FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas - The Aggies head into the home stretch of the regular-season as they begin a span in which they play seven games in nine days. The string begins with their last road games of the season, a three-game series at Arkansas beginning on Friday.
Texas A&M is looking to win their third consecutive road series on the heels of winning two of three games at both then-No.7 Vanderbilt and then-No. 21 Mississippi State. Winners of seven of their last nine games, with six of the wins coming against Top 25 competition, the Aggies close out the season with seven games against teams ranked in the top 60 of the RPI.
Nick Banks ranks second in the SEC in batting average in league games with his .374 mark. He trails only Florida’s Taylor Gushue (.378) entering the weekend. He has 12 runs, five doubles, one triple, one home run and 13 RBI in 24 league games.
Krey Bratsen enters the weekend ranked second among all active players in the nation in Games Played (232), Stolen Bases (86) and Sacrifice Bunts (51). He trails only Georgia Tech’s Mott Hyde (236) in games played. Bratsen entered the season as the active leader in games played, but was hampered by an illness throughout February. His stolen base mark trails only North Carolina State’s Trea Turner who enters the weekend with 108 steals. The 51 sacrifice bunts are second only to Oregon’s Aaron Payne (53) .
TEXAS A&M AGGIES (30-19, 12-12 SEC) vs. ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS (30-20, 11-13 SEC)
Baum Stadium (10,737) • Fayetteville, Arkansas
SCHEDULE - Friday 6:30 pm; Saturday 6:00 pm; Sunday 1:00 pm
TELEVISION - Saturday - Cox Sports
RADIO - WTAW-AM 1620 (Dave South - play-by-play)
LIVE VIDEO - Friday & Sunday - aggieathletics.com (with premium subscription via Arkansas Athletics)
LIVE AUDIO - aggieathletics.com • radioaggieland.com (free)
LIVE STATS - tamu.statbroadcast.com/tamustats.com (mobile devices)
RANKINGS - Texas A&M - #20 (BA); Arkansas - unranked
SERIES HISTORY - Texas A&M leads the series 39-31-1
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
• FRIDAY: #15 Daniel Mengden (Jr., RHP, 4-6, 3.78) vs #21 Trey Killian (So., RHP, 2-8, 2.42)
• SATURDAY: #38 Grayson Long (So., RHP, 6-1, 2.93) vs #39 Chris Oliver (Jr., RHP, 6-4, 2.87)
• SUNDAY: TBA vs TBA
TEXAS A&M/ARKANSAS SERIES NOTABLES
Texas A&M and Arkansas have met on 71 prior occasions with the Aggies owning an 39-31-1 advantage in the all-time series. The 71 meetings is the most for the Aggies against an old guard SEC squad. Arkansas won two of three last season in College Station, with A&M’s lone win coming on the back of a grand slam by Jonathan Moroney in the Friday night game. A&M has won 12 of the last 18 games. Sixty of the meetings came between 1974-91 when both teams were members of the Southwest Conference. The Aggies owned a 32-28 record during the SWC era.
MORE ON ARKANSAS
Arkansas enters the contest with a 30-20 overall record and 11-13 mark in SEC play. The season got off to a roller coaster start with the Razorbacks starting 7-0 out of the gates before stumbling through a 1-7 stretch. A 9-1 run span followed to put Arkansas at 17-8 and they’ve been on an even keel since with a 13-12 record in the last 25 games.
The Razorbacks are hitting .266 on the season with a .357 slugging percentage and .357 on-base percentage. Arkansas has two players hitting over .300, including Joe Serrano (.317, 28 runs, 10 doubles, 19 RBI and eight stolen bases) and Brian Anderson (.317, 28 runs, 11 doubles, one triple, four home runs, 39 RBI and seven stolen bases). Eric Fisher (.266) is the top power source with 12 doubles, seven home runs and 35 RBI.
Trey Killian’s 2-8 record belies his 2.42 earned run average and .228 opponent batting average. Saturday starter Chris Oliver is 6-4 with a 2.87 ERA and .224 batting average. Closer Michael Gunn is 2-1 with seven saves, a 0.36 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 24.2 innings.
The Razorbacks have a proud baseball tradition, including seven trips to the College World Series with two coming in the last five years. Arkansas has earned a bid in the NCAA Championship on 26 occasions, including each of the last 12 years.
