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Aggies Head to Baton Rouge for Top 2 Showdown

The Aggies finally dropped their first series of the 2015 season, but they have to have short memories as they head east to Baton Rouge to take on the now top-ranked Tigers.

Courtesy: @Statboy203

The series appeared all but won for the Aggies last weekend after taking an 8-3 lead in the second game of the series against Arkansas. A&M had won the first game on Saturday afternoon by a final tally of 13-6, and the Ags took what seemed to be a commanding 5-run lead thanks to a Nick Banks grand slam in the second game. However, severe weather would blow through College Station and force the final 3 innings of that second game to be played on Sunday morning. Despite how much it felt like A&M was in total control of the game at the time of the postponement on Saturday evening, the Razorbacks totally stole the momentum from the Aggies on Sunday. Arkansas rallied for 6 unanswered runs for a 9-8 win to even the series, and after another 2 hour weather delay the Hogs would cruise to an 8-2 win to hand A&M their first series loss of the 2015 season.

As much as you could certainly accuse the weather for playing a major part in the series loss to Arkansas, it felt like a number of the Aggies' weaknesses that had been slowly building finally accumulated enough to cost A&M a series. Most centrally, the A&M defense continues to be a glaring issue that has and will continue to hurt the Aggies, and the pitching staff finally showed some concern as a solid Arkansas lineup pounded the A&M team ERA up by about 30 points in the 3 game series. If those sorts of weaknesses cost the Aggies against an Arkansas team fighting for their postseason lives, you can certainly imagine they will only be multiplied against the now top-ranked LSU Tigers.

The Aggies travel to Alex Box Stadium for the first time as members of the SEC, with A&M having hosted LSU at Olsen Field each of the last 2 seasons. The Aggies and Tigers split series wins in those two seasons, with LSU taking 2 of 3 two seasons ago and A&M earning a big upset series win last year. The hype surrounding this series is most certainly justified, as the top 2 teams in both the SEC and the country get set to square off on national television all weekend. The Aggies and Tigers are two of the best teams in the conference in terms of both hitting and pitching, and they have identical SEC records coming into the weekend.

Here's a quick look at the current RPI rankings for A&M, LSU, and the rest of the Ags' 2015 opponents. We'll keep this going throughout the rest of the season.

Team RPI
Texas A&M 5
Texas State 156
Tennessee 85
South Carolina 59
Sam Houston State 167
Ole Miss 29

Pitching Matchups

Thursday, 6:30pm

Grayson Long (8-0, 2.73) vs Jared Poche' (7-1, 2.90)

TV: ESPN2; Radio: 12th Man TV, 1150AM

Grayson continues to be by far the most consistent pitcher on the A&M staff, and the Aggies certainly need him to continue that if the rest of the rotation is going to struggle. Long picked up his 8th win of the season last Friday against Arkansas, although it wasn't necessarily his best performance of the year. The Razorbacks put up 6 runs (5 earned) against Long on 6 hits and 4 walks; Long also struck out 6 batters in 5 innings of work. Grayson leads the Aggies in both innings pitched (56), strikeouts (66) and walks (24), but opponents are hitting just .206 against him.

Another impressive start for sophomore LHP Jared Poche' against Georgia last Saturday earned him the series-opening start for LSU this weekend. Poche' allowed just 1 run on 4 hits through 7 innings of work against the Bulldogs, walking only 1 batter and striking out 5. In the Tigers' previous series against Auburn, Poche' did in fact start the first game of the series and picked up a win, but was not quite as impressive as he allowed 2 runs on 8 hits  and 3 walks in 5.2 innings along with 5 strikeouts. Poche' leads LSU in games started (10) and innings pitched (62)

Friday, 7:00pm

Ryan Hendrix (3-0, 1.40) vs Alex Lange (7-0, 1.40)

TV: SEC Network Alternate, SEC Network+; Radio: 12th Man TV, 1150AM

The first start of the 2015 season for sophomore Ryan Hendrix did not go quite as planned, but Coach Childress will give him another opportunity this weekend against LSU. Hendrix was not able to make it out of the 5th inning against Arkansas, giving up 3 runs on 8 hits and 2 walks while striking out 5 batters. The Hogs made Hendrix work pretty heavily, as he exited the game in the 5th inning with a pitch count of 80. The batting average against for Hendrix rose up to .226 and he has struck out 24 batters while walking 8 in his 25.2 innings this season.

True freshman RHP Alex Lange will get the Saturday start this weekend after going in the Friday spot for the Tigers against Georgia last weekend. Lange had another strong showing in that start against the Bulldogs, tossing 6 innings of 1-run baseball on 5 hits and 3 walks along with 4 strikeouts. Lange has made 9 starts this season and won 7 of those, allowing just 9 earned runs on 43 hits in 57.2 innings of work. He also leads the team in both strikeouts with 65 and walks with 23, and he has given up just 1 HR all season while allowing opponents to hit only .210 against him.

Saturday, 1:00pm

TBA (N/A) vs Austin Bain (1-1, 3.07)

TV: SEC Network; Radio: 12th Man TV, 1150AM

Due to the continued struggles of Matt Kent, who is now sporting a batting average against of .319, A&M has elected to leave the third game of this series as TBA. Don't be surprised to see true freshman RHP Turner Larkins start on the mound in this one, as Coach Childress only allowed him to work 3 innings in this Tuesday's game against UT-Arlington. Larkins is sporting a 5-1 record with a 3.31 ERA and opponents are hitting .266 against him this season.

LSU will go with another true freshman in RHP Austin Bain to close out the series against the Aggies. Bain got the start in the Saturday game for the Tigers 2 weeks ago against Auburn, but did not see any action last weekend due to the Sunday game being cancelled. In that Auburn game, Bain suffered his first loss of the season after allowing 4 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks in 5.1 innings of work while also striking out 7. This will be just the third start of the year for Bain, but he has made 12 appearances out of the bullpen for the Tigers. Bain is holding opponents' batting average at an impressive .196 and he has struck out 32 batters while walking 11 in 29.1 innings of work.

Here's how the Aggies and Tigers match up across some of the primary statistical categories.

Texas A&M (36-5, 12-5) LSU (35-6, 12-5)
Batting Avg .316 .320
Avg Runs/Game 7.3 7.2
Home Runs 47 38
Stolen Bases 28 73
Top Hitters

RF Nick Banks (.407, 5 HR, 32 RBI)
DH/C Mitchell Nau (.363, 3 HR, 32 RBI)
LF Logan Taylor (.376, 10 HR, 38 RBI)

C Kade Scivicque (.396, 5 HR, 32 RBI)
1B Chris Chinea (.346, 6 HR, 35 RBI)
SS Alex Bregman (.329, 8 HR, 34 RBI, 24 SB)

Team ERA 2.40 2.86
Batting Avg Against .237 .231

The weather forecast is yet again looking a little shaky for this weekend in Baton Rouge. The Aggies have not had good luck with the rain, especially last weekend, so we'll see if the weather affects this Top 2 showdown this weekend. A number of Aggies will be making the trip to Alex Box for this series and I'm sure there will be some tailgating, so keep an eye on the Twitters for any updates if you're making the trip to the bayou. BTHO LSU!