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Texas Aggie Baseball 2018 Season Preview

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Well a-beat the drum and hold the phone, the sun came out today! We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field. A roundin’ third and headed for home, it’s a brown-eyed handsome man. Anyone can understand the way I feel. Ohhh put me in coach, I’m ready to play (tap taptaptap) today!

Photo via Rebecca S.

Well everybody, here we are! Welcome to Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park. I’ll be your guide, as we embark on yet another Aggie Baseball season that surely won’t end with a loss to a private school from Fort Worth! ZERO #DaysToAggieBaseball. What felt like 27 months since the Aggies last took the diamond has finally passed, so dust off your various bubble contraptions. It’s time for some Fightin’ Texas Aggie Baseball.

On your right, you’ll see countless construction workers across Wellborn, who are putting the finishing touches on the brand new, 20-foot-tall statue depicting this exact moment of Johnny and Jimbo:

On your left, you’ll see PA Rick Hill (@OlsenPA_Rick) furiously sifting through the vast amount of Justin Bieber and Dixieland Delight requests from everyone’s favorite segment: #RickHits. I hear Rick is open to the possibility of playing Future this year. It would be a real shame if everyone made that request every game. A real shame, indeed.

Anywho, if you look out onto the field, you’ll see Nick McKenna (@aggiefieldguy) and the best damn field staff in the country meticulously cutting every blade of grass with a pair of salon-grade, stainless steel scissors. Marvelous, isn’t it?

Last season, the 2017 Aggie Baseballers became the sixth team in school history to reach the College World Series despite returning just two pitchers with over 40 innings of work in 2016 and two position players that appeared in at least 75% of the games with at least two at-bats per game the previous season. That led to a bunch of guys getting more consistent playing time than they previously enjoyed in Aggieland. For some, this meant the first in-game experience in their college careers. The 2017 team regularly started three true freshmen, with five total fish making 19 starts or more. Needless to say, if one were to look at the Aggies of last season, it would have been fair to call it a rebuilding year. Yet somehow, some way the Ags were able to pull themselves together after a rough start to their SEC slate and landed themselves in a regional. The rest is history.

This season, the expectations are ramped up. Makes sense following an appearance in college baseball’s holy ground of Omaha; something even the powerhouse teams of 2015 and 2016 failed to do. The Aggies are ranked anywhere from ninth to eleventh in the preseason polls, and D1Baseball has them projected to host a regional as the No. 11 overall seed (the selection committee is finally implementing the 1-16 seeding this year). Should be fun!

Departures

Position Players (2017 Stats)

Player Position AVG SLG OBP RBI HR BB K SB
Player Position AVG SLG OBP RBI HR BB K SB
Nick Choruby OF 0.321 0.415 0.441 33 3 49 50 11
Blake Kopetsky OF 0.302 0.412 0.350 20 2 12 53 4
Joel Davis 1B 0.249 0.378 0.356 30 6 26 41 7
Austin Homan SS 0.218 0.273 0.313 28 0 26 56 5
Walker Pennington OF 0.215 0.354 0.319 35 4 19 48 7
Jorge Gutierrez C/DH 0.214 0.417 0.337 16 4 14 28 2

It cannot be overstated how important these guys were to the successes of the 2017 season. With all the production that A&M had to replace following 2016, it was the five seniors on this list that provided most of the experience for the team. OF Nick Choruby became the ideal catalyst for the offense, putting up the best numbers of his A&M career. Hell, he even tallied three bombs! Chorbs was drafted in the 18th round by the Washington Nationals in the 2017 MLB Draft. Usually flanking Choruby in the outfield, OF Blake Kopetsky also provided some needed consistency in the lineup. 1B Joel Davis made the move from corner outfielder to first base last season, finishing tied for second on the team in home runs and tied for third in runs scored. More often than not, when good things were happening for the Ags on offense, Joel was usually involved. Following his outstanding second half in 2016, SS Austin Homan had a tough year at the plate, but his high level of effort helped fuel that young team. OF Walker Pennington had an up-and-down year at the dish as well, but when it mattered, Walker came through with that ninth-inning, three-run bomb to give the Ags the lead and win the series in Baton Rouge. That homer almost single-handedly sparked their run of five consecutive SEC series victories.

Pitchers (2017 Stats)

Player ERA W L App GS IP WHIP BB K Opp. AVG
Player ERA W L App GS IP WHIP BB K Opp. AVG
Brigham Hill 3.15 8 3 17 16 100.0 1.19 31 111 0.237
Turner Larkins 3.37 1 2 9 5 26.2 1.31 11 20 0.250
Corbin Martin 3.80 7 4 24 13 87.2 1.45 38 95 0.261

Easily the biggest loss from the A&M pitching staff is RHP Brigham Hill. Brigham started every single Friday night, with just one relief appearance that came in the first game of the CWS. He led the team in innings and strikeouts by a wide margin, and he was the unquestioned leader of the pitching staff. Brigham was drafted in the 5th round by the Washington Nationals. RHP Corbin Martin (2nd Rd. – Houston) began the season as the team’s closer but was later moved into the starting rotation. He had an up-and-down career at A&M, but the one thing that never lacked was his enthusiasm. He was the co-founder of the bubble movement, after all.

