COLLEGE STATION, Texas--Texas A&M welcomes one of the Domino's Pizza Classic's strongest fields as the Aggies face Arkansas, Ohio State and Louisiana Tech in the annual tournament this weekend at Olsen Field.
The four-team, three-day, round-robin format features the defending Big 12 postseason champion Texas A&M (4-2) hosting defending SEC Western Division Champion Arkansas (4-0), reining Big Ten Tournament Champion Ohio State (3-0) and WAC preseason runner-up pick Louisiana Tech (6-0).
The Aggies will meet Ohio State on Friday (6:30 p.m.), Arkansas on Saturday (6:30 p.m.) and Louisiana Tech on Sunday (3 p.m.).
COX Sports Television will be broadcasting four of the games this weekend from Olsen Field. Friday's Arkansas/Louisiana Tech game, Saturday's A&M/Arkansas matchup and both Sunday games will be televised. All will be live except the final game of the tournament, featuring A&M and Louisiana Tech, which will be aired same-day tape.
Lyn Rollins (play-by-play) and Ron Swoboda (commentary) will call the first three games, while Will Johnson (play-by-play) and Alan Cannon (commentary) will bring fans the final game of the tournament.
2008 marks the 16th installment of the Classic, which debuted in 1989 with the Aggies going a perfect 6-0. Through the years, A&M has won 11 of the 16 tournament championships.
Fans can listen to all the action on the home of Aggie Baseball and the flagship station of Texas A&M Athletics, News/Talk 1620 WTAW. Dave South, Scott Clendenin and Chuck Glenewinkel will call the action. All broadcasts begin 15 minutes prior to first pitch.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 29
Arkansas vs Louisiana Tech (CST) 12:30 p.m. CT
Texas A&M vs Ohio State 6:30 p.m. CT
SATURDAY, MARCH 1
Ohio State vs Louisiana Tech 12:30 p.m. CT
Texas A&M vs Arkansas (CST) 6:30 p.m. CT
SUNDAY, MARCH 2
Arkansas vs Ohio State (CST) 11 a.m. CT
Louisiana Tech vs Texas A&M (CST) 3 p.m. CT
C.E. “Pat” Olsen Field (7,053) • College Station, Texas
TV: COX Sports TV (games indicated above)
RADIO (A&M GAMES): WTAW-AM 1620
LIVE VIDEO (FRI NITE): Aggies All-Access (free)
GAMETRACKER (ALL GAMES): aggieathletics.com
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
FRIDAY: A&M - Kirkland Rivers (Sr., LHP, 0-0, 7.20 ERA) vs OSU - Dan DeLucia (Sr., LHP, 0-0, 2.25 ERA)
SATURDAY: A&M - Barret Loux (Fr., RHP, 0-0, 3.60 ERA) vs ARK - Kendall Korbal (Fr., RHP, 0-0, 2.25 ERA)
SUNDAY: A&M - Scott Migl (So., RHP, 0-0, 2.84 ERA) vs LAT - Jericho Jones (Jr., RHP, 1-0, 4.32 ERA)
Sunday's game with Louisiana Tech is part of the "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" promotion, where kids 12 and under will receive free admission with a paid adult. There is a limit of four kids per adult and all seats are general admission.
Throughout the season, fans can also take advantage of the "Pick Six or $50" ticket special. For more information contact the Athletic Ticket Office at 888-99-AGGIE or online at aggieathletics.com.
SCOUTING TEXAS A&M
Texas A&M enters the weekend at 4-2 and is riding a three-game win streak after completing a mid-week sweep of McNeese State at Olsen Field.
A&M pounded out 23 hits and scored 16 runs in its two wins against the Cowboys, and the Aggies are now hitting .293 on the year with two home runs and 31 RBI. The Aggies average 5.5 runs per game and have stolen 11 bases, including six on Wednesday.
A&M is led at the plate by junior catcher Brian Ruggiano (.450, 1 HR, 3 RBI), who has hit safely in five of the Aggies' six games, and senior third baseman Dane Carter (.421, 1 HR, 6 RBI), who is currently riding a four-game hit streak.
On the mound, the Aggies boast an impressive 2.25 ERA. A&M pitching is averaging 10 strikeouts a game and is holding opposing hitters to a .212 average.
A QUICK GLANCE: DPC FIELD
Arkansas, the defending SEC West Champions, enter the weekend with a 4-0 record. The Razorbacks swept Wright State last weekend and downed Kansas on Tuesday, all in Fayetteville.
The Hogs, a national top-8 seed in the NCAA Tournament a year ago, sport a .260 batting average and a 2.50 team ERA. They are led at the plate by Andy Wilkins and Aaron Murphree, who both sport .462 averages with 1 home run and six RBI. Arkansas pitching has held opponents to a paltry .168 average.
