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Aggies Host No. 12 Houston on Tuesday

March 31, 2014
Courtesy: Texas A&M Athletics
(photo: Texas A&M Athletics)

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The Texas A&M Aggies begin a 20-game meat grinder that features 17 contests against teams currently ranked Top 25 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) poll on Tuesday when they host the No. 12 Houston Cougars on Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park.

Patrick McLendon enters Tuesday’s game with the Aggies’ longest hit streak of the season, an eight-game stretch. He is batting .364 (12-for-33) with a .447 on-base percentage over the span with seven runs, four walks, two sacrifice bunts, two doubles and one RBI.

The Aggies enter the fray with a 15-4 mark at home and have an opportunity to make hay in the upcoming homestand. The next four games are against squads in the Top 25, including a three-game home series against No. 21 Alabama this weekend. Other marquee games in the next 20 games include three games each at No. 5 Vanderbilt and No. 13 Mississippi State and three home games apiece against No. 22 Kentucky and No. 10 LSU and a midweek game at No. 14 Rice.

APRIL 1, 2014

SCHEDULE: Tuesday 6:35 pm
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SERIES HISTORY: A&M leads 109-56-1
SERIES STREAKS: Houston won the last two meetings

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JAC Free Admission – Junior Aggie Club members get in free

• TUESDAY: LHP Matt Kent (2-0, 3.10) vs. RHP David Longville (0-0, 2.00) or LHP Matt Locus (1-0, 0.00)

The Aggies own an 109-56-1 advantage in the all-time series against Houston. The Cougars have won three of the last five meetings including a 7-6 decision in last year’s meeting at the Astros Foundation College Classic.  Last season the Aggies led Houston 3-1 after the first inning behind an RBI triple by Daniel Mengden and an RBI double by Troy Stein, but the Cougars touched up Kyle Martin for five runs in the sixth inning to take a 7-4 lead and fought off a late A&M charge for the win. Jonathan Moroney went 3-for-3 with one double, one home run and three RBI in the losing effort.

The Cougars enter Tuesday’s game with a 22-5 mark and are ranked as high as No. 10 among the four major college baseball polls. They’ve logged three-game series sweeps at home against Nicholls State, Michigan and Towson and won two-of-three in their first conference series at home last weekend against Memphis. At the Houston College Classic (2/28-3/2) in Minute Maid Park, UH toppled Texas Tech (9-0) before suffering one-run losses to Texas (3-2) and TCU (2-1). At the Dodgertown Classic (3/7-9) Houston scored wins against USC (6-1) and UCLA (4-3) and lost to Pepperdine (3-0). In midweek action, the Cougars have scored two wins over nationally ranked Rice as well as wins against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Baylor and Texas Southern. They suffered a mid-week loss to Lamar two weeks ago.

This marks Houston’s first season in the American Athletic Conference where they were among three teams tied for second in the league’s preseason coaches’ poll. Louisville was a unanimous selection to win the conference with the Cougars, UCF and Connecticut all knotted in second place. Houston received the first-place vote from Louisville’s head coach who was not allowed to vote for his own squad.

Todd Whitting is in his fourth season as head coach at Houston registering a 103-94-1 (.523) career record.

The Cougars are batting .270 as a team with a .374 on-base percentage and .345 slugging percentage. Houston has two players hitting over .300, including Kyle Survance (.340) and Michael Pyeatt (.339). Survance has 15 runs, five doubles, two triples, 15 RBI and 14 stolen bases. Pyeatt has seven runs, two doubles, one triple, one home run, eight RBI and three stolen bases. Frankie Ratcliff (.288) leads the team with 21 runs and has 12 stolen bases. Caleb Barker (.247) boasts a team-high 17 RBI. Casey Grayson (.298) is the top power threat with a team-high .468 slugging percentage, eight doubles, one triple and two home runs.

Houston’s pitching staff owns a 1.56 ERA and is holding opponents to a .200 batting average. The Cougars have walked just 39 batters while striking out 182 in 242.0 innings of work.

