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A&M Hosts Abilene Christian on Wednesday

April 16, 2014
Courtesy: Texas A&M Athletics
(photo: Texas A&M Athletics)

COLLEGE STATION, Texas - As the regular-season heads into its final third, the Aggies open up a key four-game homestand on Wednesday as the Maroon and White host the Abilene Christian Wildcats in a 6:35 pm contest on Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park.

The Aggies are coming off a series win at No. 7 Vanderbilt, the first home series loss for the Commodores since April 2012.

Texas A&M is 17-7 at home and the Aggie bats are warmer at home where the Maroon and White is batting .294 and boasts six players hitting .300 or better, including Nick Banks (.333), Jace Statum (.327), Logan Taylor ( .325), Cole Lankford (.320), JB Moss (.319) and Blake Allemand (.313).

Corey Ray is making his first start of the season. The northpaw has two victories in relief this season and is holding opponents to a .179 batting average in 8.0 innings of work.

TEXAS A&M AGGIES (22-15, 7-8 SEC) vs. ABILENE CHRISTIAN WILDCATS (12-20, 2-7 Southland)
Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park (6,100) • College Station, Texas

SCHEDULE: Wednesday 6:35 pm
RADIO: WTAW-AM 1620  (Dave South - play-by-play)
LIVE VIDEO: (premium subscription)
LIVE AUDIO:  • (free)
LIVE STATS: (mobile devices)
RANKINGS: A&M - unranked; ACU - unranked
SERIES HISTORY: Texas A&M leads 2-0
SERIES STREAKS: Texas A&M won the only two meetings

• WEDNESDAY: #22 Corey Ray (Jr., RHP, 2-0, 2.25) vs. #32 Ladgie Zotyka (Jr., RHP, 0-0, 6.57)

Wednesday marks the third meeting ever between Texas A&M and Abilene Christian on the ball diamond. Both of the previous meetings came in 1976 with the Aggies winning 9-3 and 3-2 in College Station.

The Abilene Christian Wildcats, in their first season playing Division I baseball, are 12-20 overall and 2-7 in the Southland Conference. ACU enters play with a seven-game losing streak.

The Wildcats are hitting .287 as a team with a .373 on-base percentage and .357 slugging percentage. Seth Spivey leads the team with a .367 batting average, 30 runs, nine doubles, three triples, three home runs, 20 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 32 games. Kyle Giusti is hitting .364 with 19 runs, 18 RBI and five stolen bases in 22 games. Brendon Grudzielanek is hitting .357 with 24 RBI in 30 games.

The pitching staff has been the Achilles’ heel for Abilene Christian in 2014 with a 5.75 ERA and .297 opponent batting average. Wednesday’s starter Ladgie Zotyka is making his first start of the season with a 0-0 record and 6.57 ERA in 12.1 innings of work.

ACU head coach Britt Bonneau played college baseball at Oklahoma where he hit .285 and scored a team-best 72 runs for the Sooner squad that advanced to the 1992 College World Series.

The Wildcats captured eight Lone Star Conference South Division titles, two LSC regular-season championships and five LSC Tournament titles from 2000-10. ACU played in nine of the last 13 NCAA Division II Championships, including advancing to the 2003 Division II College World Series.

Abilene Christian’s Bill Gilbreth is the lone Wildcat to reach the Major League ranks pitching in 14 games for the Detroit Tigers and California Angels from 1971-74.

Making his first start of the season and the 10th of his career. As a sophomore, made six starts going 3-2 with a 4.28 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 27.1 innings of work. Made three starts as a freshman going 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 15.0 innings. This season earned wins in relief against UT Pan American and Columbia.

In the Aggies’ last 13 games, Krey Bratsen is hitting .371 (13-for-35) with two doubles, one triple, three RBI and six stolen bases in 12 games, including nine starts. He has a team-high 12 runs during the span. Bratsen missed the beginning of the season with an illness and only appeared in 16 of the Aggies’ first 24 games with only seven starts. In the span, he hit .219 (7-for-32) with five runs, two RBI and four stolen bases.

The Aggies are currently hitting .361 (13-for-36) with two walks, one sacrifice fly, one sac bunt, one double, one home run and seven RBI in 40 pinch-hit appearances. Mitchell Nau (3-for-3, one double, one home run, 5 RBI) and Ryne Birk (4-for-8, one triple, 3 RBI) are the top pinch-hitting options. Krey Bratsen (1-for-1, one sac bunt, 1 RBI), Nick Banks (1-for-2), Nick Choruby (1-for-2), Jonathan Moroney (1-for-6, one sac fly, 1 RBI), JB Moss (1-for-2, one walk) and Jace Statum (1-for-3) account for the other six hits.