Louisiana Tech is a perfect 6-0 after sweeping McNeese State last weekend and a doubleheader from UTA on Tuesday, and picking up a road win Wednesday night at UL-Monroe. The Bulldogs, picked to finish second in the WAC, are crushing the baseball at the plate. Tech is hitting .342 with 12 home runs and 62 RBI while averaging 11.8 runs per contest. They are as good on the mound with a 2.33 team ERA, 56 strikeouts and a .203 opponent average.
Pacing the Bulldogs is two-way standout Jericho Jones (.478, 3 HR, 9 RBI; 1-0, 4.32 ERA), who is scheduled to start Sunday against the Aggies. Chris Kersten (.476, 2 HR, 15 RBI) and Albie Goulder (.450, 3 HR, 11 RBI) also fuel the offensive attack.
Ohio State (3-0), the reigning Big Ten Tourney champion, is also unbeaten. The Buckeyes, who were at Olsen Field for last year's NCAA Regional, have not played since winning all three games at last weekend's Service Academies Spring Classic in Millington, Tenn.
OSU's pitching staff boasts the best ERA in the field at 1.33, allowing just eight runs on the season while holding batters to a .206 average.
At the plate, the Buckeyes are hitting .264 with two homers and 13 RBI. Justin Miller (.500, 4 RBI) leads the team in batting average, doubles, RBI and slugging percentage.
Texas A&M leads the all-time series with Arkansas (37-29-1) and Louisiana Tech (23-7), but trails to Ohio State (9-6).
The Aggies and Razorbacks were members of the Southwest Conference from 1915 until Arkansas moved to the SEC in 1991.
A&M and Ohio State have played 15 times, but just three times since 1952--twice in 2000 at the Domino's Pizza Classic and once last season in the NCAA Regional. The Aggies defeated the Buckeyes in a College World Series matchup back in 1951.
Louisiana Tech and Texas A&M have played 30 times, but have not met on the baseball diamond since 1991.
Of note, A&M director of baseball operations Jason Hutchins was the starting pitcher in the last meeting between the schools (March 2, 1991), earning the victory after going 8 2/3 innings and allowing just three hits and one earned run.
A&M, ARKANSAS STAFFHAS STRONG TIES
The Aggie coaching staff has strong ties to Arkansas skipper Dave Van Horn.
A&M head coach Rob Childress has known and coached with Van Horn for a long time. The two first teamed up at Texarkana College during the 1991 and 1992 seasons, then again from 1995-97 when Van Horn was head coach at Northwestern State.
Childress then went with Van Horn to Nebraska, where he served five seasons (1998-2002) before Van Horn left to take over the Arkansas program.
Aggie assistant coach Matt Deggs spent two years with Childress on Van Horn's staff at NSU (1997-98). Before coming to College Station, Deggs spent three seasons at the University of Arkansas as hitting coach and recruiting coordinator for Van Horn. In Deggs' first season in Fayetteville (2004), Arkansas won the SEC and advanced to the College World Series.
A&M assistant Jeremy Talbot, a 1997 graduate of the University of Arkansas, started two seasons for the Razorbacks as a designated hitter and catcher. He served as the volunteer assistant coach for Dave Van Horn at Nebraska in 1999.
Finally, Aggie volunteer assistant Andy Sawyers played two seasons at Nebraska (1997-98), the last as part of Van Horn's first team in Lincoln.
McNEESE STATE REVIEW
Texas A&M extended its win streak to three games with a pair of victories this week against McNeese State at Olsen Field, 8-3 on Tuesday night and 8-4 on Wednesday afternoon.
A pair of first-time starters--sophomores Shane Minks and Carson Middleton--picked up wins as the Aggie pitching staff continued to impress. Minks allowed two hits over five innings on Tuesday, while Middleton issued just three.
A&M batters pounded out 23 hits, 11 of which were of the extra-base variety.
Texas A&M has legged out eight triples on the season, including six in the last two games. Aggie hitters tallied three triples in each win over McNeese State this week.
What makes this feat even more impressive is that the last time a Texas A&M team had three triples in ANY game was on April 11, 1999, when the Aggies defeated Kansas State 7-2 in St. Joseph, Mo., or 519 games ago.
Senior third baseman Dane Carter got in the act with two three-baggers Tuesday. That marked the first time an Aggie had two triples in one game since Chad Hudson on May 21, 1999 in a 10-3 win over Oklahoma in the Big 12 Tournament in Oklahoma City.
WELCOME BACK, BLAKE
Senior right-hander Blake Rampy tossed 2 1/3 innings on Tuesday night against McNeese State, allowing three hits and one earned run.
