Well HOWDY there! Long time, no see, y’all. If you’re reading this, that means the countdown has officially reached zero #DaysToAggieBaseball. The dreaded Vandy Whistler reigns supreme, spelling death and despair across the collegiate landscape. The CHEATIN’ STROS and their trashcans actively work to destroy the very fabric of the game of baseball itself. Truly dark times. But, hey, at least Aggies everywhere could revel in a triumphant *checks notes*... 8-5 football season. Hmm.
No need to fear, however! Rob Childress and the Buntin’ Texas Aggies are here to give us respite from the seven months we’ve spent in college baseball limbo. Armed with a new hitting coach and a bevy of strong arms on the mound, the Maroon & White have a chance to make 2020 a rather enjoyable affair. Nick McKenna (@aggiefieldguy) and the best damn field staff in the country are ready. PA Rick Hill (@OlsenPA_Rick) is preparing for Aggieland’s favorite segment, #RickHits. The fact that our mans Justin Bieber dropped his newest album today surely bodes well for Rick’s sanity as the season progresses. It’s nothing personal, but really, *stares directly at the press box*
Spent some time at Olsen getting ready for Opening Day on Valentines Day, Feb 14 (Anyone have an idea on what kind of songs I’ll be playing? #Love)— Rick Hill (@OlsenPA_Rick) February 2, 2020
you asked for this, Rick.
The 2019 season had its fair share of ups and downs. From sweeping through the Shriners College Classic, to infamously blowing two (2!!!) near no-hitters in the SEC Tournament, to the One True King Bryce Blaum’s crowning achievement in Morgantown, the Aggies put up plenty of memorable performances. Unfortunately, the saddest part was that A&M boasted two of the top starting pitchers in college baseball, yet, because of a truly anemic offense, the Ags were stuck in a constant state of could-break-out-at-any-moment. Agonizing.
D1Baseball has the Aggies at No. 20 in their 2020 Preseason Top 25, and projects A&M as a strong two-seed in a regional hosted by Stanford, which seems par for the course at this point. The college baseball world definitely believes in Childress’ pitching staff, and rightly so. For the Ags to fully kick into contender mode, the offense HAS to be competent. Newly-minted hitting coach Chad Caillet comes with a good reputation. With the loss of Braden Shewmake, one of the best hitters in the country over the last three seasons and the heart and soul of the Aggie lineup, Caillet will have his work cut out for him. Still, with a pitching staff this good, a halfway decent offense could propel A&M to Top 8-seed status. I truly believe that.
Friday - LHP Asa Lacy (8-4, 2.13 ERA, 88.2 IP, 130 K, 43 BB in 2019)
Asa Lacy’s stock skyrocketed during his outstanding sophomore season a year ago. As a result, The Ace finds himself entering 2020 as one of the best prospects in college baseball, coming in at No. 5 on D1Baseball’s 2020 Top 350 College Prospect Rankings. He struck out at least seven in 12 of his 15 starts, including five outings of double-digit Ks. In only four of his starts did he allow more than two earned runs. His only bugaboo seems to be his lack of command at times. In three of his four losses, Lacy walked at least three. If he can clean that up, Ace has the chance to become that dominant, Aaron Nola-type No. 1 starter we’ve been waiting for for so long.
Saturday - RHP Christian Roa (3-2, 3.56 ERA, 48.0 IP, 46 K, 11 BB)
Christian Roa began 2019 in the bullpen before joining the rotation after Jonathan Childress’ injury at the Shriners College Classic. After a solid first start against Gonzaga, Roa spun his best start of his career against eventual-champion Vandy, when he scattered three hits and two walks across 7.0 shutout frames to claim a series victory in A&M’s SEC opening weekend. The righty is surely primed for a breakout junior season, with D1Baseball ranking him at No. 81 in their Top 350.
