Fresh off of their road series win in Starkville, Texas A&M set their sights on an immensely-weaker-than-usual Prairie View A&M team Tuesday night, and the result was about what you’d expect. With two outs and two runs already home in the bottom of the first, Chandler Morris stepped in with the bases loaded. He promptly cranked the first pitch he saw over the wall in left for a grand slam, giving A&M a six-run lead. The game was basically done at that point. Typically the official 12thman.com recap includes a “Scoring Summary” section that recounts each scoring play, but you’ll notice in Tuesday’s recap that this section was replaced by “Key Innings” because the Aggies scored 18 dadgum runs en route to an 18-1 laugher.
It’s probably for the best that the Ags got to enjoy such a game on Tuesday because the top team in the country is coming to town. The Florida Gators are unbelievably good this year. They brought back most of last year’s national championship team, and they look primed to play for it all (if not win it) once more. Four of the first five hitters in Florida’s lineup against Auburn last weekend are holdovers from the 2016 team that A&M took down in the SEC Tournament championship game, including the familiar face of JJ Schwarz. Nick Horvath, their starting center fielder and occasional lefty reliever, even made an appearance on the mound in that game. Basically, the Gators bring a boatload of extremely valuable experience to the table.
On the season, Florida is 36-10 overall and 16-5 in the SEC. They’ve won every series they’ve played this season aside from a midweek home-and-home with UCF, including all seven SEC series to this point. The Gators have the second-ranked RPI and have played the second-toughest schedule, according to Warren Nolan. Again, these guys are real, real good.
- Friday: Mitchell Kilkenny (8-1, 2.12 ERA) vs. Brady Singer (9-1, 2.62 ERA)
- Saturday: John Doxakis (6-2, 2.86 ERA) vs. Jackson Kowar (7-2, 2.91 ERA)
- Sunday: Stephen Kolek (4-4, 3.75 ERA) vs. Jack Leftwich (4-1, 3.50 ERA)
What to Watch For
Florida’s Jonathan India
3B Jonathan India, now a junior, is one of the holdovers from the 2016 SEC Tournament championship game, and he has been a monster at the dish this year. He leads the Gators in hits, triples, total bases, walks, and runs scored. He’s also second in homers, doubles, and RBIs. His slash line is an inconceivable .401/.546/.810, which is good for a 1.356 OPS. To put that in perspective, last year’s SEC Player of the Year, Brent Rooker (Mississippi State), finished the season slashing .387/.495/.810, which was good enough to win him the triple crown in the SEC. If the season ended today, India would accomplish the same feat, as he currently leads the league in each of those categories. He’s definitely the favorite for SEC Player of the Year, and if A&M wants any chance in this series, they’ll have to slow down the hottest hitter in the league.
A&M’s double play combo
Braden Shewmake and Michael F. Helman (along with Logan Foster) are the guys that make A&M’s offense go. Helman leads the team in every offensive category imaginable, save homers and RBIs, and his stick at the top of the lineup is invaluable to the Aggie offense. While India leads the league in the triple crown categories, Helman isn’t far behind. His .390/.477/.571 line is good for third, second, and 13th in the SEC, respectively. Michael F. leads the league in hits, and he ranks third in runs scored and fifth in total bases. Shew, on the other hand, sits ninth in batting average and RBIs, third in hits, fourth in triples, and 11th in total bases and steals. Florida has a lot of offensive firepower, but the Aggies have quite a bit of their own in Helman and Shewmake.