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Aggies Face UCSB in Elimination Game on Sunday

June 02, 2013
Courtesy: Ethan Erickson
(photo: Ethan Erickson)

CORVALLIS, Oregon - The Texas A&M Aggies and UC Santa Barbara Gauchos meet in an elimination game at the Corvallis Regional on Sunday afternoon. The winner advances to play host Oregon State and would need to beat the Beavers in two consecutive games  (Sunday evening and Monday afternoon) to claim the regional title. The contest is a rematch of Friday afternoon’s contest which the Gauchos won 6-4. Cole Lankford has been on a tear at the regional, getting a hit in his last seven at-bats and going 8-for-9 in the tournament.

TEXAS A&M AGGIES (33-28, 13-16 SEC) vs UCSB GAUCHOS (35-24, 17-10 Big West)
Goss Stadium (3,248) • Corvallis, Oregon
SCHEDULE – Sunday, 2 pm Central
RADIO – WTAW-AM 1620 (Dave South, play-by-play)
LIVE VIDEO – ESPN3 and WatchESPN (Tom Hart and Mike Rooney)
RANKINGS – A&M - unranked • UCSB - unranked
SERIES STREAK – UCSB won the only meeting

• Sunday – Rafael Pineda (Jr., RHP, 5-5, 3.14 ERA) vs Robby Nesovic (Fr., RHP, 4-3, 4.76 ERA)

The Aggies are making their 29th NCAA Championship appearance overall and their seventh in a row. The Aggies are 65-65 all-time in NCAA Championship play, including 56-42 in regional action.

Texas A&M has won regionals in 1993, 1999, 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2011. They also captured a district playoff in 1951 before regional play began.

The Aggies have advanced to the College World Series on five occasions, including 1951, ‘64, ‘93, ‘99 and 2011.

The Texas A&M bullpen has been steady over the last 21 games. The relievers have combined on a 2.17 ERA over the span holding opponents to a .241 batting average over the stretch. Leading the way is Jason Jester who has logged a 1-1 mark with three saves and an 0.77 ERA, allowing one run in 11.2 innings of work. Matt Kent is 0-0 with a 1.50 ERA, allowing two runs and striking out 10 over 12.0 innings. Now a starter, Parker Ray worked 7.0 scoreless innings of relief early in the stretch. The relievers have allowed just nine of 42 (21.4%) inherited runners to score in the last 21 games.

In the first 40 games of the year, the bullpen owned a 4.16 ERA and opponents were batting a healthy .271 off of Aggie relievers. The A&M firemen allowed 42 of 121 (34.7%) inherited runners to score in the first 40 games.

Cole Lankford’s 5-for-5 effort against UTSA at the Corvallis Regional set an A&M record for most hits in an NCAA Championship game. Numerous Aggies had logged four hits in a game with the most recent effort coming from Luke Anders (4-for-4) in a 15-1 win over Illinois-Chicago in 2008. On May 30, 1999, three different Aggies tallied four hits in an NCAA Tournament game against Long Beach State, including Shawn Schumacher (4-for-4), John Scheschuk (4-for-5) and Daylon Holt (4-for-6).

Erik Schindewolf 4-for-5 vs Alabama (May 31, 2003)
• Cliff Pennington 4-for-5 vs Lamar (June 4, 2004)
• Blake Stouffer 4-for-4 vs Ohio State (June 3, 2007)
Luke Anders 4-for-4 vs Illinois-Chicago (May 30, 2008)
Cole Lankford 5-for-5 vs UTSA (June 1, 2013)

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 2.32 ERA on the season. He has allowed 11 earned runs in 42.2 innings of work over 31 appearances, scattering 50 hits and 12 walks while striking out 37. He is holding opponents to a .192 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.

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 56 of his 59 games. The streak began with a 22-game hit streak and ended with a 15-game hit streak. He has hit safely in 50 of 59 games. He is hitting .339 on the season with a .408 on-base percentage, 40 runs, 14 doubles, one triple, one home run, 25 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.

