In 2015, the Aggie Baseball team didn't drop their first game until game number 25 at Alabama, but this season, it came a bit earlier. In their first game away from Olsen, the 2016 Fightin' Texas Aggies raced out to an early lead, only to fall 7-5 to a Pepperdine team that is probably a bit better than they'll ever get credit for. Throughout the weekend, Aggie pitching only gave up five runs, but those five runs proved costly for the maroon and white, as they handed the Ags their first loss.
That being said, Rob Childress' team had another strong weekend that should give Aggie fans everywhere confidence in what the Ags can do in the 2016 season. As much publicity as the offense gets in baseball, pitching and defense is where the bread is buttered, and, as shown by the Aggies this weekend, the same is true for the maroon and white.
Without further ado, here's this weekend's official GBH Three Gig 'Ems:
The Ags have had many newcomers that have contributed to the team thus far, but not many have had the impact that 3B Boomer White have had for the season so far. In total this weekend, White went 7-14 at the plate, with 3 RBI from the leadoff spot. Since moving to the top of the order last Wednesday against Prairie View, White has been just the spark plug that the Ags have needed, getting on 11 times in 18 plate appearances, and coming up with clutch RBIs exactly when they needed. Keep doing the thing, Boomer.
: Tyler Ivey
In only his second career start for the Ags, and his first collegiate start on the road, Ivey was once again brilliant. After throwing six shutout innings last week against Hofstra, Ivey again threw six shutout innings in a crucial Sunday victory for A&M. This time, however, Ivey was pitching to clinch a series victory as opposed to a series sweep. Oh, and this time he struck out eight batters, as opposed to last week's seven. If A&M wants to host in the postseason all the way through to the CWS this season, they have to win most, if not all weekend series they play, especially on the road. This win is easily Ivey's best performance of his young career, given the must-win nature of the contest. Keep doing the damned thing, Tyler.
: Kyle Simonds
Just one week after struggling (relatively, of course) on opening night against an overmatched Hofstra squad that saw him lose his role as the Friday night starter, Simonds delivered his best performance as an Aggie to date. On Saturday, he threw seven, count 'em, seven shutout innings in an absolute must-win game on the road against a Pepperdine team that had all of the momentum in the world following the Ags' first loss of the season. I mentioned earlier that Sunday was a must-win game to clinch the series on the road, but that wouldn't have been possible if it wasn't for the heroic effort of Simonds, who gave up only two hits throughout his seven shutout innings. Simonds had his sinker-slider combination working, as he struck out nine batters, before giving up the ball to stud closer Ryan Hendrix in the eighth. Simonds was an absolute man on the mound when the Ags most desperately needed it. Keep doing the thing, Kyle. Roll groundballs (get it? Because sinkers and sliders get grounders for outs?? Ok, sorry).
Michael Barash - Coming off of a hot-hitting offseason, Barash has kept the hot streak going. At Pepperdine this weekend, he went 3-11, with two walks, an RBI and two runs. After hitting only .238 in 2015, Barash has started off this season on fire, with an average of .421, a slugging percentage of .789, an on-base percentage of .560 and added an insurance #WHAMMY in the top of the ninth on Saturday's victory, which matched his 2015 #WHAMMY total of 2. Keep doing the thing, Mike. BIG CUTS, MIKE!
And now onto the actual recap portion of our program:
Friday: A&M 5, Pepperdine 7
So this game was the least #fun of the weekend. Soph. Corbin Martin drew his first career Friday start, and he was dazzling through two and two-thirds, including four strikeouts. Unfortunately for Martin, who showed just how electric his stuff is throughout the first third of the game, he was touched up for four runs with two outs in the third. Pepperdine began with a leadoff single, followed by a one-out walk to put two runners on. With two outs, the Waves' catcher laced a single up the middle, which scored Pepperdine's first run of the contest. Their first baseman followed that up with a game-tying, three-run home run. :(. The Waves would tack on three more runs via a two-run homer from their shortstop in the sixth off of Aggie reliever Andrew Vinson and another RBI from their first baseman. Those seven runs were enough to win the game. :( again.
