After last weekend's sweep of Dartmouth, the common thought about Aggie Baseball from those on the outside was that, while A&M was undefeated, this was a team that had yet to be tested. The week that followed featured games that would quickly allow A&M to answer those questions about how good the Aggies really are. Dallas Baptist, Houston, and Baylor were all ranked coming into the week (depending on which rankings you use), and Nebraska was a solid looking squad as well. Personally, I looked at the week and would have been very pleased to see the Aggies post a 3-1 record. Instead, A&M gave us all a resounding answer about what exactly this 2015 team is made of by sweeping the week and keeping their unbeaten streak going.
What is perhaps even more impressive is that the Aggies showed the ability to win games even if their lineup is not putting double-digits in the hits or runs column of the scoreboard. A&M still does appear to be very much improved at the plate relative to the last few seasons, but this weekend the Aggies' pitching staff showed that they may have much more depth this season than folks gave them credit for. Thanks to the 6-run victory over Houston on Saturday, A&M was named the 2015 College Classic Champions due to a superior run differential versus also-undefeated at the tournament LSU.
GBH's Three Gig 'Ems
: J.B. Moss
Well, smashing a game-winning home run to the Crawford Boxes at Minute Maid Park is certainly one way to help get yourself out of a bit of a hitting slump. J.B. Moss has struggled a bit offensively to start this season, and it's seen Coach Childress take him out of the starting lineup in a few games recently. However, Moss got the start on Friday against Nebraska and delivered the decisive blast that gave A&M a 2-1 win over Nebraska on Friday. He also drove in A&M's other run in that game as well, and he added another RBI single in Saturday's win over Houston. There were also a few exceptional catches that Moss made out in the depths of centerfield at The Juicebox that prevented runs from scoring.
: The Aggie Bullpen
As much as Matt Kent probably deserves this spot after yet another extremely impressive performance on Sunday, the Aggies certainly would not sit at 16-0 right now if not for the performance of the bullpen, especially this weekend in the College Classic. Since I can't really single out any one guy, we'll give this to the entire group. Prior to the 8th inning against Baylor, the A&M bullpen had stranded 17 consecutive inherited runners. Perfect frames from Ty Schlottmann and Mark Ecker and a nearly-perfect one from Andrew Vinson (he hit a batter) allowed A&M to take Friday's game against Nebraska, Kyle Simonds finished off Houston on Saturday despite some control issues in the 9th, and Ryan Hendrix shut the door on Baylor in the 9th with 2 strikeouts on Sunday.
: Grayson Long
Facing the highest-ranked team A&M had played to date, Grayson Long pitched without a doubt the best game of his career in Maroon and White. The junior was totally dominant through 7 scoreless frames, throwing 70 strikes on 97 pitches, giving up just 3 hits, not walking a single batter and striking out 10 Cougars. Long only allowed one Houston hitter to reach second base, and it came via a sacrifice bunt in the 3rd inning. If Grayson can continue to pitch like he did at Minute Maid on Saturday, A&M is going to be very dangerous in SEC play.
Friday: A&M 2, Nebraska 1
When A&M loaded the bases with 1 out in the 2nd inning against Nebraska's Chance Sinclair, it looked like we might have another high-scoring affair for the Aggies. Nick Banks and Logan Taylor each singled to start the frame, but G.R. Hinsley was unable to get down a pair of bunt attempts and struck out swinging on the next pitch. A wild pitch and a walk would put Aggies at every base, and J.B. Moss drove in a run with an RBI single to keep the bases loaded. However, a Blake Allemand double play would get Sinclair out of trouble and then the Nebraska starter would retire the next 16 consecutive A&M hitters.