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 Lankford has been playing his best collegiate baseball as of late. In his last 44 games (the Aggies’ last 50 games), Lankford is batting .376 (67-for-178) with 18 multiple hit games, including eight three-hit games and a career-best five-hit game in NCAA Regional action against UTSA. He has 17 doubles, two triples, three home runs and 33 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 the last four games of the regular season, Lankford hit .444 (8-for-18) with three doubles, one home run and nine RBI. He started NCAA Regional action by going 8-for-9 in A&M’s first two games, including a school NCAA Tournament-best 5-for-5 performance against UTSA.

The Gauchos won the only meeting between the two schools on Friday, 6-4. Texas A&M is 13-14 all-time against current members of the Big West Conference, including 5-7 vs Cal State Fullerton, 3-2 vs Cal State Northridge, 1-2 vs Hawaii, 3-2 vs Long Beach State and 1-0 vs UC Irvine. This season, the Maroon and White lost two of three at Cal State Fullerton.

Texas A&M has had run-ins with the Big West on six prior occasions, posting a 2-4 record. In 1988, the Aggies dropped a 6-3 decision against Cal State Fullerton at the South Regional in Starkville. In 1993, the Maroon and White dropped a 6-2 decision to Long Beach State at the College World Series. In 1999, Long Beach State won two of three meetings at the 1999 College Station Regional and lost a 4-2 decision to Cal State Fullerton at the College World Series. 

UC Santa Barbara enters Sunday’s action with a 35-24 overall record. The Gauchos, who finished second in the Big West with a 17-10 record, have won 12 of their last 16 games

The Gauchos swept a three-game non-conference series against San Jose State and won three-game non-conference series against Fresno State and Sacramento State. UCSB lost non-conference series against Texas and Cal Poly. They also split a four-game series against San Francisco.

The Gauchos won seven of their nine Big West Conference series, including their last six of the season against Long Beacn State, UC Riverside, UC Irvine, Cal State Northridge, Pacific and UC Davis.

Key offensive performers for the Gauchos include first baseman Tyler Kuresa who owns team-highs with a .459 sluggimg percentage and 45 RBI and Robby Nesovic who leads the team in hitting as a freshman with a .332 batting average. Kuresa owns a .297 batting average with 16 doubles, three triples and five home runs. Nesovic has nine doubles, four home runs and 33 RBI. Woody Woodward is hitting .326 with 33 runs, nine doubles, two triples, one home run and 34 RBI.

Nesovic, the expected Sunday starter on the mound, posted a 4-3 record on the year with a 4.76 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 51.0 innings. Closer Dylan Hecht is 0-2 with nine saves, a 1.83 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 34.1 innings. The Gauchos staff has a 3.95 ERA and 367 strikeouts in 519.0 innings.

The Gauchos are making their ninth appearance in the NCAA Championships. Their last appearance came in 2001 at the NCAA South Bend Regional where the Gauchos lost to Florida International (17-4), beat Milwaukee (13-12) and lost to Notre Dame (11-10). UCSB is 7-18 all-time in NCAA tournament play.

UCSB boasts 21 former players who have gone on to play in the Major Leagues. The group is led by 19-year veteran and three-time NL All-Star Chris Speier, seven-time AL All-Star Michael Young and three-time AL All-Star and 2003 AL Cy Young Barry Zito.

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 136-102-3 (.571) 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, 8-10 vs Mississippi State, 47-32-1 vs Missouri, 0-4 vs South Carolina, 3-1 vs Tennessee, 1-1 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.

With early season slumps and recent injuries head coach Rob Childress has used 53 different batting orders in 61 games this season. Krey Bratsen is the only player to start all 60 games. The last three games of the SEC Tournament mark the first time all season that the same lineup was used in three consecutive games.

Mikey Reynolds, Bratsen and Jace Statum are the only three players to bat in the same spot in the order in more than half the games this season with Reynolds leading off in 53 games, Bratsen batting in the No. 2 spot 42 times and Statum batting ninth on 33 occasions. The Aggies have had 10 different batters hit the No. 7 spot and nine different batters hit in the No. 6 and No. 9 spots. Allemand has hit in seven different spots in the order.

