullpen in the Bulldogs' second game of the season against Southeastern Louisiana. In that one, Derouen allowed 2 earned runs on 2 hits and 2 walks with a strikeout in 1.2 innings of work.
Mengden has not been at his best yet this season, with his last start at Fresno State being his most uncharacteristic so far. The Bulldogs handed Mengden his second loss of the season in the 1st game of a Saturday doubleheader, and command was certainly an issue for him in that game. Although he did manage to go 7 innings, Mengden allowed 5 runs on 7 hits along with a walk, 2 hit batters, and 3 wild pitches. He really needs to get back on track against Louisiana Tech this weekend in the final tune-up before conference play begins.
Saturday (1:05pm CDT)
RHP Phil Maton (0-1, 3.50, 1.11, 15 K, 4 BB)
RHP Parker Ray (0-1, 3.48, 1.39, 5 K, 4 BB)
Maton, a junior from Chatham, Illinois, has been fairly inconsistent so far this season for the Bulldogs. He did not earn a decision in his last start against Minnesota, going 7 innings and allowing 2 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks with 5 strikeouts. The start before that was worse, allowing Tulane to rack up 7 hits and 9 runs (only 4 earned, though) in just 4 innings of work. Maton led Louisiana Tech in ERA (2.70) in 2013 and was named 1st team all-WAC, and he will be looking to pick up his 1st win of the season on Friday against the Aggies.
The series in California wasn't pretty for a number of Aggies, but from a pitching standpoint it was probably Parker Ray who struggled the most. Ray wasn't able to make it through the 6th inning, allowing Fresno State to regain the momentum after the Aggies had taken a 5-1 lead in the top half of the inning. He finished with 5 innings pitched and 5 earned runs allowed on 6 hits and 2 walks with 2 strikeouts. 4 consecutive singles to start the 6th inning was the end of his night despite having a pitch count of just 75. He had allowed just 1 hit through the first 4 innings, but then suddenly couldn't make anyone miss.
Sunday (1:05pm CDT)
RHP Richie Navari (2-0, 1.89, 0.84, 14 K, 2 BB)
RHP Grayson Long (0-0, 3.86, 1.43, 2 K, 2 BB)
Navari has been one of the few bright spots on a Louisiana Tech pitching staff that has been pretty roughed up so far this season. Navari - a senior from Pittsburgh - has made a pair of starts, both on Sundays, and tossed 5 innings in relief of Derouen last Saturday against Minnesota. In those 5 innings, Navari allowed 2 earned runs on 8 hits with 7 strikeouts and just 1 walk. His previous start was a complete game in a 5-2 Bulldogs victory of Tulane. Navari allowed 2 earned runs on 4 hits with 5 strikeouts, and he did not allow a run or hit to Tulane after the 3rd inning.
Grayson was the only A&M pitcher with a solid start against Fresno State last weekend, going 5.1 scoreless innings and allowing just 4 hits and a walk with 3 strikeouts. In fact, Long has yet to allow a run so far this season in 3 starts and 19.1 innings of work. It certainly can be a luxury to be able to have a guy like that in your Sunday starter role, but the Aggies do need Mengden and Ray to round into form to fully take advantage of that.
What to Watch
The Louisiana Tech lineup has been fairly pedestrian so far this season, but their statistics are actually about on par with those of A&M right now. The Bulldogs have struck out more, walked less, and stolen fewer bases, but other than that the teams aren't too far apart in terms of hitting. They have 3 every-day starters with a batting average over .300 - leading hitter 1B Tyler Ervine, CF Colby Johnson, and SS Taylor Love. Here is the statistical comparison between the two teams in hitting categories.
While the Louisiana Tech lineup hasn't performed a whole lot worse than A&M's so far this season, the pitching is an entirely different story. As mentioned, Navari has been one of very few positives for the Bulldogs on the mound. Their only other pitcher who has thrown more than 2 innings and has an ERA under 3 is freshman reliever RHP Eric Dunbar from Tyler, who sports a 1-0 record and 0.73 ERA in 12.1 innings of work. All other Louisiana Tech relief pitchers come into this series with an ERA over 4. The statistical comparison between the 2 pitching staffs illustrates where A&M should have a big advantage this weekend.
Here is my best guess at the lineup that the Bulldogs will feature this weekend.
I fell flat on my face in last week's prediction, to say the least, but Louisiana Tech comes to College Station allowing over 8 runs per game. If the Aggies can't use the Bulldogs' pitchers as batting practice, we are going to have some serious problems heading into SEC play.
That said, I expect A&M to bounce back and take care of business this weekend by sweeping this Louisiana Tech team. Navari may be a tough matchup on Sunday, but Grayson Long has been the Aggies' most consistent starter so far this season and I'm confident that the team can fix the hitting issues that we saw last weekend in Fresno.
The weather could potentially play a factor this weekend - A&M moved the Saturday game from 6:35pm to 1:05pm in an attempt to avoid some potential thunderstorms that may be moving through College Station. BTHO Louisiana Tech!