This weekend the Aggies welcomed in the LSU Tigers, and the two teams delivered three stressful, yet exciting games, complete with WHAMMY, outstanding pitching and heart attacks from both sides. This LSU team is not at all like teams of LSU past. They're smaller, don't hit as well and are very young. The one thing the Tigers still do better than everyone is steal bases, and that was something that was prevalent throughout the series.
The Aggie pitchers got into quite a few jams as the series went along, but almost every time they were able to get out of trouble without any damage. The Tigers scored five runs all weekend, but only two of them were earned runs. Unfortunately, the three unearned runs were all scored in the Friday night loss.
All in all, the Ags took two of the three games this weekend, and the result of that combined with Florida's series loss at Kentucky is that Texas A&M is now the No. 1 team in the nation. That is most definitely #fun.
Now without further ado, here's this week's Official Three Gig 'Ems:
: Ronnie Gideon
Coming into this weekend, it had been a while since we've last seen Gideon get any meaningful at bats. However, on Friday with the wind blowing out, Rob Childress inserted Gideon in the lineup to take advantage of the #WHAMMY-friendly conditions at Olsen. How did he respond? He absolutely crushed a 95 mph fastball to left-center field off of Alex Lange, who had dumbfounded Aggie hitters all night, to tie the game at one. That night, he had many quality at bats, including two walks. Keep doing the thing, Ronnie.
: Nick Banks
Banks finally came into the weekend with a batting average above .300 for the first time this season, but he started the series 0-8 with an RBI walk in the first two contests, including an ugly strikeout for the final out of the game on Friday. Childress then dropped him down to the apparently magic seventh spot in the lineup for Sunday's contest, and he responded with a 2-3 day at the plate that included a no-doubt solo shot to right to put the Ags up 2-1. Going forward, the Ags need Banks' bat to be productive, especially with a trip to Gainesville next weekend.
: Pitching Staff
If anyone watched any of the games last weekend at Auburn, you saw an absolute massacre of almost every pitcher that either team threw out there on the mound. In total, Aggie pitching gave up an average of nine runs per game in the three game set. That simply could not happen this weekend against a team with much stronger starting pitching than the Auburn version of the Tigers. As I mentioned earlier, the A&M pitching staff only gave up two earned runs all weekend against LSU, and only one of those runs came via the long ball. Just a fantastic turnaround for Childress' pitchers. Keep doing the thing, boys.
Thursday: A&M 6, LSU 1
Jace Vines took the mound in the series opener, and he was outstanding. He allowed only one run on five hits and two walks, while striking out four. That run came in his last inning of work (the sixth) when LSU freshman RF Antoine Duplantis singled home the Tigers' speedy CF, Jake Fraley. It was a great bounce-back start for Vines after giving up six runs in his last start at Auburn. Brigham Hill took the ball from Vines in the top of the seventh and took the Ags all the way home with three innings of two-hit, shutout baseball. Hill has quietly been A&M's most reliable arm out of the bullpen thus far in his sophomore season.
At the plate, the Aggies took a 1-0 lead via a Hunter Melton sacrifice fly in the bottom of the opening frame off of LSU lefty Jared Poche', who struggled with his command all night. They plated a second run in the second inning thanks to a safety squeeze off of the bat of George Janca that scored Michael Barash from third to make it 2-0 Aggies. The maroon and white scored four insurance runs in their last two at bats (two in the seventh and two more in the eighth) to make it 6-1.
Friday: A&M 2, LSU 3
Tyler Ivey started the Friday night contest for the Aggies opposite LSU's stud right-hander, Alex Lange. Ivey had another one of those "holy cow this guy is gWAIT HE'S JUST A FRESHMAN??" outings. He allowed one run (unearned) on five hits and only one walk, while striking out seven LSU hitters in five and two-thirds innings. Also, it's worth noting that the majority of the Tigers' hits off of Ivey were singles of the infield and/or bloop variety, and the run that he gave up came on a misplayed high-chopper to first base that allowed the runner to score from second base. LSU tied the game up at two in the seventh inning. Fraley doubled to left before advancing to third on a passed ball. He then scored on a groundout to short by LSU SS Kramer Robertson (the run is unearned because of the passed ball: the runner should have merely moved up to third on the ground ball). The Tigers took the lead on another ground ball off of the bat of Robertson. 2B Ryne Birk misplayed the ball, and the runner on second scored to make it 3-2 Tigers.
Lange, on the other hand, had been anything but his usual self this season. Last year, he was phenomenal, with a 12-0 record and won the National Freshman Pitcher of the Year. He came into the weekend struggling, but you never would have guessed it with how well he pitched against the Ags. He struck out seven Aggie hitters in his first four innings of work, while allowing just two hits and two walks. In the fifth, the Ags were able to take the lead with Gideon's monster home run and a Boomer White RBI single past a diving second baseman. Frustratingly enough, A&M had the chance to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth. JB Moss led off the inning with a single to center, before moving to second on a Ryne Birk SAC bunt. Boomer White then struck out in a 10-pitch at bat. Hunter Melton then reached on an error by the Tigers' 3B to put runners on the corners for Nick Banks. Banks struck out on three pitches, including two curveballs in the dirt, to end the game.
Saturday: A&M 3, LSU 1
Sunday is usually a day that many college baseball fans refer to as "Runday" because of the usually high-scoring nature that is the final game of each series. Granted, the third game of this series came on a Saturday, but the sentiment should still hold true, since each team is throwing their third starter. That wasn't the case in this game. Both Kyle Simonds and LSU lefty John Valek III pitched some of the best baseball that they have all season. Simonds, in six and two-thirds innings, scattered eight hits and did not walk a single batter, while striking out two. With one out in the fifth, however, Simonds gave up a looooooooooong home run to the railroad tracks in right to LSU 3B Greg Deichmann. Brigham Hill, in his second outing of the weekend, came on with two outs in the seventh and pitched a scoreless inning, while only giving up one hit. With a runner on second and two out in the eighth, Ryan Hendrix walked the first hitter he faced, while not looking very sharp with his command. He got the next batter to ground out to short, however, to end the inning. Hendrix led off the top of the ninth by walking Deichmann, before setting the next three LSU hitters down in order to end the game and record his fifth save of the season.
At the plate on Saturday, the Ags did not record their first hit until the third, when Banks recorded his first hit of the series and singled up the middle. After Nick Choruby bunted Banks over to second, the Aggies would strand him at second. They got their first run on the board in the next inning when Michael Barash singled Boomer White home to put the Ags up 1-0. Then, with the score tied at one thanks to the Deichmann home run, Banks led off the bottom of the fourth with a no-doubt shot of his own to right. That put the Ags up 2-1. They tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth with an RBI triple off the bat of Hunter Melton (yes, you read that right) to make it 3-1 Aggies.
On Tuesday, the maroon and white will travel down 290 to take on the Houston Cougars at 6:30pm. The Cougs are currently ranked No. 23 by D1Baseball. After starting the year 4-0 against Villanova and McNeese St, they went 0-3 in the Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic at Minute Maid Park. They bounced back by taking two of three from Baylor at home before taking two of three at Alabama a week later.