One common characteristic of the best teams in any sport is resiliency. After taking the opening game of this weekend's series against Missouri, A&M played a sloppy game in which they couldn't get a clutch hit on Saturday and took a loss for only the second time this season. As was the case in the game following their first loss, however, the Aggies wasted no time in bouncing back in a big way, pounding out 17 hits en route to a 14-6 win in Sunday's rubber game. Posting a 27-2 record at this point in the season without the best 2 starting pitchers on the roster is no small feat, but A&M's resiliency is one of the most impressive things I've seen about this team so far.
Missouri will not be the most difficult team that A&M will face this season, but they certainly proved to be a good test for the Aggies before the calendar turns to April. The Tigers have a pair of excellent starting pitchers in Reggie McClain and Tanner Houck, as well as a very good closer in Breckin Williams, and they made the Aggies work hard for every run scored. Despite A&M playing far from their best game on Saturday, the Aggies were really just one big hit in the 9th inning away from sweeping this series. Let's jump in and break down the series; we'll start by handing out our 3 Gig 'Ems from the weekend.
GBH's Three Gig 'Ems
: Matt Kent
After struggling a bit being moved into the Saturday starter role, Matt Kent did some serious work on the mound back in his more customary Sunday spot against Missouri. Kent may have not necessarily have had his best stuff in this Sunday's game, but he found a way to get out of every single bad situation he got himself into. Despite giving up 7 hits over 6 innings of work, Kent did not allow the Tigers to score a single run, aided in large part by inducing 3 double plays when the Tigers were threatening.
: Mitchell Nau
A&M's second-best hitter so far this season had yet another big weekend at the plate, and Mitchell Nau finally became the last regular starter to hit a home run this season. Nau went 6-for-15 against the Tigers this weekend with 6 runs batted in, and his home run came on a solo blast to dead center at Olsen Field.
: Andrew Vinson
A big part of the reason why A&M was able to take the opening game on Friday from Missouri was Andrew Vinson. The Tigers had already brought 2 runs home in the 6th inning and still had the bases loaded with no outs when Vinson was brought into the game. The Aggies' 3-0 lead after 5 was down to 3-2, and Missouri was looking to break the game open. Instead, Vinson induced a double play ground ball that did score a run and then struck out the next batter to end the frame. A&M would ride that momentum and take the lead back with 2 runs in the bottom half of the 6th, and they would never relinquish that lead. Vinson worked 2 more scoreless frames, earning his 3rd win of the season, before Ryan Hendrix closed out the victory.
Friday: A&M 7, Missouri 4
After a very strong start last Friday against Alabama, Grayson Long kept Missouri off the scoreboard through the first 5 innings this weekend. Long got himself into trouble by loading the bases with 1 out in the 3rd inning, but he was able to get a strike out and a pop out to get himself out of the frame. That would not be the case in the 6th inning, though, as 3 straight singles to open the inning brought Long's night to an end. Childress went to Ty Schlottmann out of the bullpen, but Schlottmann immediately allowed 2 straight RBI singles and got the hook for Vinson. As mentioned, Vinson got the Aggies out of trouble by allowing just 1 more run.
Missouri's ace Reggie McClain cruised through the first 3 innings against the A&M lineup, but a Nick Banks double and a Logan Taylor RBI single broke the scoring seal in the 4th. The Aggies had runners on 1st and 2nd with 1 out after a Gideon single, but Taylor got picked off at 2nd base and a Hunter Melton strikeout killed the threat. The Aggies would put up 2 more runs in the 5th inning thanks to a Mitchell Nau 2-run single with the bases loaded, but another base running error killed this rally, too, with Ryne Birk getting thrown out rounding second. After Vinson's impressive work to get A&M out of the top of the 6th, Melton and Michael Barash each had RBI singles in the bottom of the inning and A&M wouldn't give up the lead again. The Aggies would add a pair of insurance runs in the 8th thanks to a Melton RBI double and JB Moss' sacrifice fly and although the Tigers got a run back in the 9th inning, Ryan Hendrix shut the door on any comeback attempt by Missouri.