Returning Players

Position Players (2017 Stats)

Player Position AVG SLG OBP RBI HR BB K SB
Player Position AVG SLG OBP RBI HR BB K SB
Braden Shewmake 2B 0.328 0.529 0.374 69 (nice) 11 15 31 11
Cole Bedford C 0.301 0.438 0.351 26 3 11 38 3
Hunter Coleman C/DH 0.283 0.441 0.38 22 5 20 34 0
Logan Foster OF/DH 0.28 0.489 0.333 24 6 15 59 3
George Janca 3B 0.261 0.416 0.309 30 6 12 58 3
Cam Blake OF 0.214 0.214 0.389 9 0 15 20 0

Before last season, only two of these guys had any collegiate experience at all. Despite this, the majority of the returning players made up the bulk of the production. C Cole Bedford made 41 starts at catcher in a breakout sophomore season and should anchor the team behind the plate again this year. C/DH Hunter Coleman made the balance of starts behind the dish, while hitting cleanup for much of the season as a true freshman thanks to his steady bat. That earned him an SEC All-Freshman nod. Expect to see Hunter in the middle of the lineup, while splitting time at catcher, first, and DH. OF/DH Logan Foster was also named to the SEC All-Freshman team, as well as garnering a Freshman All-America nod from Collegiate Baseball. 3B George Janca made the move last year to third from shortstop, and he enjoyed a nice bounce-back year in his second season in Aggieland. His walk-off single in Game 1 of the Super Regional was just one of many huge moments when George stepped up in situations when the team needed him the most.

Now for your first weekly reminder of 2018 that Braden Shewmake (who’s sliding over to shortstop this year) is REALLY GOOD AT BASEBALL:

Pitchers (2017 Stats)

Player ERA W L App GS IP WHIP BB K Opp. AVG
Player ERA W L App GS IP WHIP BB K Opp. AVG
Kaylor Chafin 2.33 7 2 33 1 77.1 0.944 16 72 0.204
Stephen Kolek 3.79 4 5 16 16 90.1 1.207 24 82 0.249
Cole Mason 0 1 0 2 0 3 1 1 2 0.182
Landon Miner 2.55 1 0 17 0 24.2 0.932 7 16 0.186
Jason Ruffcorn 2.61 0 0 12 0 10.1 0.871 3 10 0.182
Cason Sherrod 2.89 4 1 30 0 43.2 1.008 14 38 0.203
Mitchell Kilkenny 3.67 3 3 26 5 56.1 1.58 23 56 0.293
John Doxakis 5.44 4 3 25 7 49.2 1.51 30 51 0.237
Kyle Richardson 8.53 0 0 6 1 6.1 2.211 6 6 0.308

This list is loaded with talented arms, and the pitching staff should be the real strength of the Aggie Baseball team once again. LHP Kaylor Chafin and his bolo tie was basically the 2017 reincarnation of 2015 Matt Kent, serving as the workhorse for Rob Childress’ staff. Expect to see Kaylor very often. RHP Stephen Kolek will get the nod tonight, and if he can continue his brilliance from last year, the Ags will be set on Friday nights. RHP Cason Sherrod was drafted in the 13th round by Kansas City, but he decided to return to Aggieland for his final season. Cason made the second-most appearances in 2017 as one of Childress’ go-to guys out of the bullpen, and he will most likely man the same role this year. So expect to see Cason a lot this year.

New Arrivals

Once again, recruiting wizard Justin Seely brought in a crop of newbies that is something to be very excited about. As always, in the interest of time and word count, I’ll only mention a few. They’re listed alphabetically because we love them all equally <3.

Chris Andritsos (INF/RHP) – A sophomore from The Woodlands, Andritsos sat out 2017 due to transfer rules, coming over from Oklahoma after his freshman year. At OU, he made 14 starts at third base, while hitting .250 with a triple and six RBI. He also made 12 starts on the mound, posting a 4.96 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 65.1 innings. He’s a talented pitcher, but the staff is so deep this year, we may not see him on the mound at all. Expect to see Andritsos split some time between first base and DH.

Jack Conlon (RHP) – Conlon is a freshman out of Sugar Land, having played his high school ball at Fort Bend Clements (meaning he’s probably pretty good idk). In his senior season, he was named to the All-District 20-6A Second Team, before being drafted in the 4th Round of the 2017 MLB Draft by the Baltimore Orioles (this also means he’s probably pretty good idk). It’s always exciting when a kid drafted that highly makes it to campus, so he should be pretty fun to watch.

