COLUMBIA, S.C. - The Texas A&M Aggies head to the Palmetto State looking to build on the recent momentum that has seen them win eight of their last nine games, including five of six in SEC action. The Aggies play the South Carolina Gamecocks in a three-game series one weekend after winning two of three at Ole Miss. A&M will send true freshman Grayson Long to the mound on Thursday for his first-ever weekend start. Mikey Reynolds looks to extend his string of reaching base to 26 games and Troy Stein will try to extend a career-long seven-game hit streak.
TEXAS A&M AGGIES (18-8, 5-1 SEC) at SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS (19-6, 2-4 SEC)
Carolina Stadium (8,242) • Columbia, South Carolina
SCHEDULE - Thursday, 6:30 pm • Friday, 6:00 pm • Saturday, 12:30 pm
TELEVISION - Thursday - ESPNU (Dave Neal, play-by-play and Kyle Peterson, Color)
RADIO - WTAW-AM 1620 (Dave South, play-by-play)
LIVE AUDIO - aggieathletics.com • radioaggieland.com
LIVE VIDEO - Friday and Sunday - gamecocksonline.com
LIVE STATS - gamecocksonline.com
RANKINGS - A&M - 13th (CB)/30th (NCBWA) • USC - 13th (NCBWA)/14th (CB)/14th (USAT)/17th (BA)
SERIES HISTORY - South Carolina leads 1-0
SERIES STREAKS - South Carolina is on a one-game streak
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
• Thursday - Grayson Long (Fr., RHP, 3-0, 2.35 ERA) vs Evan Beal (So., RHP, 2-1, 4.12 ERA)
• Friday - Kyle Martin (Sr., RHP, 2-3, 4.33 ERA) vs Nolan Belcher (Sr., LHP, 4-2, 1.45 ERA)
• Saturday - Daniel Mengden (So., RHP, 4-1, 1.79 ERA) vs Jack Wynkoop (Fr., LHP, 4-0, 2.25 ERA)
A DIFFERENT STREAK
Although Mikey Reynolds career-long hit streak was snapped at 22 games in the Aggies’ 2-1 win over Ole Miss last Sunday, he still has an impressive string going. Reynolds has reached base safely via hit, walk or hit-by-pitch in all 26 games this season. Reynolds, who has hit safely in 23 of 25 games, reached by way of a walk in the season opener vs UIC and reached by way both a hit-by-pitch and an intentional walk in the first game of the doubleheader sweep of Ole Miss. He is hitting .426 on the season with a .483 on-base percentage, 19 runs, six doubles, 13 RBI and 11 stolen bases.
Cole Lankford has been playing his best collegiate baseball as of late. In his last 14 games (the Aggies’ last 15 games), Lankford is batting .379 (22-for-58) with seven multiple hit games, five doubles, two triples, one home run and 13 RBI. In the weekend series at No. 8 Cal State Fullerton, he went 6-for-13 with five RBI. In the last five games, Lankford has three 3-hit games, going 3-for-5 each time. In the series finale against Georgia, Lankford came up just a single shy of hitting for the cycle going 3-for-5 with three runs, one double, one triple, one home run and one RBI. In the series finale against No. 6 Ole Miss, Lankford keyed the Aggies comeback, going 2-for-4 with one double and two runs scored.
TEXAS A&M/SOUTH CAROLINA SERIES NOTABLES
Texas A&M and South Carolina have met on just one prior occasion with the Gamecocks posting a 5-4 win in the first round of the 2011 College World Series. Brandon Wood had three RBI in the loss for the Aggies.
MORE ON SOUTH CAROLINA
South Carolina is 19-6 overall and 2-4 in SEC play. The Gamecocks bounced back for a 3-1 win over the College of Charleston after suffering a three-game league sweep at the hands of Arkansas. LB Dantzler leads the Gamecocks with a .345 batting average, six doubles, one triple, seven home runs and 27 RBI. Joey Pankake is hitting .337 with three doubles, five home runs and 20 RBI. Closer Tyler Webb is 0-1 with eight saves, a 1.00 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 18.0 innings. Nolan Belcher is the top starter at 4-2 with a 1.45 ERA and 42 strikeouts in six starts.
The Gamecocks have emerged as a perennial national power, winning College World titles in 2010 and 2011. South Carolina has made 11 CWS appearances, including each of the last three seasons.
