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Aggies Battle Mississippi State at SEC Tournament on Thursday

May 23, 2013
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Courtesy: Texas A&M Athletics
(photo: Texas A&M Athletics)

HOOVER, Alabama - The Texas A&M Aggies continue action at the SEC Tournament when they face the No. 13 Mississippi State Bulldogs on Thursday evening. The Aggies are the talk of the town after handing No. 1 Vanderbilt Commodores their first shutout loss of the season, 5-0. A&M pitchers have yielded just eight hits and one earned run in the first two games of the tournament. Aggie hitters have also given people something to talk about, accounting for the only four home runs of the tournament through eight games played. Hunter Melton has two home runs and Cole Lankford and Troy Stein have one apiece.

TEXAS A&M AGGIES (32-25, 13-16 SEC) vs MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS (42-16, 16-14 SEC)
Hoover Metropolitan Stadium (10,800) • Hoover, Alabama

SCHEDULE – Thursday, 7 pm
TELEVISION – SportSouth, Sun Sports, FOX Sports Southwest, FOX Sports Houston and FOX Sports South
RADIO – WTAW-AM 1620 (Dave South, play-by-play)
SATELLITE RADIO – SiriusXM 91
LIVE AUDIO – AggieAthletics.com • RadioAggieland.com
LIVE VIDEO – ESPN3
LIVE STATSwww.SECDigitalNetwork.com
RANKINGS
– A&M - unranked • MSU - #13 (NCBWA), #13 (USAT), #16 (BA), #18 (CB)
SERIES HISTORY – Mississippi State leads 9-8
SERIES STREAK – Mississippi State is on a five-game win streak

PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Thursday – Rafael Pineda (Jr., RHP, 5-4, 3.09 ERA) vs Kendall Graveman (Sr., RHP, 5-5, 2.99 ERA)

AGGIES IN THE CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT
Texas A&M appeared in 14 of 16 Big 12 Tournaments, winning three of the last six. The Aggies won the tournament titles in 2007, 2010 and 2011. The Maroon and White own the second-best winning percentage in tournament history (.563) with a 27-21 mark, trailing only Nebraska (.707) who went 29-12 in their 10 appearances. 2005 and 2006 were the only two seasons the Aggies didn’t make the tournament between 1997-2012.

The Aggies won SWC Tournament titles in 1986 and 1989.

HERE COMES THE JESTER, 1-2-3
Jason Jester has been solid as the Aggies’ closer this season, going 13-for-15 in save situations. He is 3-3 with 13 saves and a 2.41 ERA on the season. He has allowed 11 earned runs in 41.0 innings of work over 30 appearances, scattering 28 hits and 11 walks while striking out 35. He is holding opponents to a .188 batting average.

In 15 save opportunities, Jester has allowed just one run on 12 hits and four walks while striking out 18 over 22.1 innings. He owns a 0.40 ERA in save situations and holding opponents to a .156 batting average. He has allowed just two of 12 inherited runners to score.

REYNOLDS REACHING BASE
In the Aggies’ series finale against Missouri, Mikey Reynolds had his streak of reaching base snapped at 45 games. The senior has reached base in 52 of his 55 games. The streak began with a 22-game hit streak and ended with a 15-game hit streak. He has hit safely in 48 of 55 games. He is hitting .351 on the season with a .418 on-base percentage, 37 runs, 12 doubles, one triple, one home run, 24 RBI and 18 stolen bases. Reynolds’ 45-game streak of reaching base included three pinch-hit appearances in three games at Arkansas in which he drew a walk and hit two singles.

REYNOLDS THE STREAKER
Mikey Reynolds is the only player in NCAA Division I to log two or more hit streaks of at least 15 games. After going hitless in the first game of the season, Reynolds hit in the next 22 games, the sixth-longest streak in school annals. Later in the year he posted a 15-game hit streak that included back-to-back games with pinch-hit singles in his only at-bats.


COLE TRAIN
Cole Lankford has been playing his best collegiate baseball as of late. In his last 40 games (the Aggies’ last 46 games), Lankford is batting .364 (59-for-162) with 16 multiple hit games, including seven three-hit games. He has 14 doubles, two triples, three home runs and 29 RBI during the span. In the weekend series at No. 8 Cal State Fullerton, he went 6-for-13 with five RBI. 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. He batted 5-for-11 against South Carolina, including three hits in the series opener. Lankford batted 7-for-14 with two doubles and two RBI in the three-game series against Auburn. In four games last week, Lankford hit .444 (8-for-18) with three doubles, one home run and nine RBI.