Zach DeLoach (OF) – A freshman from Lewisville, DeLoach was selected to the 6A All-State Honorable Mention by the Texas Sports Writers Association following his senior season at Hebron in 2017. He hit to a .381/.571/.619 slash line at the plate last season, while racking up 78 Ks in 58.2 innings on the mound. DeLoach has been tearing the cover off the ball this spring, and there is a strong possibility he gets a start in the outfield tonight.

Will Frizzell (INF) – Listed at 6’-5”, 210 lbs., Frizzell is a mammoth freshman from Rockwall. In his senior season at Rockwall, he hit .417 with an OBP of .542 and drove in 51 runs (a school record). He’s got some serious power, but with third currently occupied, he’ll probably have to find playing time at another position like the corner outfield for the time being. Expect Childress and Will Bolt to find a spot for this kid.

Michael Helman (INF) – A JUCO transfer from Hutchinson CC, Helman is the latest in the line of Nebraska guys Childress has brought down to Aggieland. Hailing from the same school that gave us Kyle Simonds, Helman was named the NJCAA Player of the Year in 2017 (along with like 6 more accolades... dude’s from another planet), while leading the country in batting average at .487(!!!) and setting a school record for hits with 111(!!). He only finished second in OBP (.567) and eighth in slugging (.829), so you know, there’s somewhere he can improve! He also dropped 17 bombs and drove in 73 runs. I’ll be extremely shocked if this kid isn’t starting opposite Shewmake at second.

Chandler Jozwiak (LHP) – A freshman from Brenham (I hear they’re pretty good), Jozwiak has already been named the Saturday starter in Childress’ initial weekend rotation. He was named to the 5A All-State Second Team as a senior last year, racking up a 10-1 record on a 0.98 ERA. He also struck out 110 batters to only 14 walks in 78 innings (LOL). He must be spinning it pretty well right now for RC to immediately drop him into the rotation.

Allonte Wingate (INF/OF) – A JUCO transfer from Beaumont, Wingate comes to Aggieland as a junior by way of Cisco College. He played his freshman season at Houston, where he played in just four games. At Cisco in 2017, Wingate drove in 45 runs, while drawing 41 walks and hitting at a .350 clip. He’s a smart hitter, and much like Frizzell he’ll have to find a spot in the outfield, given the shortstop is the reigning SEC Freshman of the Year. It’s not totally out of the question to see Wingate in the outfield tonight.

Dates to Know

February 16-18: Opening Weekend vs. Rhode Island

February 23-25: Annual battle vs. some Ivy League NERDS as the Ags take on Cornell

March 2-4: The Frisco College Baseball Classic in Frisco, Texas. Taking on LA Tech, Baylor (yuck), and Cal. This one should be cool because they allow bubbles

March 9-11: The Aggies host the Long Beach State Dirtbags, who are fresh off a Super Regional appearance that they earned by beating no one of import

March 16-18: A&M opens SEC play, as they head to Auburn

March 20: The Ags travel to Houston to take on Rice, where Wayne Graham will make approximately 17 mound visits of 11 minutes each while changing pitchers 7 times after he starts their usual Friday night guy and/or closer

April 5-7: LSU is in town. Good news: there is no more Alex Lange to haunt our dreams! Bad news: they probably cloned him.

April 10: Our best friends from Austin are coming over for a play date. Hopefully we can get Michael Barash to attend

April 27-29: The Ags will make the trip to Starkville, where they outscored the CLANGAs 30-14 in a three-game sweep back in 2016

May 4-6: The Aggies welcome the defending National Champion Florida Gators, who are consensus preseason No. 1

May 11-13: Travellin’ to Fayetteville to take on the preseason top ten Hogs

May 17-19: South Carolina comes to town to close out the regular season

May 22-27: SEC Tournament in Hoover, AL

Season Outlook

The 2018 Aggies find themselves with some real expectations as the season gets started. This is a very talented team, with a deep pitching staff and some real studs in the field. The main concern stems from the fact that most of the team have at most one year of SEC experience. There are only three seniors on the entire roster. Don’t get me wrong; these guys are good. The nucleus of Shewmake, Bedford, Coleman, Foster, Janca, Kolek, Sherrod, etc. experienced Omaha, which should be a huge boost. However, will the added expectations of that Omaha berth be too much?

The conference should be as strong as ever. In D1Baseball.com’s preseason rankings alone, there are eight SEC teams; four ranked ahead of A&M. They’ll have to battle six of those eight in the regular season, but such is life in SEC baseball. With this latest infusion of high-level talent, however, the Aggies should be well equipped to handle the SEC gauntlet.

This team has the potential to be great, and it’s time to break out those bubbles! First pitch is slated for 6:30 pm tonight, 1:00 pm Saturday afternoon, and 12:00 noon on Sunday. You can catch the games on SEC Network+ and SportsRadio 1150 AM/The Zone 102.7 FM, or you can follow along with live stats at tamu.statbroadcast.com (desktop)/tamustats.com (mobile). See y’all at Olsen, and BTHO Rhode Island!