COLLEGE STATION- The sound of aluminum-on-baseball reverberated through the rafters at Olsen Field as the Texas A&M baseball team opened spring drills Sunday afternoon.
The Aggies are a consensus top-5 pick in the preseason polls. Baseball America has them at No. 1.
Head coach Rob Childres says, " They've embraced it. Ithink they are an extremely competitive group who will continue to practice with a chip on their shoulder. We've gotta earn it every single day, not just practice, but once we start February 20 as well."
This is the second year that the NCAA has mandated college baseball teams start spring drills on February 1, and the second year that the country's programs must observe a uniform start date--which this year falls on February 20.
The back-to-back Big 12 champions enter the spring with one of the nation's deepest pitching staffs. On the mound, 84 percent of the innings pitched are back off a staff that finished 19th nationally in earned run average.
Overall, 41 of A&M's 46 wins--or 89 percent--return, led by the entire weekend rotation of '08 freshman All-Americans Brooks Raley and Barret Loux, and junior All-Big 12 honoree Clayton Ehlert. The back end of the bullpen also remains intact, as all-conference honorees Kyle Thebeau and Travis Starling are back.
The top offensive leaders returning in 2009 are a pair of first-team All-Big 12 picks in seniors first baseman Luke Anders and center fielder Kyle Colligan. Last year the Aggies hit 81 home runs, averaged just under eight runs per game and stole 91 bases.
The Aggies return 14 letterwinners, four position starters and eight pitchers from a 2008 squad that went 46-19, won the Big 12 regular-season title and the NCAA College Station Regional championship.
A&M hosts a 37-game home schedule which features Cal State Fullerton, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, TCU, Houston, Texas and Baylor, among others. The opener is set for Friday, Feb. 20 against Wright State. Season tickets and special ticket packs are available now by logging on to aggieathletics.com or by calling 1-888-99-AGGIE.