The Aggies are 10-18 against teams that made the 2013 NCAA tournament field.

Texas A&M beat Rice, 8-3, early in the season at the Minute Maid Classic but lost the contest the next day against North Carolina, 14-2.

On March 8-10, A&M took one-of-three from Cal State Fullerton on the road. In mid-week games, the Aggies claimed the lone matchup with UTSA, 11-4, and split games with Sam Houston State, 4-1 (W); 9-8 (L; 11 innings).

In the Maroon and White’s first road SEC series, the Aggies captured two seven-inning games from Ole Miss on March 24 to claim the series win. A&M was swept by South Carolina and Mississippi State. The Aggies claimed the series opener in Arkansas, 5-3, before dropping the next two games to lose the series. In a rain-shortened series, Alabama claimed the two games it played against the Aggies with 3-2 scores in both contests. The Aggies were the only team this season to win a series-opening game against LSU. A&M lost the series, however, when it dropped the seven-inning rubber-match 2-1.

At the SEC tournament in Hoover, Ala., A&M won its opening game against Florida, 6-3, and then knocked off top-seeded Vanderbilt, 5-0, before dropping back-to-back games to Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.

Texas A&M pitchers have allowed just four earned runs in the ninth innings of games this season. In 44.0 innings of ninth inning work, the bullpen has allowed five runs, four earned, on 32 hits and 16 walks while striking out 37 for a 0.82 ERA and .203 opponent batting average. Jason Jester leads the way with 21.1 scoreless innings, scattering 10 hits and six walks while striking out 17. Andrew Vinson 9.1 innings worth of ninth-inning work, allowing two runs on eight hits and three walks while striking out 11.

The Aggies schedule featured 10 teams in the Baseball America Preseason Top 25 for a total of 24 games. The slate was also highlighted by 10 games against four teams in the BA Preseason Top 5 and 16 games against six teams in the BA Preseason Top 10. The Aggies played preseason No. 1 North Carolina and No. 18 Rice at the Astros Foundation College Classic at Minute Maid Park. They played a non-conference road series at No. 22 Cal State Fullerton. The Aggies had 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. In the NCAA Tournament they played two games against BA Preseason No. 2 Vanderbilt and one game against Mississippi State.

Sixteen teams on Texas A&M’s 2013 schedule were coming off NCAA tournament campaigns.

Of the 16 squads who earned a berth in the field of 64 in ‘13, six hosted regionals and Arkansas, Florida and South Carolina advanced to the College World Series in Omaha where the Gamecocks finished as national runner-up to Arizona. Eight of the Aggies’ opponents racked up 40 or more wins.

The Aggies played a total of 35 games against 2012 NCAA tourney teams this spring.

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 an 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.

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 322-181-2 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.

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.

Prior to the arrival of head coach Rob Childress, Texas A&M had never appeared in the NCAA Championship more than four consecutive years. Traveling to Corvallis for the 2013 Regional, the Aggies extended their current string to seven consecutive years, something that had never happened before in the program’s 112 year history.

Childress has led the Aggies to the postseason each of the last seven seasons, topping the previous-high water mark of four-straight trips, a feat that had happened only twice before at Texas A&M. Former head coach Tom Chandler led his squad to the NCAA Regionals each season from 1975 to 1978 and 11 years later the Aggies enjoyed a similar four-year run from 1986-89 under the direction of head coach Mark Johnson.

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 96 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.

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.

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.

With 17 stolen bases on the year, junior centerfielder 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.

In the last 17 games, Hunter Melton is hitting .352 (25-for-71) with eight runs, two doubles, one triple, four home runs and 13 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.

Despite not being named to the SEC Tournament All-Tournament Team, Melton hit two of the only five home runs hit at the tournament. In the Aggies’ four games the freshmen registered hits that gave A&M leads on four occasions.

