The Aggies head to Starkville for a pivotal three-game series against the No. 21 Mississippi State Bulldogs. The Maroon and White are looking to build on consecutive wins over Top 25 foes No. 24 Kentucky (W, 14-2) and No. 16 Rice (6-5).
Texas A&M has won four of their last five road games, including three wins against Top 25 competition. The run includes a 9-5 win at Georgia in the series finale, wins in two of three games at No. 7 Vanderbilt and a victory on Tuesday at No. 16 Rice.
Entering the series, Blake Allemand boasts a streak of reaching base in 18 consecutive games. During the span he boasts a .464 batting average with 13 walks and a .357 batting average (25-for-70). He has 14 runs, two doubles, one triple, 17 RBI, four sacrifice bunts and two stolen bases. He has helped spark an offense that is averaging 6.72 runs per game, up from 5.21 runs per game in the first 24 games.
TEXAS A&M AGGIES (25-17, 8-10 SEC) vs #21 MISSISSIPPI STATE (27-15, 10-8 SEC)
Dudy Noble Field/DeMent Stadium (15,000) • Starkville, Mississippi
SCHEDULE - Thursday 6:30 pm; Friday 6:30 pm; Saturday 2:15 pm
TELEVISION - THU - ESPNU; SAT - Fox Sports Network
RADIO - WTAW-AM 1620 (Dave South - play-by-play)
LIVE VIDEO - THU & SAT - ESPN3/WatchESPN; FRI - aggieathletics.com (premium subscription)
LIVE AUDIO - aggieathletics.com • radioaggieland.com (free)
LIVE STATS - tamu.statbroadcast.com/tamustats.com (mobile devices)/hailstate.com
RANKINGS - A&M - unranked; MSU - #20 (BA) / #20 (CB) / #21 (NCBWA) / #22 (USAT)
SERIES HISTORY - Mississippi State leads the series 10-8
SERIES STREAKS - Mississippi State has won the last six meetings
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
• THURSDAY: Tyler Stubblefield (Fr., LHP, 3-1, 3.45) vs Trevor Fitts (Jr., RHP, 2-2, 3.30)
• FRIDAY: Daniel Mengden (Jr., RHP, 2-6, 4.09) vs Ross Mitchell (Jr., LHP, 6-3, 2.13)
• SATURDAY: Grayson Long (So., RHP, 5-1, 2.44) vs TBA
TEXAS A&M/MISSISSIPPI STATE SERIES NOTABLES
Mississippi State owns a 10-8 advantage in the all-time series against Texas A&M. The Bulldogs have won the last six meetings, in-cluding all four games last season. Mississippi State swept a three-game series in College Station and beat A&M 6-4 at the SEC Tournament. Among returnees, Krey Bratsen was the top offensive performers against Mississippi State, hitting .400 (6-for-15) with one double, two RBI and two stolen bases. Blake Allemand hit .357 (5-for-14) with two RBI.
MORE ON MISSISSIPPI STATE
The Bulldogs enter the fray with a 27-15 overall record and 10-8 mark in SEC play. The Bulldogs enter the series on a five-game win streak.
Mississippi State is batting .270 as a team with a .372 on-base percentage and .333 slugging percentage. The Bulldogs boast four players hitting .300 or better. Brett Pirtle leads the team with a .338 (54-for-160) batting average and has 25 runs, five doubles, one triple, one home run and 18 RBI. Derrick Armstrong is hitting .327 (33-for-101) with 22 runs, one double, 11 RBI and 13 stolen bases. Wes Rea (.248) leads the team with three home runs and 30 RBI.
The pitching staff owns a 3.30 ERA and has fanned 345 batters in 379.0 innings. Ross Mitchell is the ace of the staff with a 6-3 record and 2.13 ERA. Closer Jonathan Holder is 4-1 with four saves and a 3.00 ERA.