Meanwhile, A.J. Minter had a mostly strong performance on the mound for A&M although he only got through 5 innings before being replaced by Ty Schlottmann. Minter's pitch count sat at 70 after the 5 innings of work, and he allowed an unearned run on 4 hits along with one hit batter and struck out 6 while walking none. Nebraska's lone run would come in the 4th inning after Minter hit the leadoff hitter who then reached second after Logan Nottebrok was not able to make an accurate throw to second base following a pickoff from Minter. Nebraska would drive him home with a 2-out single to tie the score at 1, where it would stay until Moss' blast to the Crawford Boxes with 1 out in the 8th inning. The Huskers had gotten the leadoff runner on in the top half of the 8th, but chose to lay down 2 sacrifice bunts to move him to third and a flyout ended the frame. Mark Ecker would pick up his second save of the season by retiring the Huskers in order in the 9th.
Saturday: A&M 6, Houston 0
The aforementioned stellar outing for Grayson Long was the primary story in this one, as the Cougars never really had a chance thanks to his 7 innings of dominance. A&M was more dangerous at the plate than they were against Nebraska, with Hunter Melton blasting a 2-run dinger to deep left center in the 4th inning and Michael Barash leading off the 5th with a solo shot of his own. The Aggies would break the game open in the 7th inning courtesy of J.B Moss' RBI single, a sacrifice fly off the bat of Blake Allemand and and RBI triple by Ryne Birk that got all the way up the infamous Tal's Hill at Minute Maid Park.
Kyle Simonds came into the game for A&M in the 8th inning after Long's outstanding day came to an end, and after a pair of strikeouts and a groundout made quick work of the Cougars in the 8th inning, some uncharacteristic command issues from Simonds made A&M fans sweat just a bit in the 9th. Houston would load the bases with 2 outs - all 3 runners reaching base via walks - before Simonds finally shut the door and preserved the shutout.
Sunday: A&M 3, Baylor 2
Just looking at the box score from Sunday's contest against Baylor would probably be a bit perplexing, as the Aggies finished with 3 runs on just 3 hits versus Baylor's 2 runs on 7 hits, but that's baseball. Matt Kent put in yet another very strong performance, cruising through the first 5 innings without a runner reaching second base. Kent was able to work around a leadoff double in the 6th inning courtesy of a double play and he got out of trouble after a 2-out single and a walk in the 7th, but the Bears would finally get on the scoreboard in the 8th. Kent retired the first batter of the inning on a strikeout, but a pair of singles would end the afternoon for the Aggies' junior southpaw. Andrew Vinson would come into the game in relief and see a pickoff throw turn into a run as the Bears pulled a page out of the A&M playbook. Unfortunately, Nottebrok did not get the runner going from first to second or the runner going from third to home, and that would allow Baylor to score a second run on an RBI groundout.
The Aggies would get on the board in the first inning without tallying a hit. Blake Allemand and Mitchell Nau both drew walks in the inning, and Allemand would come home to score thanks to an error by the Baylor second baseman. After hitting a number of balls very hard against Baylor's starter Austin Stone, A&M would finally break through with a big hit in the 5th inning. Nau crushed a 2-run double to left center which would bring home Allemand and Birk, both of whom drew walks. The Aggies were looking to add some insurance in the 8th inning, but pinch-runner Nick Choruby was called out attempting to steal second base on what looked to be a pretty questionable call and Nick Banks immediately crushed a triple that would have brought Choruby home, but Logan Taylor flew out to end the inning. Fortunately, the insurance run would not be needed, as Ryan Hendrix picked up his 4th save of the season by striking out 2 of the 4 batters he faced in the inning.
Tuesday (6:35) & Wednesday (3:05) - UTPA (8-3)
The Aggies will attempt to head into SEC play with an undefeated record as they host UTPA for a pair of midweek games. The Broncs come to College Station having most recently swept Lamar University, but they put up a fight in a close 5-4 loss at a then-Top 10 University of Texas team. UTPA is hitting just .238 as a team thus far in 2015, but their team ERA is a respectable 3.13. They are led at the plate by outfielders Logan Landon (.432, 1 HR, 7 RBI) and Manny Loredo (.400, 7 RBI) while RHP Parker Gallegos has an ERA of 0.68 in 13.1 innings of work over 2 starts.