On the other side of things, the Aggies raced out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, thanks to a first-inning RBI sacrifice fly by Ryne Birk followed by an RBI groundout by Hunter Melton. George Janca added a run to the Ags' lead with an RBI single in the second that scored Nick Choruby. In the third, J.B. Moss singled up the middle, stole second base, moved to third on a fly ball and scored via a wild pitch to extend the Aggie lead to 4-0. In reality, a 4-0 lead on a Friday night (in this case a Friday afternoon, since Pepperdine's field does not currently have lights and each game had to be played in the afternoon) should be enough. But it wasn't. After falling behind 7-4 after the bottom of the sixth inning, the Ags were only able to score one more run in the top of the ninth, despite having two men in scoring position in their final two at-bats. This game wasn't very #fun for the Ags, but as it turns out, ended up being a good litmus test for the No. 4 team in the country in their first road series of the season.
Saturday: A&M 6, Pepperdine 0
Following their first loss of the season, it would have been easy for the Aggies to sit back on their heels and play to not get swept by a Pepperdine team that they were much, much better and more talented than. Saturday's starter, Kyle Simonds, did not let that happen. Throughout his seven shutout innings, Simonds only allowed two hits, while striking out nine Waves hitters and walking only one. As I said earlier, Simonds' sinker-slider combination was as good on Saturday as it has ever been since he donned an Aggie uniform last season. There were a couple of innings where Simonds faced any adversity at all, and he was able to escape them untouched. Simonds was an absolute man on the mound on Saturday, and his performance set the tone for A&M's response to their first, loss of the season. Unlike his opening day start against Hofstra, Simonds definitely had his best stuff on Saturday. Starting in the eighth inning, the Aggies' flame-throwing co-closer, Ryan Hendrix, allowed only one baserunner on a hit-by-pitch throughout the remaining two frames of the Saturday contest. He struck out four of the seven batters faced. Hendrix is on another level right now compared to the rest of Childress' pitching staff, and that's exactly what you'd expect from the future first-round selection.
The Aggies' scoring started in the top of the second inning with a leadoff walk by LF Joel Davis, who was quickly replaced by George Janca via a fielder's choice. Ronnie Gideon then singled home Janca, who was running on a 3-1 pitch, and Janca scored thanks to Pepperdine's catcher dropping the ball on the tag at the plate. Gideon advanced to second base on the throw home. Later in the inning, Boomer White singled Gideon home to give the Ags a 2-0 advantage. The maroon and white added a run in the fourth thanks to a bases-loaded, RBI groundout by Nick Choruby to make it 3-0. They added two more runs in the eighth on an RBI double by Walker Pennington followed by an RBI single by Boomer White. They added the sixth and final run in their last at-bat in the ninth thanks to a solo #WHAMMY to left by Michael Barash.
Sunday: A&M 4, Pepperdine 0
As I mentioned earlier, freshman Tyler Ivey threw another gem on Sunday that helped the Ags clinch their first road series win of the season. Ivey allowed only three hits and walked two batters in six shutout innings, including eight strikeouts. In the first, second and fourth, Ivey recorded the third out of the inning via strikeout with runners on base, all looking. In total, five of Ivey's eight Ks were of the backwards-K variety. The kid has ridiculous stuff, and he had complete control of all of his pitches throughout the afternoon. Jace Vines came on in relief of Ivey in the seventh, and he threw up three zeroes of his own en route to his first career save for the maroon and white, while striking out two in three perfect innings. The shutout on Sunday gave A&M their first back-to-back shutouts for the first time since the 2006 season. Is that good? That sounds good.
Once again, A&M drew blood in the top of the first. The Ags scored three runs in the first frame of the game thanks to a two-run #WHAMMY by J.B. Moss and a solo job by Hunter Melton two batters later. The lead would have been four, if not for Ryne Birk getting picked off of first literally right before the pitch that Melton sent into the Pacific Ocean out past the left field wall. A&M failed to land the knockout blow on Pepperdine's starter, Chandler Blanchard, as they stranded two runners in each of the next two innings, before Blanchard settled in over the next three innings. In the top of the ninth, the Ags added an insurance run thanks to an RBI single by Boomer White that plated pinch runner Austin Homan. Wait, Boomer had yet another big hit? You're kidding! Keep doing the thing, Boomer. But really.
Tuesday (6:30) - Houston Baptist (5-3)
Through eight games thus far in 2016, the Huskies are hitting just under .300 as a team at .299, and in five of their eight games so far, they've scored at least eight runs. While the Huskies have enjoyed some offensive success during the young 2016 season, they haven't faced a pitching staff nearly as talented as the pitchers that they will face on Tuesday. In fact, the strongest opponent that they have faced thus far is Washington State, and they split the two games they played against Cougars. Look for either freshman Stephen Kolek or sophomore Brigham Hill to get the start against HBU, and don't be surprised to see a plethora of Aggie pitchers on Tuesday.