COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The Texas A&M Aggies open up their second season of Southeastern Conference play on Friday with their first-ever trip to Auburn. Last season the Tigers won two of three games in the regular-season series in College Station, the first-ever meeting between the two schools on the baseball diamond.
The Maroon and White face a familiar foe in Auburn head coach Sunny Golloway who arrived in the SEC last summer following an eight-year stint as skipper of the Oklahoma Sooners.
The Aggies enter the weekend winners of six of their last seven games. Junior Patrick McLendon has led the surge, hitting .600 (9-for-15) with five runs, one triple, one home run and seven RBI in the surge. Jace Statum (.444), JB Moss (.375), Troy Stein (.357), Cole Lankford (.355) and Nick Banks (.313) are all hitting over .300 during the seven-game stretch.
TEXAS A&M AGGIES (13-5, 0-0 SEC) vs. AUBURN TIGERS (11-6, 0-0 SEC)
MARCH 14-16, 2014
PLAINSMAN PARK • AUBURN, ALABAMA
SCHEDULE – Friday 6:00 pm; Saturday 3:00 pm; Sunday 1:00 pm
RADIO – WTAW-AM 1620 - Dave South play-by-play
LIVE VIDEO – auburntigers.com (with premium subscription)
LIVE AUDIO – aggieathletics.com • radioaggieland.com (free)
LIVE STATS – tamu.statbroadcast.com/tamustats.com (mobile devices)
RANKINGS – Texas A&M - 23rd (NCBWA), 27th (CB)
SERIES HISTORY – Auburn leads 2-1
SERIES STREAKS – A&M has won the last meeting
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
• FRIDAY: #15 Daniel Mengden (Jr., RHP, 2-2, 2.67) vs #26 Dillon Ortman (Sr., RHP, 3-1, 2.49)
• SATURDAY: #54 Parker Ray (Sr., RHP, 2-0, 4.15) vs #7 Keegan Thompson (Fr., RHP, 3-0, 0.30)
• SUNDAY: #38 Grayson Long (So., RHP, 1-0, 0.35) vs #27 Justin Camp (So., RHP, 1-1, 2.10)
LANKFORD IS A TOUGH PUNCH-OUT
First baseman Cole Lankford has gone the entire 2014 to date without striking out. Through 71 plate appearances, the junior is batting .323 (21-for-65) with three walks and three sacrifice bunts. In 2013, Lankford struck out once every 6.9 plate appearances. Last season, he fanned 33 times in 229 plate appearances, hitting .352 (76-for-216) with nine walks, three HBP and one sacrifice fly.
Texas A&M has scored first in 12 of the 18 games this season and the Maroon and White own a 61-11 scoring advantage in the first four innings of games this season. Aggie pitchers are holding opponents to a .153 batting average in the first inning and .148 batting average in the third inning. In the first four innings of games, A&M pitchers have allowed just nine earned runs on 50 hits and 22 walks while striking out 75 over 72.0 innings. On the offensive end, the Aggies are hitting .387 with 17 runs, five doubles, one triple, two home runs and 16 RBI in the second innings and .351 with 18 runs, five doubles and 16 RBI in fourth innings.
TEXAS A&M/AUBURN SERIES NOTABLES
The Aggies and Tigers met for the first time in 2013 with Auburn taking two of three games in College Station. Auburn won the Friday game behind a three-run home run by Garrett Cooper in the 10th inning. In the Saturday game, the Tigers jumped out to a 9-0 lead and coasted to a 10-5 victory. The Aggies won the Sunday game, 4-1, as Rafael Pineda allowed just one run on six hits and one walk while striking out three in 7.2 innings.