While that might not sound like a big deal, it is for Rampy, who missed the last two seasons battling back from a shoulder injury.
His last outing prior to Tuesday was on April 26, 2005, a span of 1,037 days.
A STRONG PEN
The Texas A&M bullpen has been very impressive in the first week of the season.
Eight Aggies have seen action in relief, posting a combined 1.33 ERA and picking up a pair of wins and a save. In 20 1/3 innings of work, opposing teams have managed just 15 hits (.208 average) and three earned runs while striking out 24 times.
Of the 10 runners the bullpen has inherited, only one has scored.
POUNDING THE ZONE
Texas A&M pitchers have struck out 60 batters while walking 18 in their 52 innings of work thus far, or a 3.3 K/BB ratio.
In 2007, A&M's pitching corps posted a 2.1 K/BB mark for the full season.
Eight members of the Aggie baseball team saw their first career action in the maroon and white this past weekend against Northern Colorado.
Shortstop José Duran, catcher Kevin Gonzalez, designated hitter Nick Fleece and right fielder Brooks Raley all made their first-ever starts for Texas A&M, while Keith McInnerney went 1-for-2 over the weekend in pinch-hitting action.
Barret Loux, Kevin Cravey and Hank Robertson all made their debut on the mound.
Two more--infielder Caleb Shofner and pitcher Carson Middleton--debuted against McNeese State mid-week.
TEXAS A&M: AN OVERVIEW
Texas A&M returns six starters and 13 pitchers from a 2007 squad that went 48-19, won the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship and advanced to the NCAA Super Regional round.
Last year's Aggie squad made the biggest turnaround in NCAA Division I baseball, winning 23 more games than they had in 2006 (25-30-1). The Big 12 tournament championship was the first in school history and the third Big 12 title overall, while the NCAA College Station Regional crown marked the fourth regional championship for the Aggies.
A&M brings back six position starters, including senior 1B Darby Brown (.322, 1 HR, 27 RBI) and junior All-Big 12 DH/1B Luke Anders (.336, 11 HR, 46 RBI). All four players who started a game at third base return, although two–Brian Ruggiano (.255, 1 HR, 14 RBI) and All-American Blake Stouffer (.398, 12 HR, 85 RBI)–have switched positions to catcher and second base, respectively.
The Aggies return the entire outfield, which includes senior LF Ben Feltner (.303, 24 RBI, 34 SB) and junior CF Kyle Colligan (.284, 10 HR, 37 RBI). Eight different players started in right field last year, and all return in 2008.
A&M will have to fill both middle infield positions, with the departure of 2B Parker Dalton and SS Brandon Hicks, as well as the catcher spot after Craig and Josh Stinson finished their careers.
In addition, the Aggies will have to replace 32 of their 48 victories from 2007 on the mound, and they will look to rely on the 13 pitchers returning from last year's roster as well as a talented crop of newcomers to do so.
Heading the returnees are senior LHP Kirkland Rivers (2-3, 5.21 ERA), junior RHP Kyle Thebeau (3-6, 4.67, 6 SV), and sophomore RHPs Scott Migl (7-3, 3.77), Travis Starling (1-0, 1.33) and Clayton Ehlert (1-1, 4.70).
A&M will play its first 20 games at Olsen Field, where it posted a 34-8 record last season and averaged 7.9 runs per game. The Aggies' first scheduled road game is March 21 at Oklahoma State.
Texas A&M is led by head coach Rob Childress, who is in his third season in Aggieland with an overall and career record of 75-51-1.
AGGIES ON THE TUBE
No stranger to national exposure, the Texas A&M baseball team will appear on television at least seven times in 2008.
Beginning with this Saturday's contest against Arkansas, the Aggies will see three straight games aired by COX Sports Television.
CST games air in most of Louisiana, parts of Texas, and Florida, Northwest Arkansas, central Georgia and northern Virginia.
FOX College Sports, available on digital cable outlets across the country, will broadcast the April 13 series finale with Oklahoma and the May 16 series opener at Texas.
In addition, FOX Sports Net will broadcast the April 27 series finale against Missouri live from Olsen Field and CSTV will air the May 10 game between A&M and Nebraska in Lincoln.
As always, fans can get complete and up-to-date television broadcast information on aggieathletics.com.
AGGIES ON THE 'NET
For the sixth straight season, AggieAthletics.com will bring fans around the globe live video of Texas A&M baseball.
Fans will be able to watch, free of charge, all non-televised Aggie home games, along with selected road games, through the new Aggies All-Access.
If live video of an A&M game is not available, free live audio will be provided through All-Access.
The highly-popular Aggies All-Access is in its second season of bringing live game action, television shows, highlights and much more to A&M fans around the world. Aggies All-Access is the most-watched channel on the CSTV.com network.