TEXAS A&M/MISSISSIPPI STATE SERIES NOTABLES
Texas A&M and Mississippi State have met on 17 prior occasions with the Bulldogs owning an 9-8 advantage in the all-time series. In this season’s three-game series, the Bulldogs swept the Aggies in College Station, outscoring A&M 27-9. The Aggies swept a two-game series in 1907 and a three-game series in 1912. The teams didn’t meet again until a two-game set in College Station in 1986. The Bulldogs swept that 1986 set, as well as a two-game series in Starkville in 1987. The teams have met four times in the postseason. The Aggies beat the Bulldogs 7-4 at the 1987 NCAA Starkville Regional which was eventually won by Oklahoma State. Mississippi State beat A&M twice in three meetings at the 1998 NCAA College Station Regional which the Bulldogs won.

MORE ON MISSISSIPPI STATE
Mississippi State enters the contest with a 42-16 overall record and the Bulldogs finished third in the SEC Western Division with a 16-14 mark. MSU opened up action at the SEC Tournament with a 17-inning, 2-1 win over the Missouri Tigers on Tuesday. On Wednesday Mississippi State toppled the South Carolina Gamecocks, 5-3.

The Bulldogs are hitting .295 as a team spearheaded by Hunter Renfroe with a .355 batting average, 13 doubles, two triples, 15 home runs and 52 RBI. Adam Frazier is batting .340 with 51 runs, 15 doubles, six triples and 28 RBI.

The Mississippi State pitching staff has been stout this season with a 2.66 ERA, holding opponents to a .220 batting average. Kendall Graveman has been the top starter with a 5-5 record and 2.99 ERA in 14 starts. He has three complete-games and a shutout on the year. Ross Mitchell has been stellar in long relief, posting a 10-0 record and 1.23 ERA in 27 appearances. He is holding foe to a .205 batting average over 73.1 innings. Closer Jonathan Holder is 2-0 with 15 saves and a 1.02 ERA in 27 appearances.

The Bulldogs have a proud baseball tradition, including eight trips to the College World Series. Mississippi State has earned a bid in the NCAA Championship on 32 occasions, including each of the last two years.

Mississippi State boasts 45 former players who have gone on to play in the Major Leagues. The group is led by 20-year veteran, four-time MLB All-Star and 3000-hit club member Rafael Palmeiro, five-time MLB All-Star Jonathan Papelbon and six-time MLB All-Star and 1989 NL Championship Series MVP Will Clark. Former Bulldog Del Unser is one of only two MLB players (Lee Lacy) to hit three pinch-hit home runs in consecutive at-bats.

NKOTB
Texas A&M is in the midst of its first season in the Southeastern Conference. After 16 seasons in the Big 12 Conference, the Aggies will meet a new set of league mates. This year, A&M will face 10 of 13 possible conference opponents in the regular season, with no series scheduled against Florida, Kentucky and Vanderbilt this season.

The Aggies are 137-100-3 (.577) against current members of the SEC, including 3-2 vs Alabama, 39-31-1 vs Arkansas, 1-2 vs Auburn, 7-1 vs Florida, 3-0 vs Georgia, 3-1 vs Kentucky, 16-14-1 vs LSU, 6-3 vs Ole Miss, 8-9 vs Mississippi State, 47-32-1 vs Missouri, 0-4 vs South Carolina, 3-1 vs Tennessee and 1-0 vs Vanderbilt. With long-time Big 12 companion Missouri out of the equation, A&M entered 2013 campaign with a 78-52-2 (.595) mark against the old guard. Texas A&M had never faced Auburn, Georgia and Vanderbilt prior to the 2013 campaign.

NINTH INNING LOCKDOWN
Texas A&M pitchers have allowed just four earned runs in the ninth innings of games this season. In 40.0 innings of ninth inning work, the bullpen has allowed five runs, four earned, on 28 hits and 14 walks while striking out 32 for a 0.90 ERA and .196 opponent batting average. Jason Jester leads the way with 20.1 scoreless innings, scattering eight hits and five walks while striking out 15. Parker Ray has worked 3.0 scoreless frames, scattering three hits and two walks while striking out one.

SETTING THE TABLE
Batters leading off an inning are hitting .308 (136-for-442) with 22 doubles, four triples, 10 home runs and a .373 on-base percentage. Daniel Mengden has a .600 on-base percentage, going 13-for-25 (.520) with four walks, one hit-by-pitch, two doubles and three home runs to lead the way. Mikey Reynolds owns a .455 on-base percentage, going 31-for-79 (.392) with six doubles, six walks and three HBP. Cole Lankford has a .405 on-base percentage, batting 15-for-40 (.375) with three doubles, one triple and one home run. Krey Bratsen owns a .400 on-base percentage leading off innings, going 14-for-38 (.378) with one double one home run and two HBP.

