First of all, a belated congratulations to A&M head coach Rob Childress for earning his 400th career win for the Maroon and White at Tennessee last weekend!
The big #1 vs #2 showdown in Baton Rouge did not pan out quite like the Aggies hoped it would, but A&M rebounded nicely by sweeping a gritty Tennessee team on the road last weekend. A&M now gets set for the final regular season home series of the season as they'll host South Carolina, a team the Aggies have yet to beat since joining the SEC, at Olsen Field this weekend. The Gamecocks lead the all-time series against the Aggies, 4-0, including a sweep in Columbia back in 2013 and a hard-fought 5-4 win to open the College World Series back in 2011. This will be South Carolina's first visit to Olsen Field, and actually the first time the Gamecocks have played a baseball game in the state of Texas.
While the Aggies are hoping to further solidify their hold on one of the eight national seeds, the Gamecocks are very much on the other end of the spectrum. South Carolina comes into this weekend as a team desperate for a series win, as the Gamecocks are currently on the outside looking in when it comes to postseason play. It doesn't get any easier for them after this weekend either, as they return home to take on LSU to close out their regular season schedule. A couple weeks ago it looked like South Carolina might right the ship with a massive series win against Vanderbilt, but they have followed that up with series losses each of the last 2 weekends (at Tennessee and at home against Auburn).
South Carolina ranks dead last in the SEC in terms of batting average, coming into the series hitting just .251 as a team, and second to last in slugging percentage at .361. The Gamecocks have just 3 players hitting above .300, and 1B Kyle Martin has accounted for over 20% of their runs batted in and over 33% of their HR on the season. The pitching for the Gamecocks has been middle of the road, currently 7th in the SEC in team ERA at 3.73, although their pitching staff does rank 4th in the league in strikeouts with 408.
Here's a quick look at the current RPI rankings for A&M and the Aggies' 3 remaining opponents. A&M is getting very close to locking up that national seed and a chance to host through super regionals.
|Sam Houston State||147|
Grayson Long (8-0, 2.89) vs Jack Wynkoop (7-4, 2.45)
TV: ESPN2; Radio: 12th Man TV, 1150AM
Grayson labored a bit in his last start against Tennessee last weekend as he didn't really have his best stuff. Long lasted just 5.1 innings against the Vols, giving up 3 runs (2 earned) on 9 hits and a walk while striking out 6 batters. I suppose the same could be said of his start the previous weekend against LSU, as he allowed 3 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks in 6.1 innings of work there, but Long was pretty solid outside of one tough inning in that one and he was also facing the best team in the country. The Aggies need him to be at his best as we head into the home stretch of the season, however, and especially going up against a talented southpaw for South Carolina.
Junior LHP Jack Wynkoop had an extremely strong start last Friday against Auburn to get the series started off right for the Gamecocks. Wynkoop gave up 8 hits in 8 innings of work but was only tagged for 1 unearned run; he also struck out 10 batters and did not issue a walk. The previous weekend at Tennessee, Wynkoop worked a scoreless 8.1 innings, allowing 7 hits and striking out 5 while walking just 1, and he worked a complete game win against Vanderbilt the weekend before. South Carolina's best chance at stealing this series from A&M absolutely requires Wynkoop to have another big performance.
Ryan Hendrix (3-1, 2.81) vs TBA (N/A)
TV: SEC Network Alternate, SEC Network+; Radio: 12th Man TV, 1150AM
Ryan Hendrix delivered one of his better performances of the season in the Aggies' series-clinching win over Tennessee last Saturday. Hendrix worked 6 innings of 1-run baseball, allowing just 4 hits and 2 walks to the Vols while striking out 5. It would certainly be huge for A&M if Hendrix can find his consistency as we head towards the postseason; the talent has always been there for the Aggies' sophomore, it was always a matter of becoming consistent on the mound. Another strong start this weekend would be a very promising sign, especially with Tyler Stubblefield potentially being a bullpen option soon.
Outside of Wynkoop, South Carolina's rotation is pretty much a mess and it's harder to figure out who might be starting than it is to do one of those Mensa things. The Gamecocks have had a different starter in each of their last 4 weekend games not started by Wynkoop. Some of the options appear to be sophomore RHP Taylor Widener (1-3, 3.14), true freshman RHP Clarke Schmidt (2-1, 3.88), junior LHP Vance Fiori (3-1, 3.26) and sophomore LHP Josh Reagan (1-2, 4.43). At this point, your guess as to who we'll see on the mound for Saturday or Sunday is as good as mine.
TBA (N/A) vs TBA (1-1, 3.07)
TV: SEC Network; Radio: 12th Man TV, 1150AM
Coach Childress has again elected to leave the Sunday spot as TBA, but junior RHP Kyle Simonds has gotten the Sunday start each of the past 2 weekends and I am leaning towards thinking we'll see the same this weekend. Matt Kent had an outstanding week for the Aggies last week, making 3 appearances and picking up 2 saves in the process. In those 3 appearances, Kent worked a combined 10.1 scoreless innings and allowed just 3 hits and 1 walk while striking out 13 batters. However, Childress may prefer to continue having Kent as an option out of the bullpen instead of using him as a starter. Simonds' start last Sunday against Tennessee was not a particularly memorable one, though, as the Vols tagged him for 5 runs (all earned) on 8 hits along with a walk and a strikeout in just 3.2 innings of work.
See Saturday section above. I have no idea who South Carolina is starting.
Here's how the Aggies and Gamecocks match up across some of the primary statistical categories.
|Texas A&M (41-7, 16-7)||South Carolina (28-21, 10-14)|
DH/C Mitchell Nau (.378, 3 HR, 40 RBI)
LF Logan Taylor (.377, 10 HR, 44 RBI)
1B Kyle Martin (.347, 11 HR, 49 RBI)
|Batting Avg Against||.248||.256|
Even though it is in the middle of finals for students, this is the last regular season home series of the year for your Top-5 ranked Aggies so I expect Olsen to be packed and rocking this weekend. The weather may just hold up for the first 2 days, but Sunday is looking a little squirrelly. Either way, get out to Olsen and help this team finish strong and take down a team they've never beaten. BTHO South Carolina!