Arkansas boasts 44 former players who have gone on to play in the Major Leagues. The group is led by 2008 American League Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee, 12-year veteran and 2002 American League Rookie of the Year Eric Hinske.
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... in his start against Alabama, became 16th Aggie to reach the 200-strikeout plateau for a career... ranked 15th on A&M’s career strikeout list with 215... heads into the weekend ranked third in the SEC in strikeouts (80) and sixth in innings pitched (81.0).
SATURDAY’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... started the season by working 21.0 scoreless innings... after averaging just 4.37 innings per start as a freshman, Long has stretched his average innings per start to 6.14 in 2014... held No. 7 Vanderbilt to two runs on 11 hits and one walk while striking out four over 7.2 innings... three weeks he held hard hitting No. 21 Kentucky to two runs on eight hits while striking out eight over a career-long 8.0 innings.
PROTECTING THE HOMEFRONT
The Aggies are 22-10 in home games in 2014. Offensively, the Aggies are hitting .313 at home with eight players logging batting averages of .300 or higher. Jace Statum (.388), Ryne Birk (.385), Nick Banks (.371), Cole Lankford (.336) and Blake Allemand (.333) are all batting .330 or higher. Lankford leads the team with 29 RBI with five doubles and three home runs. Allemand leads the team with 23 runs at home. Logan Nottebrok (.269) has five doubles, five home runs and 20 RBI.
The Aggies are 8-9 on the road this season. Cole Lankford is the top hitter on the road, batting .358 (24-for-67) with eight runs, four doubles, one home run and 12 RBI. Nick Banks is batting .322 (19-for-59) with six runs, three doubles and 10 RBI on the road. Krey Bratsen has team highs with 12 runs and seven stolen bases. On the mound, Grayson Long is 2-1 with a 2.97 ERA in five road starts.
A&M has won six of its last eight road games. The Aggies are batting .301 (83-for-276) over the span and the Maroon and White are averaging 6.4 runs per game. The stretch includes five wins over Top 25 teams. Blake Allemand is hitting .452 (14-for-31) with eight runs, one triple and seven RBI. Lankford is batting .412 (14-for-34) with one double, one home run and 10 RBI. Nick Banks is batting .400 (14-for-35) with four runs, three doubles and eight RBI. Bratsen is hitting .345 with 11 runs and seven stolen bases.
BRATSEN CLIMBING AGGIES’ ALL-TIME GAMES LIST
After missing the beginning of the season with an illness, Krey Bratsen has seen action in 40 games, including 28 starts and 12 games as a defensive replacement/pinch-hitter. Bratsen has a chance to set the Aggies’ all-time record for games played. He currently has 232 career games under his belt, nine shy of the career record of 241 set by Scott Livingstone (1985-88). Last weekend he passed Sean Heaney (231 - 1997-2000) for third place on the list. He is four games shy of Kevin Gonzalez (236 - 2008-11), second on the 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.
Through 49 games this season, the Aggies have posted 46 different batting orders. With Logan Taylor out for the next few games, A&M figures to see more starting combinations. No Aggie has started every game, with Cole Lankford leading the squad with 48. Fifteen different Aggies have started at least 14 games this season. Nick Banks (42 – RF), Lankford (44 – 1B) and Logan Taylor (42 - SS) are the only three Aggies to start more than 37 games at the same position. Ten different players have batted in the sixth spot, nine have hit in the eighth spot in the batting order and eight different players have hit in the five hole and seven hole. Last season, A&M used 52 different batting orders in their 63 games.
SCHLOTTMANN SEES INCREASED WORKLOAD
After amassing just 7.2 innings in the Aggies’ first 35 games, Ty Schlottmann has twice logged career-long outings in A&M’s last 14 games and the Brenham native has logged four appearances of 2.0 innings or longer. Since the Maroon and White’s Saturday game at Vanderbilt, Schlottmann has worked 18.1 innings, allowing four runs on 12 hits and four walks while striking out 15 and holding opponents to a .185 batting average. He earned saves in both of A&M’s wins at No. 21 Mississippi State, including a 3.0-inning effort in the Friday win. He worked 6.2 scoreless innings against Kentucky, holding the Wildcats to two hits and one walk while striking out five. The sophomore pitched two blank frames in A&M’s 6-5 win over No. 16 Rice, holding the Owls to one hit and one walk. Prior to his 3.1 inning outing against Vanderbilt, Schlottmann’s career-long was 2.1 innings against Houston and he had only worked more than 1.0 inning on four occasions in his first 18 appearances.