GRUELING SCHEDULE
The Aggies slate has featured nine teams in the Baseball America Preseason Top 25 for a total of 22 games. The slate also highlights seven games against three teams in the BA Preseason Top 5 and 13 games against five teams in the BA Preseason Top 10. The Aggies play preseason No. 1 North Carolina and No. 18 Rice at the Astros Foundation College Classic at Minute Maid Park. They have a non-conference road series at No. 22 Cal State Fullerton. They have SEC series at No. 13 Ole Miss, No. 7 South Carolina and No. 3 Arkansas and SEC home series against No. 5 Mississippi State and No. 10 LSU.

MORE ON THE 2013 SCHEDULE
Fifteen teams on Texas A&M’s 2013 schedule will be coming off NCAA tournament campaigns.

Of the 15 squads who earned a berth in the field of 64 in ‘13, four hosted regionals and Arkansas and South Carolina both advanced to the College World Series in Omaha where the Gamecocks finished as national runner-up to Arizona. Nine of the Aggies’ opponents racked up 40 or more wins.

The Aggies have played a total of 33 games against 2012 NCAA tourney teams this spring.

LOADED WEAPON
Mitchell Nau has five plate appearances with bases load this season. The sophomore has gone 4-for-5 with bases loaded with seven RBI. Against UT Pan American, Nau had a bases-loaded situation in the fifth inning, but a passed ball on a 0-2 pitch unloaded the bases. As a team, the Aggies have a .324 batting average (22-for-68) and .370 on-base percentage with 54 RBI in 81 plate appearances.

CHILDRESS EARNS WIN NUMBER 300
With the Aggies’ midweek win over Houston Baptist on March 12, head coach Rob Childress reached the 300-win plateau for his career. Childress owns a 321-178-2 record, all as the skipper of the Aggies. He trails only Mark Johnson (876 - 1985-2005) and Tom Chandler (660 - 1959-84) on A&M’s career win list.

FREE BASEBALL
The Aggies are 1-3 in extra innings this season. Texas A&M beat Georgia, 2-1, in 10 innings in their Saturday affair at Blue Bell Park and lost their Friday night home game against Auburn, 6-4, in 10 innings and road game at Sam Houston State, 9-8, in 11 innings. In a game that was scheduled for seven innings, the Aggies lost a heart-breaking 2-1 decision in eight innings in the rubber match against No. 3 LSU.

ROAD WARRIOR

Troy Stein owns a considerably higher batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage in road games as compared to home games. In 19 road games, Stein is batting .338 (24-for-71) on the road, 45 points higher than his home batting average.

Player           AVG  GP-GS  AB   R   H  RBI  SLG%  BB HBP  SO   OB%  SH  SB-ATT 
19 road games   .338  19-18  71  12  24    8  .549   5   1  19  .390   0   2-2
26 home games   .293  28-27  99  11  29   11  .404   6   1  14  .336   2   1-1

STEIN PICKING UP STEAM
After a bit of a slow start, Troy Stein has hit .324 (44-for-136) in his last 37 games with 21 runs, six doubles, two triples, five home runs and 19 RBI. In the first 18 games of the season, Stein played in 15, including 13 starts and hit .260 (13-for-50) with just four runs, three doubles, one triple and three RBI. His slugging percentage (.507) and on-base percentage (.376) over his last 37 games is vastly improved over the numbers he put up in his first 15 games (.360 and .315, respectively).


Player           AVG  GP-GS  AB   R   H  RBI  SLG%  BB HBP  SO   OB%  SH  SB-ATT 
First 18 games  .260  15-13  50   4  13    3  .360   2   2  12  .315   1   1-1
Last 39 games   .324  37-37 136  21  44   19  .507  10   1  28  .376   1   3-3

MARTIN CLIMBING CAREER PITCHING APPEARANCES CHART
Kyle Martin spent his first three seasons exclusively as a stalwart in the bullpen and one of the pitchers most called upon by Coach Rob Childress. He currently ranks third on A&M’s career list with 93 appearances. Martin has some work ahead of him to move up the list further as he’s chasing Kyle Thebeau’s record of 103 appearances between 2006-09. Estevan Uriegas (2009-12) ranks second with 100 appearances.

PROTECT THE HOMEFRONT
The Aggies are 23-10 this season at Blue Bell Park, including a 8-7 mark in SEC action. Six A&M players are hitting over .300 at home, including Mikey Reynolds (.352), Cole Lankford (.333), Hunter Melton (.333), Daniel Mengden (.329), Krey Bratsen (.314) and Jace Statum (.304). Daniel Mengden is 4-1 with a 1.24 ERA with 45 strikeouts in 50.2 innings in his seven starts at home. Rafael Pineda is 5-1 with a 1.71 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 47.1 innings in his nine games, including eight starts at home. Jason Jester is 2-1 with a 10 saves, a 2.31 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 23.1 innings over 17 appearances.