South Carolina boasts 48 former players who have gone on to play in the Major Leagues. The group is headlined by two-time MLB All-Star outfielder Brian Roberts and 12-year veteran Mookie Wilson who snuck a ground ball past Bill Buckner in game six of the 1986 World Series, one of the most famous plays in MLB annals.
This season, eight pitchers have taken the mound as Aggies for the first time, including three true freshmen. The eight pitchers have combined to allow 15 earned runs on 60 hits and 33 walks over 81.1 innings. They own a 7-2 record with seven saves, a 1.65 ERA and 71 strikeouts. True freshman Grayson Long leads the group, posting a 3-0 mark with a 2.35 ERA and 24 strikeouts over 23.0 innings. Redshirt freshman Matt Kent is 2-1 in 12 appearances, racking up 14.2 frames, with five runs for a 3.07 ERA. Junior Jason Jester is 2-0 with seven saves and a 0.46 ERA. He hasn’t yielded a run in 19.2 innings of work, scattering nine hits and four walks while striking out 20. True freshman AJ Minter (5.0 IP) and sophomore transfer Nate Sorenson (0.1 IP) are unscathed on the year. Sophomore transfer Zach Brashear has allowed two unearned runs over 5.1 innings and redshirt freshman Ty Schlottmann has allowed one unearned run over 2.2 innings. True freshman Andrew Vinson has allowed three earned runs in 10.1 innings of work.
ALLEMAND GETTING INTO GEAR
After going 0-for-17 in his first six games (the Aggies first eight games), Allemand has batted .293 (17-for-58) with four doubles, one home run and 14 RBI in the last 18 games. Even when he wasn’t hitting, Allemand was able to get on-base enough to score five runs in the first six games, drawing five walks and getting hit by two pitches for a .292 on-base percentage. His on-base percentage the last 18 games is .438 with 11 walks and four HBP.
Player AVG GP-GS AB R H RBI SLG% BB HBP SO OB% SH SB-ATT
First 6 games .000 6- 6 17 5 0 0 .000 5 2 7 .292 2 3-3
Last 17 games .293 18-18 58 7 17 14 .414 11 4 10 .438 3 5-5
MARTIN NOW APPEARING
Now the Aggies’ Friday night starter, Kyle Martin spent his first three seasons as a stalwart in the bullpen. He currently ranks fourth on A&M’s career list with 83 appearances, tied with Kyle Nicholson (2004-07). With three more appearances, Martin will move into a tie with Chris Russ (86 - 1998-2001) for fourth place on the career list. It will be a harder record to reach as a starter, but he’s chasing Kyle Thebeau’s record of 103 appearances between 2006-09.
BRATSEN STEALING THE SHOW
With nine stolen bases on the year, junior OF Krey Bratsen moved into fourth place on the Aggies career stolen bases charts with 61. He is three steals shy third place, trailing No. 3 Steven Truitt (63 - 1997-99). 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. Last season, Bratsen racked up 21 stolen bases.
THURSDAY’S PROBABLE STARTER: #38 GRAYSON LONG
Grayson Long is making his fifth career start and his first weekend start ... He’s been potent in a starting role to date, going 3-0 with a 1.31 ERA and 20 strikeouts over 20.2 innings in his four prior starts ... In his last start, he went 5.1 scoreless innings with two hits, two walks and two strikeouts on Mar. 19 against Dallas Baptist ... He also earned a win against Prairie View A&M (5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 8 K) and Texas Southern (5.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K).
FRIDAY’S PROBABLE STARTER: #32 KYLE MARTIN
After 77 relief appearances in his first three seasons, senior Kyle Martin made his first collegiate start on opening night ... Despite a no-decision and a team loss in the opener, Martin tallied career-highs with 6.2 IP and 10 strikeouts and the two runs he allowed were unearned ... He has walked just six batters on the season and while striking out 24 over 24.1 innings ... in his last start, he topped No. 8 Cal State Fullerton allowing just one run on six hits and two walks while striking out four over 6.2 innings ... His 83 appearances ranks fourth on A&M’s career list, three shy of third place ... Last season Martin served as the Aggies’ closer, going 6-5 with seven saves and a 3.20 ERA ... He was All-Big 12 Honorable Mention as a junior.