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 17 games   .352  17-17  71   8  25    2   1   4   13  .577   1   1  17  .370

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 12 of the last 15 games and registering a .373 batting average (19-for-51).

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 47-61  .373  15-15   51   9  19   5   25  .490   0   1  .377   1   1   3-3

Outfielder Jace Statum has raised his batting average 30 points in the last 15 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 .300 with a .325 slugging percentage and .404 on-base percentage the last 15 games, he has his season batting average up to .246. Statum’s .300 batting average the last 15 games ranks fifth on the squad.

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 15 games  .300  15-14   40   6  12    3  13  .325   7   0 .404   0  4   3-4

Jason Jester is climbing the Aggie single-season appearance list with 31. He is just one of nine players in school history to pitch in 30 or more games. He is currently tied with Joaquin Hinojosa (2011) for eighth place on the list. With his next appearance, Jester will tie Hart Hering (2006) for seventh place.

The Texas A&M Aggies had three players named to the All-SEC team in their first season of affiliation, the league announced on May 28. The Maroon and White also had two players named to the SEC All-Defensive Team.

Krey Bratsen, Daniel Mengden and Mikey Reynolds were all named to the All-SEC Second Team.

Only LSU (6) and Vanderbilt (4) had more players named to the two All-SEC squads. Ole Miss and Mississippi State also had three apiece. Arkansas and South Carolina each had two players named to the teams. Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Kentucky and Missouri all had one player selected. Florida and Tennessee were shut out from the teams.

Mengden and Cole Lankford were selected for the SEC All-Defensive Team.

Bratsen was selected as one of the three second-team outfielders. Mengden was picked for the second-team utility/designated hitter spot. Reynolds shared second-team shortstop recognition with Alabama’s Mikey White.

Reynolds, who earned All-Big 12 Second Team as a junior in 2012, joins Jason Stephens and Jason Tyner as the only players in school history to earn all-conference honors in two different leagues. Stephens earned All-SWC in 1996 and All-Big 12 in ‘97 and ’98. Tyner was All-SWC in ’96 and All-Big 12 in ’97.

Mengden was selected as the all-defensive team pitcher and Lankford shared first base honors with LSU’s Mason Katz. 

The Maroon and White had players earn SEC Rookie of the Week on three occasions in 2013.

Jonathan Moroney garnered the first honor on March 4. He was honored after a weekend in which he was named to the All-Tournament team of the talent-laden Astros Foundation College Classic. He batted .556 (5-for-9) at the tournament with one double, one home run, two runs scored and four RBI on the weekend.

Matt Kent was named freshman of the week on March 25 after working 5.0 scoreless innings of relief in a 10-6 win against then No. 6 Ole Miss. Kent entered the game with A&M trailing 5-2 in the second and kept the Rebels’ prolific bats in check as A&M outscored Ole Miss 8-1 down the stretch. He allowed just three hits and one walk while striking out three in his 5.0 innings of work.

Hunter Melton earned the award on May 6 after hitting .500 (8-for-16) with two home runs and three multiple hit games in a week in which A&M went 4-0, including a three-game sweep of Missouri.

Two Aggies are hitting over .300 in games away from Blue Bell Park. Cole Lankford is hitting .380 (38-for-100) with 13 runs, six doubles, two home runs and 18 RBI. Reynolds is batting .323 (31-for-96) with 18 runs, eight doubles, one triple, nine RBI and four stolen bases.

On the mound away from Blue Bell Park, Parker Ray is 2-1 with a 1.64 ERA in 12 appearances, including four starts. He is holding opponents to a .184 batting average over 44.1 innings. Jason Jester is 1-2 with three saves and a 2.33 ERA, holding opponents to a .162 batting average and striking out 19 in 19.1 innings.

Rafael Pineda is making his 29th 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 ... Four 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 three weekends ago against LSU with tightness ... He spent the entire 2012 season as the Aggies’ Sunday starter, amassing a 5-1 record and 2.71 ERA.

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