BREAKOUT WEEK FOR BIRK
Ryne Birk had a breakout week three weeks ago with the Aggies’ Wednesday game against Abilene Christian and three-game series against No. 24 Kentucky. In the four games, he got two starts and hit .636 (7-for-11) with one double and two home runs. In the four games, he logged a 1.273 slugging percentage, seven runs and eight RBI. In the last dozen games, Birk is reaching base on a .524 rate and hitting .394 (13-for-33) with 12 runs, one double, one triple, two home runs, 11 RBI and three stolen bases. Thirty-seven games into the season, Birk appeared in just 14 games with five starts. He hit just .192 (5-for-26) with one double, one triple and three RBI. Despite the limited action, he did have an impact in those first 37 games logging four of his five pinch-hits, including a three-run triple at No. 7 Vanderbilt.
EVERY DAY PITCHER
Andrew Vinson has logged plenty of work in the first 49 games, making 25 appearances. Vinson enters the weekend ranked third in the SEC in appearances, trailing Missouri’s Austin Tribby who has pitched in 28 contests and LSU’s Joe Broussard who has pitched in 25 games.
He is 2-1 with a 2.37 ERA and two saves. He earned his first career save in the Aggies’ 5-4 win at UT Arlington and earned save in A&M’s 6-5 win at No. 16 Rice. He garnered a win in relief in the Aggies’ 9-5 victory over Georgia on Sunday by retiring all six batters he faced and picked up the win against LSU with two innings of relief in last Sunday’s win. He has allowed nine runs, eight earned, on 17 hits and six walks while striking out 30 in 30.1 innings of work. He has already exceeded his 2013 workload when he made 16 appearances and pitched 20.0 innings.
The Aggies are 9-5 in one-run games and 9-6 in games decided by one run or/or extra innings. In their most recent series, all three games were decided by one run with the Aggies winning two against No. 5 LSU. The Tigers won the first game, in 10 innings, 5-4. Texas A&M finished off the series with 3-2 and 5-4 wins.
MENGDEN REACHES 200 STRIKEOUT PLATEAU
In his outing against Alabama, Daniel Mengden reached the 200-strikeout plateau for his career. With his two strikeouts on Saturday at Mississippi State, the junior surpassed John Stilson (209 - 2010-11) to move up to 15th in the all-time strikeout list. He is believed to be the 16th player in school history to reach the milestone. He need 32 more strikeouts to crack the Aggie Top 10. Casey Fossum owns the school career record with 404 from 1997-99.
ALLEMAND ENTERS WITH 25-GAME STREAK REACHING BASE
Blake Allemand has reached base in each of the last 25 games. During the span he boasts a .487 on-base percentage with 19 walks and a .381 batting average (37-for-97). He has 23 runs, three doubles, one triple, 13 RBI, four sacrifice bunts and three stolen bases. He has helped spark an offense that is averaging 6.16 runs per game over the last 25 games, up from 5.21 runs per game in the first 24 games.
After starting the season batting .252 (103-for-408) in the first 13 games, the Aggie offense has revved up the last 36 contests, hitting .306 (387-for-1,264) over the span. A&M’s on-base (.351/.380) and slugging (.343/.403) numbers are also up over the span. It is starting to translate into a jump in runs as the Aggies scoring has ticked up from 5.15 runs per game in the first 13 contests to 5.89 in the last 33.
BANKS SETTLING IN AS A FRESHMAN
After a slow start in which he hit just .160 (4-for-25) in the Aggies’ first 16 games, Nick Banks has heated up to the tune of .390 (48-for-123) over the last 33 contests. His on-base (.276/.437) and slugging (.200/.528) percentages are also up substantially over the span. On the year, Banks is leading the team with a .351 batting average (52-for-148) and .473 slugging percentage and he has 25 runs, eight doubles, two triples, two home runs and 22 RBI.
The Aggies return to action next Tuesday when the Maroon and White host the Sam Houston State Bearkats in their last non-conference tilt of the season.