This season’s final series at The Corner™®© was a disappointment; there’s no other way to put it. After seemingly putting the debacle that was their series in Fayetteville behind them with their series win over Florida, the Aggies sat at 11-13 in conference. And despite the general slog 2023 had been to that point, the thought from most national baseball writers, with Kendall Rogers chief among them, was that 14 SEC wins would have A&M safely inside the bubble for an at-large regional bid. The math works out that, of their remaining six conference games, they merely needed to go 3-3, with one series at home against an Alabama team that very recently fired its coach amid a gambling investigation, and another series against a Mississippi State team facing its second straight year of missing the SEC Tournament despite winning it all in 2021. Sounds simple enough!
The Aggies got off to a roaring start, when they knocked Tide pitching around in the first game of the series. They took game one 11-5, behind a first-inning two-run shot from one-armed Brett Minnich, three (3) two-run homers from Trevor Werner, and a pair of solo shots from Jace LaViolence. Awesome!
Alabama responded by outscoring the Ags 23-1 over the final two games. Now they’re 12-15. Cool.
Suddenly, that regional bid seems a bit slippery. Their RPI currently sits at 40, and more than likely they have to win two games this weekend. They’ve already clinched a spot in Hoover, so there’s at least one more chance at an SEC win. And if they manage to put together a deep run there, say to the final or semifinal, I think we all know it’s best not to leave fate up to selection committees. Though, Aggie pitching hasn’t done much to this point to believe they could sustain a deep run through Hoover, anyway.
Now, Schloss & The Boys head to Starkville, essentially needing to win a series against a recent national champion in a park that many across college baseball consider one of the best atmospheres in the sport. They’ll need to do so against a team loaded with talent, despite two straight years of disappointing results, boasting D1Baseball’s second-ranked freshman recruiting haul, as well as their fourth-ranked transfer class.
The Bulldogs’ offense, led by CF Colton Ledbetter (.312/.447/.575, 12 HR, 52 RBI) and 1B/DH Hunter Hines (.301/.365/.699, 22 HR, 60 RBI), rank just about middle of the pack as a team. Where they excel is limiting strikeouts, sitting at the second-fewest punchouts in the SEC, with just 369 so far this season. For reference, the Aggies have 419 to this point, which ranks eighth.
On the mound is a different story. Aside from their 499 total strikeouts as a staff, which ranks fifth in the SEC (one behind A&M), State ranks at or near the bottom of just about every pitching category. They sport an SEC-worst ERA of 6.89 (which balloons up to 9.61 in conference games), to go along with the most runs and earned runs allowed (makes sense), the most walks allowed (yes, somehow even more than the Ags). They’ve also allowed the second-most homers and hit the second most batters. So yeah, on paper, the opportunity is there for what has become the Aggies’ winning formula: pray the starters don’t dig too deep of a hole, and hit their way into the win column. Let’s just hope they can execute!
- Thursday: Nathan Dettmer (1-3, 6.32 ERA) vs. Colby Holcombe (2-2, 7.71 ERA)
- Friday: TBA vs. TBA
- Saturday: TBA vs. TBA