For the first time since joining the SEC, Texas A&M will host the Arkansas Razorbacks for a weekend series at Olsen Field. Each of the last 2 seasons the Aggies and Razorbacks have squared off at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville, with Arkansas winning 2 of 3 games both times. The Ags and Hogs also met in the first round of the SEC Tournament last season, with Arkansas eliminating A&M in a 4-0 shutout. Things have been a bit different this year for both teams; the Aggies have lost just 3 games up to this point, while the Razorbacks have battled through some inconsistency and currently sport a record of 22-16. A&M was able to get all 3 games in last weekend against Mississippi State despite the ominous weather forecasts, and the Aggies took the Friday and Sunday games to win yet another SEC series. The Tuesday game this week was a bit of a struggle for A&M, but they were able to hold on for a 3-2 win against Abilene Christian thanks to a Logan Taylor RBI single in the 7th inning.
Arkansas comes to Olsen Field having now won three straight SEC series, winning 2 games each against Ole Miss, Auburn and Kentucky, and the Hogs have won 7 of their last 8 games. The Razorbacks lead the SEC in double plays turned with 44 on the season and they have hit the 3rd most home runs in the conference with 36, behind A&M and Florida. Hitting has mostly carried Arkansas through the season so far, as their pitching staff has been largely inconsistent. The Hogs were swept in their first SEC series of the year by Vanderbilt in Nashville and dropped 2 of 3 games in Baton Rouge against LSU before turning things around the last 3 weekends. Back in March, the Hogs lost a pair of midweek games to Gonzaga, split 2 games with Memphis, and was shutout by Missouri State.
Here's a quick look at the current RPI rankings for A&M, Arkansas, and the rest of the Ags' 2014 opponents. We'll keep this going throughout the rest of the season.
|Sam Houston State||169|
Grayson Long (7-0, 2.12) vs Trey Killian (1-2, 3.74)
TV: SEC Network+; Radio: 12th Man TV, 1150AM
Grayson is coming off one of his best outings of the season last Friday against Mississippi State, as he allowed just 1 unearend run on 3 hits and 2 walks, along with 4 strikeouts, in 7 innings of work against the Bulldogs. Only walking 2 batters through 7 innings was a promising sign for Long, as he does lead the A&M pitching staff in walks this season with 20 free passes issued over 51 innings of work. Long does also lead the team in strikeouts with 60, and opponents are now hitting just .197 against him.
Junior RHP Trey Killian was the Hogs' Friday starter last season, but he has battled some inconsistency so far in 2015. This will be his 3rd straight Friday start, though, and his last one was a quality outing. Killian tossed 6 innings against Kentucky and allowed just 1 run on 6 hits and 2 walks with 4 strikeouts to earn his 1st win of the season. He has allowed 3 or fewer earned runs in 4 of his 6 starts this year, but he did allow 5 runs on 6 hits in his start against Ole Miss 3 weekends ago. Opposing hitters have hit .264 against Killian in his 33.2 innings of work, and he has struck out 23 batters while walking 9.
Ryan Hendrix (3-0, 0.42) vs Dominic Taccolini (5-3, 4.41)
TV: ESPNU; Radio: 12th Man TV, 1150AM
After a couple of unimpressive starts by Kyle Simonds, Coach Childress elected to ride one of the hotter hands on the Aggies' pitching staff and give the start to sophomore RHP Ryan Hendrix. It will be the second start of Hendrix's career in Maroon and White, as he did get one start in 2014, but he has been almost a totally different pitcher so far this season. Last weekend against Mississippi State, Hendrix earned the series-clinching Sunday win by working 4.1 innings out of the bullpen and allowing no runs on just 1 hit with 6 strikeouts and no walks. Hendrix has made 14 appearances and earned 5 saves in 2015, allowing just 1 earned run in 21.1 innings and striking out 19 while walking 6.
Sophomore RHP Dominic Taccolini will be making his team-leading 10th start of the season this weekend against the Aggies, and he has allowed 3 or fewer earned runs in 8 of his 9 starts this season. The one start in which he allowed more than 3 earned runs, however, was last weekend against Kentucky. Taccolini was shelled to the tune of 8 earned runs on 6 hits and 4 walks in just 2.2 innings of work, as the Wildcats took a 10-0 lead after 3 innings. Taccolini has allowed opponents to hit for a .242 average against him, and he has struck out 44 but also walked 22 in his team-leading 49 innings of work.
Matt Kent (6-0, 3.14) vs Keaton McKinney (2-1, 4.00)
TV: SEC Network; Radio: 12th Man TV, 1150AM
As I mentioned in last weekend's preview, there really is no secret on how Matt Kent is going to pitch teams - he pitches to contact and lets the defense make plays behind him. Unfortunately, last weekend the Bulldogs were able to hit the ball where the Aggies were not and the A&M defense was a bit shaky as well, which made for a short afternoon for Kent. The A&M junior allowed 3 runs (just 1 earned, though) on 9 hits and a walk while striking out 4 batters in 3.1 innings of work. Kent is now allowing opposing batters to hit for an average of .308 against him, but he has struck out 43 batters and walked just 4 in a team-leading 52 innings of work.
Freshman RHP Keaton McKinney has largely impressed for the Razorbacks this year, especially recently. McKinney has started in each of the last 3 series finale games for Arkansas, and the Hogs have won all 3 of those games. He was also the first freshman pitcher to throw a complete game in the SEC this season, working the full 9 innings in the Razorbacks' series-clinching win against the Wildcats. McKinney allowed 3 earned runs on 5 hits and a walk with 5 strikeouts in that game, and he retired 11 straight batters from the 5th to 8th inning. Opponents have hit .241 against McKinney so far this year, and he has struck out 29 batters while walking 19 in 45 innings of work.
Here's how the Aggies and Razorbacks match up across some of the primary statistical categories.
|Texas A&M (31-2, 9-2)||Arkansas (22-16, 7-8)|
RF Nick Banks (.417, 4 HR, 26 RBI)
CF Andrew Benintendi (.356, 14 HR, 41 RBI, 15 SB)
|Batting Avg Against||.236||.258|
The weather forecast is again not great for this weekend, with an 80% chance of thunderstorms for tonight's Friday game currently predicted and a 50% chance of storms during the day tomorrow. We'll see how that affects or does not affect the series; the Ags and Hogs are scheduled for a rare Saturday night game thanks to the ESPNU telecast, so a Saturday doubleheader is certainly possible.
There is also a Good Bull Hunting Tailgate/Meetup on the schedule for Saturday, starting around 2 pm in the grass area by Reed Arena closest to Olsen, so stay tuned to GBH via Twitter for updates on that. We'd love for you to stop by for some chicken, waffles and beer. BTHO Arkansas!