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A&M Hosts Division Co-Leader Alabama

April 03, 2014
Courtesy: Texas A&M Athletics
(photo: Texas A&M Athletics)

COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Texas A&M has an opportunity to make up ground in the SEC Western Division as the Aggies host division co-leader Alabama. The Crimson Tide enter the series at 6-3 in league action, knotted with Mississippi State atop the West. They are among four teams in the SEC with a 6-3 league mark, with Florida and South Carolina sharing the top spot in the Eastern Division.

In what has been a tightly contest conference this season, only 3.5 games separate all 14 teams in the league and the top 10 teams are all separated by just 2.0 games in the standings.

Although it has resulted in just a 7-7 record in the last 14 games, the Aggies’ bats have warmed up in the last three weeks with the Maroon and White hitting .293 paced by Jace Statum (.393), Nick Banks (.362), Blake Allemand (.342) and Logan Taylor (.333).

TEXAS A&M AGGIES (18-12, 4-5 SEC) vs. ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (20-8, 6-3 SEC)
APRIL 4-6, 2014

SCHEDULE – Friday 6:35 PM; Saturday 2:05 PM; Sunday 1:05 PM
TELEVISION – Friday and Saturday - Fox Sports Southwest (Will Johnson - play-by-play; Mark Johnson - color)
RADIO – WTAW-AM 1620  (Dave South - play-by-play)
LIVE VIDEO – Sunday only - (premium subscription)
LIVE AUDIO –  • (free)
LIVE STATS – (mobile devices
RANKINGS – A&M - unranked; UA - #15 (BA)/#15 (CB)/#21 (NCBWA)/#21 (USAT)
SERIES HISTORY – Texas A&M leads 3-2
SERIES STREAKS – Alabama won the last two meetings

• FRIDAY: #15 Daniel Mengden (Jr., RHP, 2-3, 3.12) vs. # 32 Spencer Turnbull (Jr., RHP, 3-1, 1.63)
• SATURDAY: #38 Grayson Long (So., RHP, 3-1, 1.84) vs. #26 Justin Kamplain (Jr., LHP, 2-2, 3.35)
• SUNDAY: #51 Tyler Stubblefield (Fr., LHP, 3-1, 2.33) vs. #35 Jon Keller (Jr., LHP, 5-1, 1.50)

Saturday              - Have a Catch: fans invited to play catch in the outfield 30 minutes after the game
Sunday                 - Sunday Runday: kids are invited to run the bases following the game
- Take Me Out to the Ballgame: one adult ticket gets one kid in free
- JAC Free Admission: Junior Aggie Club members get in free

After starting the season batting .252 (103-for-408) in the first 13 games, the Aggie offense has revved up the last 17 contests, hitting .296 (181-for-612) over the span. A&M’s on-base (.351/.360) and slugging (.343/.374) numbers are also up over the span. Unfortunately it hasn’t translated into runs as the Aggies scoring has dropped from 5.15 runs per game in the first 13 contests to 4.88 in the last 17.  

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 .362 (17-for-47) over the last 14 contests. His on-base (.276/.392) and slugging (.200/.532) are also up substantially over the span. On the year, Banks is hitting .292 (21-for-72) with four doubles, one triple, one home run and 10 RBI in 25 games, including 23 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 17 games, Taylor is hitting .333 (22-for-66) with eight doubles and seven RBI. His on-base (.219/.371) and slugging (.200/.455) numbers are also up substantially over the span. On the year, Taylor is hitting .281 (.27-for-96) with nine doubles and eight RBI in 25 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 (14-for-39) with eight runs and seven RBI in 12 games, including 10 starts. For the year, Allemand is batting .266 with 14 runs and 12 RBI in 24 games, including 21 starts.

Texas A&M and Alabama have met on five prior occasions with the Aggies owning a 3-2 edge in the all-time series with all the games being played in College Station. The teams played twice at the Continental Airlines Aggie Baseball Classic in 1995, with the Aggies winning 6-2 and 5-4. The teams squared off again once in at the 2003 NCAA College Station Regional where the Aggies won 16-5 before losing two games to eventual regional champion Houston.

Last season, the Crimson Tide won both games of a rain-shortened series in Tuscaloosa. Alabama won by identical scores of 3-2, taking early 3-0 leads in both games and fighting off late charges by the Aggies.

Alabama enters the weekend tied atop with Mississippi State atop the SEC Western Division standings with a 6-3 mark and the Crimson Tide are 20-8 overall, currently on a five-game win streak.

The Crimson Tide is hitting .274 on the season with a .349 on-base percentage and .388 slugging percentage. Austin Smith is leading the squad in batting average (.352), slugging percentage (.527), on-base percentage (.429) and RBI (24). He has seven doubles and three home runs on the year. Kyle Overstreet is batting .320 with 19 runs, four doubles, one triple, two home runs and 13 RBI.

Alabama’s pitching staff owns 2.23 ERA and .201 opponent batting average. John Keller has a team-low ERA (1.50) with a 5-1 record, 29 strikeouts and a .207 opponent batting average in 42.0 innings. Spencer Turnbull is 3-1 with a 1.63 ERA, .195 opponent batting average and 31 strikeouts in 38.2 innings. Closer Thomas Burrows is 3-1 with a 1.12 ERA and three saves, a .120 opponent batting average and 17 strikeouts in 16.0 innings.

The Crimson Tide has made five College World Series appearances, including 1950, 1983, 1996, 1997, 1999. They have made 23 NCAA Championship appearances including five of the last six seasons.

