For the first time since 1993, the Texas Aggie baseballers swept through their own regional, going a perfect 3-0 to move on to the Super Regional round. It was the eighth time in school history that the Aggies have claimed a Regional championship.
In total, the Ags outscored their opponents 36-6, accruing a ridiculous 40 hits and drawing 19 walks. That's an unreal amount of traffic on the basepaths, and this offense is white-hot at just the right time. But as great as the offense is performing right now, that wasn't the biggest story line from this weekend.
What really stood out in a regional chock full of potent offenses, the Aggie pitching staff allowed just six total runs on 20 hits and six walks. You had the usual suspects doing usual suspects things in Brigham Hill, Kyle Simonds, Andrew Vinson and Mark Ecker, but you also had Turner Larkins establish himself as a solid game three guy going into a weekend where you absolutely need it. Oh and Ryan Hendrix made his first appearance in what seems like three months. Lots and lots of positives from every corner of the pitching staff.
The Ags started the Regional off with one of those "survive and advance" type of games against a team giving A&M its absolute best shot. Kyle Simonds took the mound instead of Brigham Hill in an attempt to save Hill for a tougher opponent later in the tournament, and he pitched well.
In the first inning, Simonds coaxed two quick ground outs to begin the frame, but he allowed consecutive two-strike singles to the Bearcats' three- and four-hole hitters. When the next hitter singled to right, however, Nick Banks gunned down the runner attempting to score from second by about 20 feet. That really set the tone for how this game was going to go.
The Ags first got on the board in the second, when Jonathan Moroney crushed a two-run shot to straight-away center off of the batter's eye to put A&M up 2-0. They added a third run of the inning when Banks reached on a throwing error by the shortstop with the bases loaded, pushing the lead to 3-0.
Binghamton tallied their first run in the top of the fourth. Simonds walked the first hitter of the inning, and he was pushed over to second on a 3-1 groundout. Simonds came back to strike the next hitter out, but an Austin Homan throwing error allowed the runner to score from second. 3-1 Texas A&M.
A&M added their fourth and final run via a Homan RBI single in the fifth, but this is where the game got interesting. Binghamton added their second run in the top of the sixth, and were starting to believe that they could pull off the upset. In the bottom half of the sixth, Michael Barash got into a bit of a jawing match with Binghamton reliever Nick Wegmann that caused both coaches to come out of the dugout. Barash laced a single to left field shortly thereafter, and the emotion filled Olsen.
Andrew Vinson, who came on in relief of Simonds in the sixth, fed off of that emotion by doing Andrew Vinson things in the next inning. He sandwiched two strikeouts around a ground out. After he struck out Binghamton's third baseman to end the inning, he made an.. interesting gesture towards the Bearcats' dugout. He was eventually warned by the umpiring crew between innings, but Vinny was already feeling it. He worked a perfect eighth after that, adding two more strikeouts.
In the ninth, Mark Ecker came on and only needed six pitches to close out the game.
There's not much to say about this game that the score doesn't already say. With the Ags already up 3-1 following a bases loaded, Nick Banks two-run double, Boomer White launched one of the longest home runs of the year at Olsen that landed somewhere in the scaffolding at the Rec Center. From there, they just kept hitting and hitting.
In the fourth and fifth, the Aggies added a combined eight runs to push the lead to 14-2. In those two innings alone, they tallied seven hits and drew three walks. That would be a lot of offense for one whole game, let alone two innings.
In the seventh, they added five more runs. Ryne Birk got the inning started with a hit by pitch, and Michael Barash followed that up by reaching on an E6. Well, the eventual Regional MVP followed that by launching a mammoth three-run shot to left center. He flipped the bat out in front of the plate and everything.
In the Regional Final, the Ags drew a Minnesota team that had to fight its way through the losers' bracket much like the Ags did last year against Cal. Minnesota's two-way star, Matt Fiedler, took the mound against the Aggies sporting a 4.10 ERA on the year, with 63 strike outs and 34 walks in 85.2 innings. But in the second inning, Fiedler lost his control quite a bit.
After getting Birk to fly out to begin the inning, Fiedler walked Barash and Moroney on eight consecutive pitches, before throwing two more to the next hitter, Joel Davis. At that point, as the Olsen faithful always do, Fiedler had to pitch with "BALL ELEVEN" raining down on him from all corners of Olsen Field. Later in that at bat, Davis tripled down the line in right, scoring Barash and Moroney to put the Ags on top, 2-0.
Turner Larkins got the ball for the maroon and white, and he fully cemented himself as that reliable game three starter that Rob Childress has been looking for all season. In his 5.2 innings of work, he allowed one run, which was earned, on five hits, no walks and three strikeouts. He continually pitched himself out of jams, and not once did he show that lack of control that plagued him so often last season.
Andrew Vinson came on in the sixth with two out and a man on second base. With that appearance, his 104th in an Aggie uniform, he set the A&M record of career pitching appearances. And yet again, he was masterful. But what's new?
Mark Ecker came on with two outs in the eighth, and he consistently pumped 95+. He struck out all four batters he faced, two of them looking.
So now the Ags get a rematch of the 2015 Fort Worth Super Regional, but this time A&M will get to play host. One thing that A&M Assistant Coach Justin Seely said that really stuck out to me was that these two teams are very different than last years' teams. In 2015, TCU was the older, more experienced team, while the Ags were a bit more green. This time around, those are flipped, with TCU having lost a lot to the draft in 2015 and A&M returning the majority of their major contributors.
There's also this guy named Boomer White that plays third base for the Aggies. Not sure if you've heard of him.
Meanwhile in Fort Worth, be careful what you wish for... pic.twitter.com/D47wpKIozI— Cody Coil (@codycoil) June 6, 2016
This should be a great series with a lot on the line.