MORE ON AUBURN
Auburn enters the weekend with a 11-6 record and is riding a five-game win streak after a series sweep against Mercer and mid-week triumphs over Kennesaw State and Alabama State. The Tigers are hitting .268 with a .352 slugging percentage, .374 on-base percentage and 36 stolen bases. Auburn has five starters hitting .300 or better, headlined by Damek Tomscha with a .356 batting average, 14 runs, two doubles, five home runs and 16 RBI in 16 games. Jordan Ebert is hitting .340 with nine runs, one double, one triple, eight RBI and four stolen bases in 16 games. Ryan Tella is hitting .340 with 10 runs, two doubles, one triple, one home run, six RBI and five stolen bases in 15 games. Dan Glevenyak is hitting .304 with 12 runs, doubles, one triple, one home run, six RBI and seven stolen bases in 17 games. Anfernee Grier is hitting .300 with seven runs, four doubles and six RBI.
As a team, the Tigers have a 2.53 ERA and have registered 108 strikeouts in 153.0 innings. Keegan Thompson ranks third in the SEC with a 0.30 ERA and owns a 3-0 record. He is holding opponents to a .095 batting average and has 21 strikeouts in 30.0 innings. Justin Camp is 1-1 with one save, a 2.10 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 25.2 innings. Friday night starter Dillon Ortman is 3-1 with a 2.49 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 25.1 innings.
Auburn has four College World Series appearances, including 1967, 1978, 1994 and 1997. The Tigers’ last NCAA Regional appearance came in 2010 when they hosted Clemson, Jacksonville State and Southern Miss in a regional that Clemson prevailed in. Auburn’s only Super Regional appearance came in 1999, losing two games at Florida State.
Auburn boasts 47 former players who have gone on to play in the Major Leagues. The group is headlined by two-time American League MVP Frank Thomas, two-sport superstar Bo Jackson and three-time All-Star pitcher Tim Hudson. Thomas recently became the first former SEC player to get elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. * - Alabama’s Joe Sewell played before the formation of the SEC.
IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY
The Aggies are 14-11 all-time against first-year Auburn head coach Sunny Golloway. Golloway was head coach at Oral Roberts from 1996-2003, with A&M winning the only two meetings. He then skippered the Oklahoma Sooners from the last 18 games of the 2005 season until 2013. The teams met 23 times during his tenure, with A&M holding a 12-11. Coach Childress is 12-11 all-time against Coach Golloway, all between 2006-12.
FRIDAY’S PROBABLE STARTER: #15 DANIEL MENGDEN
Mengden earned All-SEC Second Team recognition as a utility player as well as SEC All-Defensive Team recognition as a pitcher... in 2013, Mengden ranked fourth in the SEC in innings pitched (110.2), fifth in opponent batting average (.201), sixth in strikeouts (94), seventh in wins (8), ninth in ERA (2.11)... Pitched the Aggies’ only two complete games in 2013, both in SEC play... went 4-2 with a 1.88 ERA in league games... in SEC action, ranked second in the league in innings (71.2), fourth in ERA (1.88) and opponent batting average (.198) and fifth in strikeouts (56)... pitched for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team last summer... current ERA (2.63) ranks 14th on A&M’s career list (minimum 100 IP)... Heads into the weekend ranked second in the SEC in strikeouts (35) and fifth in innings pitched (27.0).
SATURDAY’S PROBABLE STARTER: #54 PARKER RAY
In 2013, ranked fifth in the SEC in ERA (1.73) and 10th in opponent batting average (.213)... Appeared in 10 SEC games, including four starts, logging an 0-1 record, 2.80 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 35.1 innings... Started the 2013 campaign in the bullpen, posting a 0.69 ERA in 26.0 innings of work over 17 appearances, walking five and striking out 16... stepped up in the postseason going 2-0 with a 0.54 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 16.2 innings of work in wins over Vanderbilt (5/22) at the SEC Tournament and UTSA (6/1) at the NCAA Corvallis Regional... current ERA (2.11) ranks seventh on A&M’s career list (minimum 100.0 IP).