Alabama boasts 64 former players who have gone on to play in the Major Leagues. The group is headlined by Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame infielder Joe Sewell and three-time MLB All-Star Frank Lary who earned the nickname “The Yankee Killer” for his 27 wins over New York during his career.

Mengden earned All-SEC Second Team recognition as a utility player as well as SEC All-Defensive Team recognition as a pitcher... in 2013, Mengden ranked fourth in the SEC in innings pitched (110.2), fifth in opponent batting average (.201), sixth in strikeouts (94), seventh in wins (8), ninth in ERA (2.11)... Pitched the Aggies’ only two complete games in 2013, both in SEC play... went 4-2 with a 1.88 ERA in league games... in SEC action, ranked second in the league in innings (71.2), fourth in ERA (1.88) and opponent batting average (.198) and fifth in strikeouts (56)... pitched for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team last summer... current ERA (2.74) ranks 15th on A&M’s career list (minimum 100 IP)... Heads into the weekend ranked third in the SEC in innings pitched (49.0) and second in strikeouts (56).

Appeared in 12 games as a freshman, including 10 starts, registering a 4-2 record and a 3.52 ERA... Notched a 4-0 record with a 2.28 ERA in six midweek starts, logging 23 strikeouts in 27.2 innings... Enters the weekend ranked 15th with a 1.84 ERA and 10th in innings pitched with 39.2... Started the season by working 21.0 scoreless innings... After averaging just 4.37 innings per start as a freshman, Long has stretched his average innings per start to 6.29 in 2014.

Owns a 2.20 ERA and 3-0 record in his seven starts, allowing 10 runs, eight earned, on 30 hits and 10 walks while striking out 38 over 32.2 innings... earned his first career win against Houston Baptist, holding the Huskies to one unearned run on three hits and two walks while striking out nine over 6.1 innings... he scored a road win against UT Arlington at Globe Life Park, scattering five hits and one walk while striking out nine over 5.2 shutout innings... kept UT Pan American scoreless through 5.0 innings, scatter two hits and two walks while striking out six in a 13-0 win two weeks ago... allowed two runs over 6.0 innings in his first career weekend and conference start, a game that A&M won in 11 innings against Florida, 4-3.

Hundreds of Aggies before him have gone their whole career without providing Olsen Magic. Logan Nottebrok delivered a special moment for the 12th Man twice in his first six games in College Station.

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.

The Aggies are currently hitting .367 (11-for-30) 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-5, one sac fly, 1 RBI), JB Moss (1-for-2, one walk) and Jace Statum (1-for-2) account for the 11 hits.

After missing the beginning of the season with an illness, Krey Bratsen has seen action in 21 games, including 10 as a defensive replacement/pinch-hitter and 11 starts. Bratsen has a chance to set the Aggies’ all-time record for games played. He currently has 213 career games under his belt, 28 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.

Senior Krey Bratsen is flying up the Aggies career stolen bases charts with 75 which ranks third. He is just eight 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.

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 15-5 in home games in 2014. Offensively, the Aggies are hitting .300 at home with 10 players logging batting averages of .300 or higher. Jace Statum (.372), Logan Taylor (.333), Patrick McLendon (.328) and Mitchell Nau (.320) are all batting .320 or higher. Lankford leads the team with 20 RBI, batting .310 with five doubles and two home runs. 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 2.76 ERA and are holding opponents to a .232 batting average. Grayson Long (2-0, 1.71), Tyler Stubblefield (2-0, 1.98) and Daniel Mengden (2-1, 2.00) have been strong on the familiar mound.

The Aggies have posted a different batting order in all 30 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. No Aggie has started every game, with Cole Lankford leading the squad with 29. Twelve different Aggies have started at least 11 games this season. Nick Banks (23 – RF), Lankford (28 – 1B) and Logan Taylor (25 - SS) are the only three 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. Last season, A&M used 52 different batting orders in their 63 games.

First baseman Cole Lankford has just five strikeouts in 2014, fanning just once every 26.0 plate appearances and going his first 19 games without being punched out. Through 130 plate appearances, the junior is batting .301 (37-for-123) with four walks and three sacrifice flies. In 2013, Lankford struck out once every 6.9 plate appearances. Last season, he fanned 33 times in 229 plate appearances, hitting .352 (76-for-216) with nine walks, three HBP and one sacrifice fly.

Andrew Vinson has logged plenty of work in the first 30 games, making 18 appearances. He is 1-1 with a 2.82 ERA and earned his first career save in the Aggies’ 5-4 win at UT Arlington. He also garnered a win in relief in the Aggies’ 9-5 victory over Georgia on Sunday by retiring all six batters he faced. He has allowed eight runs, seven earned, on 12 hits and five walks while striking out 22 in 22.1 innings of work. He has already exceeded his 2013 workload when he made 16 appearances and pitched 20.0 innings.

The Aggies are 6-4 in one-run games and 6-5 in games decided by one run or/or extra innings. In their most recent tightly contest game, the A&M dropped a 3-2 decision in the Friday night game at Georgia, allowing the game winning run in the bottom of the ninth.

Texas A&M has four walk-off wins this season at Blue Bell Park. 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 got in on the fun with a game-winning double in the 11th inning of the Aggies’ 8-7 win against Columbia. Three games later Lankford delivered an RBI single in the 11th inning to seal a series’ triumph against Florida with a 4-3 victory.

The Aggies wrap up the five-game homestand on Tuesday when A&M hosts Prairie View A&M in a 6:35 pm contest on Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park.

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