In 2013, went 2-3 with a 4.17 ERA… Showed good command as a freshman, walking just two batters while striking out 21 over 36.2 innings… Earned SEC Freshman of the Week accolades in 2013 after a performance in which he pitched 5.0 shutout innings, holding Ole Miss to three hits and one walk while striking out three… In a start against Texas Southern, his first of the season, Kent logged career-highs with 6.0 innings pitched and nine strikeouts in a 5-0 win… He is 1-0 with nine strikeouts in 9.0 scoreless innings in his first two starts of the season, scattering seven hits and three walks.

After missing the beginning of the season with an illness, Krey Bratsen has seen action in 20 games, including 10 as a defensive replacement/pinch-hitter and 10 starts. Bratsen has a chance to set the Aggies’ all-time record for games played. He currently has 212 career games under his belt, 29 shy of the career record of 241 set by Scott Livingstone (1985-88). Two weeks ago Bratsen moved into 10th place on A&M’s career, passing Mike Scanlin (207 - 1983-86).

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.

The Aggies have logged four walk-off wins on Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park in 2014. The first weekend of the season wrapped up with a 1-0 win over Northeastern to complete a three-game sweep. The victory was earned when Logan Nottebrok hit a 1-0 offering from the Huskies’ Brad Burcroff over the leftfield fence for a leadoff and walk-off home run. It marked the first walk-off home run for Texas A&M since May 29, 2011 when Andrew Collazo hit a walk-off dinger in the Big 12 Championship title game against Missouri for a 10-9 victory.

In the Aggies’ 7-5 win vs. Sacramento State, Nottebrok hit a two-run home run to the same location, to break the 5-5 tie for the walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth.

Cole Lankford delivered a game-winning double in A&M’s 8-7 win over Columbia and five days later handed the Aggies a series win over Florida with a walk-off single in a 4-3 win over Florida.

The Aggies are 15-4 in home games in 2014. Offensively, the Aggies are hitting .298 at home with eight players logging batting averages of .300 or higher. Jace Statum (.357), Patrick McLendon (.356)  and Nick Banks (.333) are all batting over .330. Lankford leads the team with 17 RBI, batting .321 with five doubles and one home run. McLendon and JB Moss (.326) share the team-high with 14 runs. Logan Nottebrok (.265) has five doubles, four home runs and 15 RBI.

On the mound, the Aggies have a 2.39 ERA and are holding opponents to a .220 batting average. Grayson Long (2-0, 1.71), Tyler Stubblefield (2-0, 1.98) and Daniel Mengden (2-1, 2.00) have been dominant on the familiar mound.

The Aggies have posted a different batting order in all 29 games this season. With Krey Bratsen and Logan Taylor returning from early season ailments, the Maroon and White are expected to continue shuffling the deck. Last season, A&M used 52 different batting orders in their 63 games. No Aggie has started every game, with Cole Lankford leading the squad with 28. Twelve different Aggies have started at least 10 games this season. Nick Banks (22 – RF), Lankford (28 – 1B) and Logan Taylor (24 - SS) are the only two Aggies to start more than 20 games at the same position. Eight different players have batted in the seventh spot in the batting order and eight different players have hit in the eight hole.

With his three saves on the season, Jason Jester moved past Chris Russ (16 - 1998-2001) and Travis Starling (15 - 2007-09) for second place on A&M’s career saves list with 17. He needs six saves to equal the career mark of 23 set by Scott Centala (1987-89).

The Aggies are currently hitting .357 (10-for-28) with two walks, one sacrifice fly, one sac bunt, one double, one home run and seven RBI in 32 pinch-hit appearances. Mitchell Nau (3-for-3, one double, one home run, 5 RBI), Ryne Birk (2-for-4), Krey Bratsen (1-for-1, one sac bunt, 1 RBI), Nick Banks (1-for-2), Nick Choruby (1-for-2), Jonathan Moroney (1-for-4, 1 RBI) and JB Moss (1-for-2, one walk) account for the 10 hits.

The Aggies continue the five-game homestand over the weekend when they welcome No. 21 Alabama to Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park for a three-game series beginning on Friday.

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