SUNDAY’S PROBABLE STARTER: #38 GRAYSON LONG
Appeared in 12 games as a freshman, including 10 starts, registering a 4-2 record and a 3.52 ERA... Notched a 4-0 record with a 2.28 ERA in six midweek starts, logging 23 strikeouts in 27.2 innings... Enters the weekend ranked fourth in the SEC with a 0.35 ERA... Started the season by working 21.0 scoreless innings.
Texas A&M starting pitchers have combined to log a 9-2 record and 1.71 ERA through the first 18 games of the season. Matt Kent, Grayson Long and Tyler Stubblefield own sub-1.00 ERAs in starting roles. Kent has scattered seven hits and three walks while striking out nine over 9.0 innings in his two starts. Long has allowed one run through 26.0 innings of work, yielding 15 hits and nine walks while striking out 15. He is holding opponents to a .165 batting average. Stubblefield is 3-0 with a 0.42 ERA in his four starts. He has allowed just two runs, one earned, on 13 hits and six walks while striking out 32 over 21.1 innings and holding opponents to a .178 batting average.
NOTES AND NOTABLES
• Head coach Rob Childress enters his ninth season at the helm of the Texas A&M baseball program, beginning the year with a 336-187-2 record. Last season, he led the Aggies to the postseason to extend their school-record streak to seven consecutive seasons.
• Texas A&M welcomes back 17 letterwinners, including seven positional starters, from last season’s 34-29 team that advanced to the NCAA Championship. The Aggies return two All-SEC Second Team performers in Krey Bratsen (OF) and Daniel Mengden (UT). They are joined by Cole Lankford who earned SEC All-Defensive Team recognition at first base along with Mengden on the mound.
• The Aggies are ranked in two of the four major college baseball polls, earning the No. 23 spot in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association poll and No. 27 in the Collegiate Baseball Top 30.
NOTTEBROK TOUCHED WITH OLSEN MAGIC
Hundreds of Aggies before him have gone their whole career without providing Olsen Magic. Logan Nottebrok delivered a special moment for the 12th Man twice in his first six games in College Station.
The first weekend of the season wrapped up with a 1-0 win over Northeastern to complete a three-game sweep. The victory was earned when Logan Nottebrok hit a 1-0 offering from the Huskies’ Brad Burcroff over the leftfield fence for a leadoff and walk-off home run. It marked the first walk-off home run for Texas A&M since May 29, 2011 when Andrew Collazo hit a walk-off dinger in the Big 12 Championship title game against Missouri for a 10-9 victory.
In the Aggies’ 7-5 win vs. Sacramento State, Nottebrok hit a two-run home run to the same location, to break the 5-5 tie for the walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth.
BRATSEN CLIMBING AGGIES’ ALL-TIME GAMES LIST
After missing the beginning of the season with an illness, Krey Bratsen has seen action in 11 games, including five as a defensive replacement and starts in the six of the last seven games. Bratsen has a chance to set the Aggies’ all-time record for games played. He currently has 203 career games under his belt, 38 shy of the career record of 241 set by Scott Livingstone (1985-88). Last weekend, Bratsen became the 16th Aggie to play in 200 games. If he sees action in all three games, he would move into 11th place on the A&M all-time list.
As a freshman, Bratsen played in all 69 games, including 68 starts. In 2012, he played in 60 games, including 55 starts. Last season, Bratsen was the only Aggie to start all 63 games.
BRATSEN STEALING THE SHOW
Senior Krey Bratsen is flying up the Aggies career stolen bases charts with 74 which ranks third. He is just nine steals from second place, trailing No. 2 Chuck Knoblauch (83 - 1987-89). Jason Tyner owns the school record with 118 from 1996-98.
Bratsen stole 31 bases as a freshman, the seventh-best season in school history. As a sophomore he swiped 21 bases and followed up with 18 in 2013.
WITH BASES LOADED
The Aggies are currently hitting .350 (7-for-20) with four walks, two HBP and five sacrifice flies in 31 plate appearances (.419 OBP) with bases loaded. A&M has four doubles and 23 RBI with a pond full of Aggies. Cole Lankford leads the squad going 3-for-3 with two doubles, two sacrifice flies and eight RBI in five plate appearances with bases loaded.