Saturday: Missouri 3, A&M 2
Coach Childress elected to give Kyle Simonds his first A&M start on Saturday, and the junior college transfer had a decent afternoon on the mound, although he probably did not have his best stuff. Simonds kept the Tigers off the scoreboard through the first 3 innings, allowing just 1 hit, but he didn't get any help from the defense behind him in the 4th. Simonds issued a 1-out walk but what appeared to be a fairly routine fly ball to left field was badly misplayed by Logan Taylor. Missouri followed with an RBI single and then a suicide squeeze brought home the 2nd run of the inning. Simonds finished the day with 2 unearned runs allowed on 3 hits and 3 walks with a strikeout in 5 innings of work. Jason Freeman worked 2 scoreless innings, but Ty Schlottmann again was unable to have any success against Missouri. Ty came into the game in the 8th and allowed a bunt single followed by an RBI double, which gave the Tigers a 3-2 lead they would manage to cling to for the final tally.
It was the Aggies who started the scoring off talented Missouri freshman Tanner Houck thanks to a Nick Banks solo shot into the right field bullpen to lead off the 2nd inning. Melton led off the 3rd inning with a double and was bunted to third before being singled home by Blake Allemand. The Aggies would get runners on 1st and 3rd with 2 outs, but Banks struck out looking on a close pitch to end the threat. A&M would get 6 base runners over the next 3 innings but they were unable to bring any around to score. The 6th inning did end in some major controversy, however, as Hunter Melton came to the plate with the bases loaded and 1 out. Melton hit a line drive off the end of the bat that would be caught by the second baseman. Ronnie Gideon scrambled back to second base and clearly appeared to slide into the base prior to the Missouri infielder attempting to complete the double play, but the umpire apparently saw otherwise and called Gideon out. A visibly frustrated Gideon threw his helmet into the ground and the umpire immediately threw him out of the game. Rob Childress was none too pleased with the umpiring crew and voiced his displeasure, but it was all for naught.
The Aggies would get runners on 1st and 3rd with 2 outs in the bottom of the 8th inning looking to tie the game, but Blake Kopetsky struck out swinging to end the frame. Again in the 9th inning A&M would get runners on 1st and 3rd, but this time it was with 1 out which brought the possibility of a sacrifice fly to tie the game. Unfortunately, Ryne Birk was unable to drive the ball deep enough as a weak fly out to left field marked the 2nd out of the inning and Mitchell Nau grounded out to shortstop to hand A&M just their second loss of the season.
Sunday: A&M 14, Missouri 6
As mentioned earlier, A&M showed some major resiliency on Sunday afternoon by jumping all over the Missouri pitching staff to rally back from their second loss of the year. The Aggies scored a run in each of the 1st and 3rd innings sandwiched by 2 runs in the 2nd inning; Banks picked up an RBI single in the 1st, Logan Nottebrok took advantage of getting to play in place of the suspended Gideon with a 2-run home run over the scoreboard in left field in the 2nd, and Mitchell Nau's first HR of the year came in the 3rd inning. JB Moss added an RBI single in the 5th inning to give A&M a 5-0 lead before the Aggies completely blew the game open with 9 (yes, nine) runs in the 6th. The inning lasted 45 minutes and A&M collected 9 runs on 7 hits and forced 3 Missouri pitching changes in the inning. The highlight of the inning was a Logan Taylor grand slam homer to center field, his team-leading 6th long ball of the season.
Matt Kent, as discussed, did a terrific job of working his way out of trouble on multiple occasions, keeping the Aggies' lead intact and allowing A&M to finally blow the game open in the 6th. Missouri would manage to get 5 runs back in the top of the 7th thanks to some major struggles from freshman Brigham Hill, but the Ags' bullpen was not about to let that big of a lead slip away and the Aggies would cruise to a third consecutive series win to start SEC play.
Tuesday (6:35) - Sam Houston State (14-16)
The Bearkats come to Olsen on Tuesday with a less-than-impressive season record and will be facing A&M's Turner Larkins who shined in his outing last Tuesday against UTSA. The 'Kats and Aggies have some common opponents in 2015 - SHSU lost 2-0 to Missouri, 17-7 to Houston, and split a pair of games with Baylor (a 4-3 loss and a 4-3 win). Sam Houston State also split a pair of games with Rice, the Aggies' opponent next week.
Thursday - Saturday (6:00, 6:00, 12:00) - @ Kentucky
The Aggies will have their first true road series of the 2015 season this weekend as they head to Lexington. The Wildcats have been a pretty inconsistent team so far this season - they got swept on the road by South Carolina but then went to #1 LSU and took 2 of 3 games from the Tigers this weekend. All 3 games this weekend between the Aggies and 'Cats will be televised by the SEC Network.