The host and overwhelming favorite of the College Station Regional is host Texas A&M. The Aggies are finishing up their last season as a part of the Big 12 before joining the SEC next season. As the 2nd seed in the Big 12 tournament, the Aggies were hoping for a conference championship and a national seed. A&M started off on the right foot by defeating #7 Kansas in the first round. That’s all the good news that the Aggie fans had as their team lost back-to-back 5-3 games to #6 Missouri and #7 Kansas, knocking them out of the tournament. While they did not receive a national seed, their impressive regular season slate kept them as a host. Now here’s a quick look at the top seed in the regional.
Regular season: The most consistent aspect of the 2012 A&M season has been their inconsistency. They started off the season 13-1, outscoring their opponents by 57 runs in that time.
After that, they lost 4 of their next 5 games to the likes of Cal State Fullerton (twice), Texas-Pan American, and Kansas State.
The Kansas State game saw the Aggies surrender 15 runs, 9 of which came off Friday-ace Michael Wacha.
On cue, they won 16 of their next 18 games including a road sweep of Pepperdine.
What ensued was a streak of 5 straight losses by a combined total of 8 runs. Texas A&M then closed the season by winning 13 of their last 15 games with sweeps against San Diego State and Oklahoma State.
As you can see, you’re rolling the dice when you are guessing what this team is going to do. They are the proverbial sand-filled-shotgun, unpredictable but extremely dangerous. Just as capable of running the table to Omaha as they are going 2 and out, this team is a wild card in every sense of the term.
Coach: Rob Childress is in his 7th season as the head coach after taking over for the legendary Mark Johnson. This will be his 6th straight postseason appearance and the 4th time that he has presided over a regional host. The Aggies have made it to 4 Super Regionals under his helm, and defeated Florida State last season to advance to their first College World Series in 12 years.
Pitching: Childress is the former pitching coach at Nebraska and places a high emphasis on having a quality pitching staff. They rank 5th in the country with a team ERA of 2.86. It all starts with the weekend rotation and they have a good one. The ace of the staff, Michael Wacha, is 8-1 with a 2.21 ERA and is projected to be a top-10 pick in next month’s draft. Wacha is a hard-thrower and has struck out 107 batters in 106 innings of work. Their second starter, Ross Stripling, is another strikeout pitcher who can be dubbed a “workhorse”. Stripling has struck out 110 batters in 118 innings, sporting a 10-3 record and a 2.90 ERA. The third starter is Rafael Pineda who is 5-1 with a 2.78 ERA. Pineda likes to minimize innings by getting quick ground ball outs.
The bullpen is ironically front-loaded with quality set-up men and hit-or-miss 9th inning guys. Estevan Uriegas and Parker Ray have appeared in 53 games combined with both having sub-1.75 earned run averages. The save opportunities have been split between Kyle Martin and Daniel Mengden. Martin has 5 losses and 6 saves while Mengden has 3 losses and 3 saves. The inconsistency of the two power pitchers are a big reason why the Aggies are 1-4 when they are tied going into the 9th.
Hitting: Texas A&M is a balanced offensive team that has 5 starters hitting above the .300 mark. The leader is junior Tyler Naquin who is batting .384 with 3 home runs and 46 RBI’s. Like Wacha, the outfielder is likely to be a first round pick next month. The team ranks outside the top 150 in home runs hit with just 23, but they make up for the lack of power with base runners. Ten different Aggies have double-digit walk totals with Mikey Reynolds leading the team with 28. On the season they have walked 86 more times than their opponents and hold a total of 216 free passes. They are 4th in the NCAA in stolen bases with 127, ironically the team that they play in the first round, Dayton, is 1st in the NCAA with 162. Texas A&M will not slug you to death, but have a much more meticulous approach of compiling walks and singles, stealing bases, and creating big innings.
Defense: They are a very run-of-the-mill defensive team with 65 errors on the season. 24 of those have come from the left-side of Juengel and Reynolds. The A&M catchers led by Troy Stein have thrown out an impressive 22 of 56 steal attempts.
Texas A&M is a dangerous team who lives and dies by their pitching and defense. When they give up 3 runs or less, they are 30-3. Conversely, when they give up more than 3 runs, they are 12-13. That is the most telling stat for a team that is looking to get hot at the right time. They will play their first game Friday night at 6:35 at Olsen Field against the Dayton Flyers. A preview of Dayton will be up tomorrow.