Each and every season for the last decade, Aggie Baseball has faced one of the toughest schedules in the country. That’s the nature of SEC baseball, as we all know. Throw a rock in any direction, and you hit a ranked team. But the front portion of the 2023 conference schedule is on a whole other level. Beginning tonight, the Aggies face a three-series stretch against, as it currently stands, No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3. If that has ever happened before, I could not find record of it.
First up in that gauntlet is the consensus top team in the country. Led by 2022 SEC Co-Player of the Year Dylan Crews, NC State freshman sensation Tommy White, and SEC Pitcher of the Year candidate Paul Skenes, the LSU Tigers (16-1) come to College Station on an 11-game winning streak. And let’s just call a spade a spade here. They’re a wagon. They do everything well.
As a team, LSU is slashing .338/.472/.622, good for eighth, second, and fourth in the country, respectively. They’re tied for 15th in homers, 22nd in walks, third in runs scored (first in runs per game), and tied for 30th in doubles. And that’s all just the offense. Their pitchers rank second in team ERA, ninth in strikeouts per nine, second in WHIP, sixth in strikeout-to-walk ratio, and have recorded the most shutouts in the country. AND they currently sport the best fielding percentage. So to say A&M has their work cut out for them this weekend probably wouldn’t give LSU enough credit.
The flip side to all of that, to be completely fair, is that most of this has come against the soft portion of their schedule. Only three of their opponents (single games against Texas, Iowa, and Kansas State) put up an RPI below triple digits in 2022. So is there a chance that this is all inflated by a softer schedule? I guess, but I doubt it. The fact of the matter is that LSU has handled their business the way a preseason Top 5 team should. Which, you know, not everyone can say lol.
The Aggies, meanwhile, are going to have to flip the script in a couple areas to pull out the series win this weekend. And it starts at the plate. Austin Bost is as hot at the plate as anyone not named Tommy White. He’s currently riding a 10-game hit streak, during which he’s batting .486 (18-37), with two homers, six doubles, a triple, and 19 RBIs. Hunter Haas continues to lead the team in batting average (.371) and OBP (.506). And Jack Moss seems to have overcome a 1-17 stretch from the Tech game through game one against NKU, as he’s six for his last ten at the plate, with a few walks sprinkled in there. But to keep up this weekend, the Ags will probably need Ryan Targac and the rest of the boys to find another gear.
On the mound, A&M will absolutely need consistency out of the starters. Nathan Dettmer, Troy Wansing, and Chris Cortez are all legitimately capable of excellence in this league. And at times, they’ve shown flashes of that kind of greatness. We know how Dirty Dett can be; we’ve seen it in frickin’ Omaha, of all places. Wansing has a 15.10 K/9 and a 1.17 WHIP. And though he’s been a bit up-and-down to start the year, we’ve seen Cortez come through many times, including his start against Tech in that marathon of a Shriners College Classic finale.
Last year, the LSU series in Baton Rouge served as a turning point for the Aggies. They entered that weekend a complete mess, and took two of three from a top 10 team on the road when everything seemed to click into place all at once. We know what happened from there. So what the hell? Let’s do it again.
- Friday: Nathan Dettmer (1-1, 2.37 ERA) vs. Paul Skenes (4-0, 0.75 ERA)
- Saturday: Troy Wansing (2-1, 2.75 ERA) vs. Ty Floyd (3-0, 1.08 ERA)
- Sunday: Chris Cortez (1-0, 5.60 ERA) vs. Thatcher Hurd (2-0, 2.04 ERA)