After missing the beginning of the season with an illness, Krey Bratsen has seen action in 28 games, including 16 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 220 career games under his belt, 21 shy of the career record of 241 set by Scott Livingstone (1985-88). Over the weekend he passed Kyle Colligan (218 - 2006-09) for seventh place

As a freshman, Bratsen played in all 69 games, including 68 starts. In 2012, he played in 60 games, including 55 starts.

Senior Krey Bratsen is flying up the Aggies career stolen bases charts with 80 which ranks third. He is just three 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.

After starting the season batting .252 (103-for-408) in the first 13 games, the Aggie offense has revved up the last 24 contests, hitting .289 (245-for-848) over the span. A&M’s on-base (.351/.359) and slugging (.343/.383) numbers are also up over the span. It is starting to translate into a jump in runs as the Aggies scoring has ticked up minimally from 5.15 runs per game in the first 13 contests to 5.50 in the last 24.

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 .378 (28-for-74) over the last 21 contests. His on-base (.276/.420) and slugging (.200/.500) are also up substantially over the span. On the year, Banks is hitting .323 (32-for-99) with five doubles, one triple, one home run and 12 RBI in 32 games, including 30 starts.

After missing much of the preseason practice and the first five games, Logan Taylor took some time to warm up at the plate. He hit just .167 (5-for-30) in his first eight games, all starts at shortstop. But in the last 24 games, Taylor is hitting .292 (28-for-96) with 10 doubles and 13 RBI. His on-base (.219/.333) and slugging (.200/.448) numbers are also up substantially over the span. On the year, Taylor is hitting .262 (33-for-126) with 11 doubles, one triple, one home run and 10 RBI in 32 games, all starts at shortstop.

After being pulled from the starting lineup with a .175 batting average (7-for-40) through the first 13 games, Blake Allemand registered a pinch-hit on March 7 against Louisiana Tech. Since the pinch-hit, Allemand is batting .359 (23-for-64) with 15 runs and 10 RBI in 19 games, including 17 starts. For the year, Allemand is batting .288 with 21 runs and 15 RBI in 31 games, including 28 starts.

The Aggies are 17-7 in home games in 2014. Offensively, the Aggies are hitting .294 at home with six players logging batting averages of .300 or higher. Nick Banks (.333), Jace Statum (.327), Logan Taylor (.325) and Cole Lankford (.316) are all batting .320 or higher. Lankford leads the team with 23 RBI with five doubles and three home runs. Blake Allemand (.313) and Patrick McLendon (.297) share the team lead with 16 runs at home. Logan Nottebrok (.236) has five doubles, four home runs and 15 RBI.

The Aggies have already produced 12 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 three games the aggies have produced multiple “big innings”: the Aggies’ 11-2 win over Northeastern, 12-3 win over Stephen F Austin and 13-8 win vs Alabama. 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. The only time this season, the Aggies have lost when posting a big inning was in their 10-8 loss to Houston when the Cougars responded with a big inning of their own, scoring five runs in the fourth after A&M scored four in the third.

In all, Texas A&M pitchers have allowed four “big innings” by opponents, five runs in the sixth inning of the Aggies’ 6-5 loss at Fresno State, four runs in the eighth inning of the series finale against Louisiana Tech and four runs in the second inning of an 8-1 loss to Sam Houston State, in addition to the aforementioned five-run fourth inning against Houston.

In the Aggies Friday night contest against Alabama, Daniel Mengden reached the 200-strikeout plateau for his career. He is believed to be the 16th player in school history to reach the milestone. With 203 strikes for his career, Mengden is approaching John Stilson (209 - 2010-11) for 15th place on A&M’s career list. He need 44 more strikeouts to crack the Aggie Top 10. Casey Fossum owns the school career record with 404 from 1997-99.

With their win over Vanderbilt last Friday, Texas A&M became the 12th NCAA Division I program and first SEC team to hit the 2,500-win plateau. The Aggies now stand 2,501-1,419-42 in the history of the program. The last team to reach the milestone was Washington State in 2011. Fellow SEC teams Mississippi State and Alabama are both less than 20 wins from the mark and have the possibility of reaching the mark the season.

The Aggies continue SEC play on Friday when they host the Kentucky Wildcats for a three-game series on Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park.

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