It has been a bit of an up and down season for the Aggies so far in 2013, but one thing that has remained consistent up to now is success in midweek games. A&M continued that trend on Tuesday night, taking down a Sam Houston State team that had won 8 of their last 9 games coming into the matchup. The win brings the Aggies' record in Tuesday and Wednesday games to a perfect 10-0 in 2013, which is the same number as last year's team (finished 10-3) and more than the 2011 team that made it to Omaha (finished 9-5). Considering the Aggies' struggles in weekend series this season, the midweek success has kept A&M in a decent position for making the NCAA postseason.
Tuesday's win over the visiting Bearkats saw Corey Ray have his best performance of the season, working 6 innings of shutout baseball and allowing just 3 hits with 2 walks and 2 strikeouts. It was a particularly impressive performance from Ray considering that Sam Houston State came to Olsen Field sporting a .295 batting average as a team and featuring 3 players hitting over .340 on the season. Matt Kent and Parker Ray each logged an inning of work, with Kent allowing a homerun to account for the Bearkats' only run, prior to Jason Jester shutting the door in the 9th inning.
The Aggies certainly were not great at the plate on Tuesday night, with only 4 players collecting hits against Sam Houston State, but they did enough to support the tremendous pitching performance. Troy Stein, who has been one of the more puzzling Aggie hitters for me this season, had a massive performance and knocked in all 4 of the A&M runs, including a 3-run blast to LF in the 3rd inning for his first home run of the season. Stein nearly doubled his RBI total for the season in just 1 game, boosting his total from 6 to 10 on the season. Troy has hit for a good average in 2013 (currently 3rd on the team at .313 after Tuesday's game), but has struggled mightily with runners on base as evidenced by the low RBI total. I'll admit it - I questioned Coach Childress going with Troy in the cleanup spot in a big game against the Bearkats, but I'll gladly eat crow on this one as Troy stepped up in the biggest way possible.
It is worth noting that the bottom of the A&M lineup continued to struggle on Tuesday night, with 6-9 hitters Brandon Wood, Hunter Melton (playing 1B for an "under the weather" Cole Lankford), Charlie Curl and Jace Statum going a combined 0-for-12 with 3 strikeouts on the night. The Aggies have got to get more consistency out of that portion of the lineup in these conference series if they are going to make up the ground they lost by dropping a series to Auburn. SEC pitching is too talented to be able to depend solely on the top part of your order to produce runs in conference play.
A Look Around
One thing I'd like to try and do more often as we slowly inch closer to talking about the NCAA postseason is take a look at how A&M's opponents from the season have done after playing the Aggies. This will help you get a better idea of where A&M sits from an RPI standpoint - A&M's wins will look better and losses won't look as bad if those opponents continue to win games. And away we go!
|Team||A&M Result Against||2013 Record||RPI|
|Illinois-Chicago||L, W, W||15-14||173|
|Pepperdine||L, W, L||18-13||86|
|Prairie View A&M||W||16-14||279|
|Cal State Fullerton||W, L, L||29-4||6|
|Georgia||W, W, W||12-22||127|
|Ole Miss||L, W, W||23-10||18|
|South Carolina||L, L, L||27-7||10|
|Auburn||L, L, W||19-13||38|
|Sam Houston State||W||19-13||58|
As you can see, the Aggies have not been great against their toughest competition. A&M sports a 4-10 record against RPI Top 50 opponents, although the upcoming conference schedule certainly provides opportunities to improve on that. Looking at opponents in the RPI Top 100 improves A&M's record to 7-12, which certainly isn't great either. One positive note is that the Aggies do have 3 wins (and a 3-3 record) in road games against RPI Top 20 teams.
It would be helpful for A&M if Pepperdine and Rice can make their way into the Top 50 RPI, as that would give the Ags 2 more wins against Top 50 opponents. Pepperdine dropped yesterday's midweek game to UC-Santa Barbara and are tumbling a bit after getting up close to the Top 50. Rice won a close game at Lamar by a score of 9-8, and the Owls are inching their way towards the Top 50 with a big series against Houston coming up in a few weeks.
I'll continue to keep an eye on A&M's previous opponents as the season moves forward, and we'll have plenty of discussions about RPI, standings, records, and more. As things stand now - A&M found themselves back up at #24 after last night's win - the Aggies are still in perfectly fine position for picking up an NCAA tournament berth in 2013.
As you know, the Aggies will welcome the Mississippi State Bulldogs to Olsen Field this weekend in SEC action. The Bulldogs knocked off in-state rival Ole Miss 5-1 on Tuesday night and will be looking for a second straight conference series win after taking down Florida last weekend. I'll have a full breakdown tomorrow, but here's a super quick preview of what to expect from the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State's likely Friday and Sunday starters have ERA's of 3.29 and 3.31 respectively, and the Bulldogs' ERA as a team is a combined 2.56. The Bulldogs have a team batting average of .296, and leading the way offensively for MSU are a pair of juniors - Hunter Renfroe and Adam Frazier. Renfroe is hitting an impressive .417 in 2013 with a slugging percentage of .815 thanks in large part to 9 doubles, 2 triples, 10 home runs, and 38 runs batted in, not to mention 8 stolen bases.
Check back tomorrow for a full look at what the Aggies will be facing this weekend!