Sunday - LHP Chandler Jozwiak (4-5, 4.76 ERA, 58.2 IP, 80 K, 25 BB)
Chandler Jozwiak (No. 270 on the D1Baseball Top 350) began his Aggie career by cracking the starting rotation on opening weekend of 2018, before falling out of his weekend slot after just three starts. Since that point, the junior has shown flashes of brilliance out of the pen, as well as a strong start in A&M’s final game of the season against Duke in Morgantown last year. Though he gave up a two-out, three-run homer in the first inning, Joz bore down and allowed only one run over his final 5.2 innings. He struck out 12 Blue Devils in total, while walking only one. The tools are there for Joz, and should he put it together, the lefty makes one hell of a weapon on Sundays.
Dates to Know
February 14-16: Opening Weekend vs. Miami (OH)
February 28-March 1: The Frisco College Baseball Classic in Frisco, Texas. Taking on Illinois, UCLA and Oklahoma State (*pew pew*)
March 6-8: The Texas Aggies host the New Mexico Aggies in the Aggies v Aggies battle of the Aggies of the century... Aggies
March 10: A&M travels to Rice
March 13-15: A&M opens SEC play, traveling to The Plains to take on Auburn
March 17: The Ags host Houston, in which the schedule lists “$2 HOT DOGS” in all caps because why have dollar hot dog day when you can have TWO dollar hot dog day?
March 20-22: Aggies host Ole Miss, where the Rebels physically cannot win twice via walk-off because they aren’t the home team
March 27-29: Ags travel to Gainesville to battle the preseason No. 4 Gators, in which, no, we have no recollection of the last time A&M traveled to Gainesville, stop asking, shut up
March 31: Our best friends from Austin are coming over for a play date. Nothing of note ever happens when the Ags and horns battle
April 3-5: Aggies host preseason No. 5 Georgia
April 9-11: The Ags will make the trip to Fayetteville to take on the preseason No. 7 Hogs
April 24-26: The Aggies head to Starkville in a showdown with preseason No. 10 CLANGA and that stupid circular, convex right field corner
May 1-3: The Ags host LSU, as they hope to avenge a series loss for the first time in forever
May 14-16: The Aggies head to Columbia, MO to close out the regular season against the Tigers
May 19-24: SEC Tournament in Hoover, AL
As I mentioned before, the pieces are all there for A&M to succeed. With a deep and experienced pitching staff, and an offense that returns two of its top three hitters from a year ago (Bryce Blaum and Mikey Hoehner), RC’s boys have the potential to put something special together. Granted, bringing back two of the best hitters on the SEC’s worst offense surely isn’t saying much. Given the lack of a SHEWMAKE-IS-BETTER-THAN-YOUR-ENTIRE-TEAM-type, they desperately need guys Zach DeLoach (No. 52 on D1Baseball’s Top 350), the Coleman brothers, Cam Blake, Will Frizzell, et al. to at least begin to tap into their potential. Throw in a talented crop of newcomers, including freshmen Logan Britt and Trevor Werner as well as transfers Ray Alejo, Logan Sartori, and Rody Barker, and this suddenly has the makings of a swift turnaround.
The SEC is as comically stacked as ever. Nine teams grace D1Baseball’s preseason rankings, including three of the top five, and seven of the top 11. The Aggies will face seven of those teams, four of them on the road. So, no, this will not be easy. It never is. On paper, A&M isn’t particularly close to the level of the Vandys and Floridas of the world. Should they get that much needed improvement on offense, however, they just might get there.
Now it’s time to break out the bubbles! First pitch is scheduled for 6:32 pm tonight, 2:02 pm on Saturday afternoon, and 12:02 pm on Sunday. You can catch the games on SEC Network+, with Will Johnson in the booth, and SportsRadio 1150 AM/The Zone 93.7 FM. You can also follow along with live stats at tamu.statbroadcast.com on desktop or tamustats.com on your mobile device. See y’all at Olsen, and BTHO Miami!