JESTER SETS A&M SINGLE-SEASON SAVES RECORD
With his save in the series opener against LSU, Jason Jester tied the A&M single-season saves record of 13 set by Scott Beerer in 2003.

BRATSEN CLIMBING CAREER STOLEN BASES CHART
With 17 stolen bases on the year, junior OF Krey Bratsen moved into third place on the Aggie career stolen base charts with 69. Jason Tyner owns the school record with 118 from 1996-98. Chuck Knoblauch (1987-89) is next on the list with 83 steals.

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:  #55 RAFAEL PINEDA
Rafael Pineda is making his 28th career start ... The first 20 starts, and 24 overall, were “Sunday” starts coming at the tail end of series ... After back-to-back starts, against No. 1 North Carolina and No. 8 Cal State Fullerton, in which he didn’t record an out, Pineda was removed from the weekend rotation, but returned for the Auburn series ...  He worked his way back into the weekend rotation after two midweek starts in which he did not allow an earned run in 11.1 innings of work ... Three weeks ago, Pineda started both a Tuesday and Sunday outing earning two wins without yielding an earned run in 11.1 innings, but he missed a start two weekend’s start with tightness ... He spent the entire 2012 season as the Aggies’ Sunday starter, amassing a 5-1 record and 2.71 ERA.

MELTON HEATING UP
In the last 13 games, Hunter Melton is hitting .352 (19-for-54) with seven runs, two doubles, one triple, four home runs and 11 RBI. Prior to the outburst, the Corsicana-native was hitting just .171 (7-for-41), but he did have two doubles, two home runs and seven RBI in the 14 games.

Player           AVG  GP-GS  AB   R   H   2B  3B  HR  RBI  SLG%  BB HBP  SO   OB%
First 44 games  .171  14-12  41   4   7    2   0   2    7  .366   7   0  12  .292 
Last 13 games   .352  13-13  54   7  19    2   1   4   11  .648   1   1  13  .375

BRATSEN BACK ON A HOT STREAK
The only player to play in every game for the Aggies, Krey Bratsen has gone through some hot and cold stretches. He’s currently on one of his hot streaks, getting a hit in 10 of the last 11 games and registering a .447 batting average (17-for-38).

Player        AVG  GP-GS   AB   R   H  RBI  TB  SLG%  BB HBP   OB%  SF  SH  SB-ATT  
Games 1-12   .356  12-12   45   6  16   7   17  .378   2   1  .396   0   4   6-7    
Games 13-24  .132  12-12   38   7   5   4    6  .158   6   0  .244   1   5   2-3   
Games 25-33  .406   9-9    32   4  13   5   14  .438   4   2  .487   1   4   3-3   
Games 34-46  .160  13-13   50   3   8   2   10  .200   2   1  .208   0   3   3-4    
Games 47-57  .447  11-11   38   7  17   4   23  .605   0   1  .450   1   1   3-3


STATUM  PICKING UP STEAM
Outfielder Jace Statum has raised his batting average 44 points in the last 11 games. Statum played in 37 of the Aggies first 46 games, with 25 starts, hitting .216 with a .243 slugging percentage and .356 on-base percentage. After hitting .367 with a .400 slugging percentage and .457 on-base percentage the last 11 games, he has his season batting average up to .267. Statum’s .367 batting average the last 11 games ranks second on the squad behind only Krey Bratsen’s .447 and Daniel Mengden’s .407.

Player          AVG  GP-GS   AB   R   H  RBI  TB  SLG%  BB HBP  OB%  SF SH  SB-ATT  
First 46 games .216  37-25   74  15  16    6  18  .243  16   0 .356   6  6   6-10
Last 11 games  .367  11-10   30   6  11    1  12  .400   5   0 .457   0  2   3-4

MENGDEN GETTING RESULTS
After going through a stretch in which he went 1-3 with four no decisions over a span of eight starts despite a 2.22 ERA, Daniel Mengden has taking things to the next level over his last four starts. During the stretch, he is 4-0 with a 1.06 ERA and he is holding opponents to a .168 batting average with 30 strikeouts over 34.0 innings. Mengden started the season going 3-0 with a 2.18 ERA and .176 opponent batting average in his first three starts.

Player           ERA   W-L  AP GS CG   IP    H   R  ER  BB  SO  B/Avg
First 3 Starts   2.18  3-0   3  3  0  20.2  12   5   5   5  18  .176
Middle 8 Starts  2.22  1-3   8  8  0  52.2  41  18  13  10  43  .214
Last 4 Starts    1.06  4-0   4  4  2  34.0  19   6   4   6  30  .168



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