The Aggies are on the road this weekend for the first time in conference play in 2023, as they head to Knoxville to take on the most popular baseball program in the country: the Tennessee Vols. If you’ve followed college baseball at all for the last few seasons, you’ll know that they’re a team that in the last calendar year have singlehandedly raised the profile of a niche sport. So if you don’t mind, I’d like for all of us to just take a moment and say a prayer of gratitude for the Vols, and for their sacrifice for the greater good of all of college baseball... Thank you.
As you may have heard, last weekend didn’t go too well for either of these teams. The Ags took two haymakers from Paul Skenes* and LSU, before Stanley Tucker and Hunter Haas led a comeback in the finale to salvage the weekend.
*This man is a psyop. I refuse to believe he is real.
The Vols, meanwhile, were busy getting swept on the road by Missouri. Their offense amassed just six total runs (only three of which were earned) on 10 hits and eight walks across the three game series. To be fair, two of those games lasted only seven innings, as part of a weather-related double-header on Sunday. So for all we know, they might have put up better numbers at the plate. But on the mound, their three-headed monster rotation of the Chases (Dollander and Burns) and Drew Beam had a weekend to forget. Collectively, the trio allowed 17 runs (12 earned) on 20 hits and five walks. They did put up 19 punchouts, but that’s buoyed by Burns’ 12 Ks alone. Yet he still allowed the most runs of all three. Suffice it to say, it was not a good weekend for Tennessee.
It’s probably safe to assume that Tony Vitello and the Vols might feel like they have something to prove this weekend after last week’s debacle. That extra boost of emotion could affect the two things Tennessee does best:
- Their pitching staff throws a lot of strikes (third in K/9, second in BB/9), and teams that fill up the strike zone have had a lot of success against A&M’s uber-patient approach (tied for fifth in walks) at the plate so far this season. They’ve been able to set up plenty of scoring opportunities, but they’ve had a hard time cashing in. If they can keep the pressure on that pitching staff, Tennessee has shown the propensity to give up the big inning.
- Their offense can mash (sixth in homers, 11th in SLG), which had been something Nate Yeskie’s staff had done a good job containing up until LSU came to town. It will be so important to get the Good Nathan Dettmer, with his power sinker, to keep the Vols in the yard. It’ll be very important for Troy Wansing, who leads the team in strikeouts but is second in walks, to keep his command. It will be so important for Justin Lamkin to build on his outstanding performance against LSU last weekend in his first ever weekend start.
When everything is going right for Tennessee, the extra emotion fuels them, and things snowball until their opponents are fully overwhelmed. Disrupt that, and (allegedly) it starts working against them. The problem for A&M is very much what we saw from LSU last weekend, and we saw how that worked out. But we know what the Aggies are capable of doing. We’ve waited over a month to see the team that brought back most of its players from a run to an SEC division crown. Last Sunday gave us the first real glimpse against a top-tier opponent. Here’s hoping that spark gives the Ags what they need to finally put it all together.
- Friday: Nathan Dettmer (1-2, 3.24 ERA) vs. Chase Dollander (3-2, 3.90 ERA)
- Saturday: Troy Wansing (2-1, 2.42 ERA) vs. Chase Burns (2-1, 3.41 ERA)
- Sunday: Justin Lamkin (1-1, 1.33 ERA) vs. Drew Beam (3-1, 2.25 ERA)