IN A PINCH
The Aggies are currently hitting .353 (6-for-17) with one walk in 18 pinch-hit appearances. Mitchell Nau (2-for-2, one double, 2 RBI), Ryne Birk (2-for-3), Nick Choruby (1-for-2) and JB Moss (1-for-2) account for the six hits.
MORE GREAT STARTS
A&M is outscoring opponents 17-0 in the first inning of games. Aggie pitchers have yielded just nine hits (seven singles and two triples) and six walks in the first inning of the first 18 games of the season. The opponents are hitting just .153 with 21 strikeouts in the first inning of games. Tyler Stubblefield has six first-inning strikeouts in his four starts. Parker Ray has struck out five of the 13 batters he has faced in 4.0 hitless first innings.
JESTER CLIMBING AGGIES CAREER SAVES LIST
With his two saves against Louisiana Tech, Jason Jester moved into a tie with Chris Russ (1998-2001) for second place on A&M’s career saves list with 16.. He needs seven saves to equal the career mark of 23 set by Scott Centala (1987-89).
The Aggies have posted a different batting order in all 18 games this season. With Krey Bratsen and Logan Taylor returning from early season ailments and Logan Nottebrok temporarily out of the lineup, the Maroon and White are expected to continue shuffling the deck. Last season, A&M used 52 different batting orders in their 63 games. Logan Nottebrok is the only Aggies to start in all 13 games this season. Fourteen different Aggies have started at least four games this season.
The Aggies have already produced seven innings in which they have scored four or more runs this season. By contrast, A&M produced just 11 “big innings” in the entire 63-game season in 2013. In both the Aggies’ 11-2 win over Northeastern and 12-3 win over Stephen F Austin, the Maroon and White produced multiple “big innings”. The highest run total in an inning this season is five on three occasions, all in fourth innings, twice against Northeastern and once against Louisiana Tech
Texas A&M pitchers have allowed two “big innings” by opponents, five runs in the sixth inning of the Aggies’ 6-5 loss at Fresno State and four runs in the eighth inning of the series finale against Louisiana Tech.
BEARING DOWN WITH RUNNERS IN SCORING POSITION
Texas A&M pitchers are holding opponents to a .169 (28-for-166) batting average with runners in scoring position. Grayson Long leads the way, holding the 27 batters he has faced with runners in scoring position to two walks and one hit 25 plate appearances, going 1-for-23 (.043). Matt Kent has faced 15 batters with runners in scoring position, allowing one walk and two hits (2-for-14 - .143). Andrew Vinson has held opponents to one hit, one walk and one sacrifice fly in 12 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, but he has issued uncorked two wild pitches.
EARLY OFFENSIVE EXPLOSION
Texas A&M has reached double-digits in the run column four times in the first 18 games and the Maroon and White scored at least 10 runs three times in the first four games of the year. Last season, the Aggies managed to score 10 or more runs just four times for the entire season. The last time A&M scored 10 or more in three of the first four games of the season was 2011 when the Aggies post wins over Le Moyne (10-2 & 14-0) and Prairie View A&M (11-1).
EVERY DAY PITCHER
Andrew Vinson has logged plenty of work in the first 18 games, making 11 appearances. He is 0-1 with a 2.03 ERA and earned his first career save in the Aggies’ 5-4 win at UT Arlington. He has allowed four runs, three earned, on six hits and three walks while striking out 14 in 13.1 innings of work. He is already well past halfway to reaching his 2013 workload when he made 16 appearances and pitched 20.0 innings.
Texas A&M hosts Columbia in a non-conference tilt on Tuesday at 6:35 at Blue Bell Park. It marks just the fifth-ever meeting against an Ivy League foe for the Aggies. The last game against an Ivy League opponent for the Maroon and White was a 2010 NCAA Coral Gables Regional win over Dartmouth, 4-3.