SATURDAY’S PROBABLE STARTER: #15 DANIEL MENGDEN
Sophomore Daniel Mengden is making his 11th career start and his seventh weekend start ... He leads the Aggies with four victories ... Last week, he allowed one run on six hits and one walk while striking out two over 5.2 innings in a win at Ole Miss ... In his first SEC start, he got no-decision despite holding Georgia to just one run while striking out eight over 8.0 innings ... On the road at No. 8 Cal State Fullerton, he was saddled with a loss despite allowing just two runs, one earned, on five hits while striking out six over 6.0 innings ... In his third outing he went a career-long with 8.0 IP against No. 12 Rice and equaled a career-high eight strikeouts ... He also had eight strikeouts in a win against Pepperdine in the second week of the season ... As a freshman, he made four weekday starts going 3-0 with a 0.68 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 26.2 innings ... He twice pitched 7.0 innings, including an effort at Sam Houston State where he pitched 7.0 scoreless innings, scattering six hits while striking out four ... In his 10 career starts, he is 7-1 with a 1.34 ERA and50 strikeouts in 67.0 innings.
SHINING AT HOME
The Aggies own a 14-3 record in home games during the 2013 campaign, led by a pitching staff which boasts a 1.69 ERA. Grayson Long leads the way with a 3-0 record and 1.25 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 21.2 innings. Rafael Pineda is 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 22.0 innings. Daniel Mengden owns a 1.31 ERA and 2-0 mark in three starts on the Olsen Field mound. He has yielded just three runs on 14 hits and one walk while striking out 18 over 20.2 innings. Freshman Jason Jester is 2-0 with five saves at home, working 13.0 shutout innings, scattering seven hits and two walks while striking out 11. Mikey Reynolds is hitting .397 with 10 runs, nine RBI and nine steals in 17 home games. Mengden is batting .321 with 10 runs, one double, one triple, two home run and nine RBI in 15 games. Cole Lankford is hitting .305 with four doubles, three triples, one home run and 12 RBI. Krey Bratsen has 11 runs, three doubles, 11 RBI and nine steals.
A&M has outscored opponents 30-15 in the first inning this season. The Aggies have scored 24.0% (30 of 125) of their runs in the first frame. The Maroon and White are batting .367 (40-for-109) and own a .462 on-base percentage in the first inning of games. Mikey Reynolds leads the squad with seven runs and 10 hits (.435 - 10-for-23) in the opening frame. Cole Lankford has nine RBI in the first inning, going 5-for-11 (.500) with one double, one triple and one RBI. Daniel Mengden is batting .467 (7-for-15) with one triple and five runs.
NINTH INNING LOCKDOWN
Texas A&M pitchers have yet to allow an earned run in ninth innings of games this season. In 20.0 innings of ninth inning work, the bullpen has allowed one unearned run on 14 hits and seven walks while striking out 17. Jason Jester leads the way with 10.2 scoreless innings, scattering five hits and two walks while striking out eight. Andrew Vinson worked 4.2 blank frames, scattering four hits and two walks while striking out six.
HERE COMES THE JESTER, 1-2-3
Jason Jester has been lights out as the Aggies’ closer this season. He is 2-0 with seven saves on the season. He has allowed just one earned run in 19.2 innings of work over 14 appearances, scattering nine hits and three walks while striking out 20. He is holding opponents to a .132 batting average, including just one extra-base hit.
MAKING A SACRIFICE
The Aggies are on pace for a school-record sacrifice bunts. With 35 bunts through 26 games, A&M is on pace for 75 sac bunts for the year. The school record is 55 in 2011. Last year, the Aggies put down 50 sacrifice bunts. Krey Bratsen leads the squad with 10 sacrifice bunts. Charlie Curl has added eight and Blake Allemand has five.
Mikey Reynolds entered the week of play ranked 13th in the nation in batting average (.438) and third in hits (42). Krey Bratsen ranked third in the nation with 10 sacrifice bunts and ninth with 0.40 sacrifice bunts per game. Jason Jester ranked fourth in the nation with seven saves.
As a team, the Aggies rank fourth in the nation with 34 sacrifice bunts.
Texas A&M returns to Blue Bell Park to start an eight-game homestand. On Tuesday, the Aggies host the UTSA Roadrunners in a 6:35 pm contest.