The Bulldogs have a proud baseball tradition, including nine trips to the College World Series. Last season, Mississippi State advanced to the championship series of the CWS where they fell to UCLA. The Bulldogs have earned a bid in the NCAA Championship on 33 occasions, including each of the last three years.
Mississippi State boasts 46 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.
THURSDAY’S PROBABLE STARTER: #51 TYLER STUBBLEFIELD
Making his ninth career start, owning a 3-0 record with a 2.61 ERA and 40 strikeouts over 38.0 innings in his first eight... Earned wins in starts against Houston Baptist, Texas-Arlington and Texas-Pan American... Held Florida to two runs on five hits and two walks while striking out three over 6.0 innings in his first career SEC start... Also pitched 3.1 innings and 5.1 innings in no-decisions against Georgia and Alabama, respectively... Fanned three of the four batters he faced in a relief appearance against No. 7 Vanderbilt.
FRIDAY’S PROBABLE STARTER: #15 DANIEL MENGDEN
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... in his start against Alabama, became 16th Aggie to reach the 200-strikeout plateau for a career... Moves into tie with John Stilson (209) for 15th place on the Aggie career strikeout list with his next K... Heads into the weekend ranked second in the SEC in strikeouts (73) and seventh in innings pitched (66.0).
SATURDAY’S PROBABLE STARTER: #38 GRAYSON LONG
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... 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 62.7 in 2014... Held No. 7 Vanderbilt to two runs on 11 hits and one walk while striking out four over 7.2 innings two weekends ago... Last weekend he held hard hitting No. 21 Kentucky to two runs on eight hits while striking out eight over a career-long 8.0 innings.
TOUGH TESTS SPANGLE THE 2014 SCHEDULE
Ten teams on Texas A&M’s 2014 schedule will be coming off NCAA tournament campaigns.
Of the 14 squads who earned a berth in the field of 64 in ‘13, three hosted regionals and LSU and Mississippi State both advanced to the College World Series in Omaha where the Bulldogs finished as national runner-up to UCLA. Three of the Aggies’ oppo-nents racked up 50 or more wins.
The Aggies will play a total of 25 games against 2013 NCAA tourney teams this spring.
NOTTEBROK TOUCHED WITH OLSEN MAGIC
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.
BRATSEN CLIMBING AGGIES’ ALL-TIME GAMES LIST
After missing the beginning of the season with an illness, Krey Bratsen has seen action in 33 games, including 21 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 225 career games under his belt, 16 shy of the career record of 241 set by Scott Livingstone (1985-88). Over the weekend he passed Robert Harris (222 - 1992-95) and Brian Thomas (223 - 1990-93) fifth place. With three more games, he will equal the 228 games registered by Brodie Greene from 2007-10.
As a freshman, Bratsen played in all 69 games, including 68 starts. In 2012, he played in 60 games, including 55 starts. Last sea-son, Bratsen was the only Aggie to start all 63 games.
IN A PINCH
The Aggies are currently hitting .364 (16-for-44) with four walks, one sacrifice fly, one sac bunt, one double, one triple, one home run and 11 RBI in 50 pinch-hit appearances. Mitchell Nau (3-for-4, one double, one home run, 6 RBI) and Ryne Birk (5-for-10, one triple, 3 RBI) are the top pinch-hitting options. Jace Statum (2-for-5), Krey Bratsen (1-for-1, one sac bunt, 1 RBI), Nick Banks (1-for-2), Nick Choruby (1-for-2), Jonathan Moroney (1-for-7, one sac fly, 1 RBI) and JB Moss (1-for-2, two walks) account for the other seven hits.
Through 42 games this season, the Aggies have posted 40 different batting orders. No Aggie has started every game, with Cole Lankford leading the squad with 41. Fourteen different Aggies have started at least 12 games this season. Nick Banks (35 – RF), Lank-ford (37 – 1B) and Logan Taylor (37 - SS) are the only three Aggies to start more than 31 games at the same position. Nine different players have batted in the sixth spot and the eighth spot in the batting order and eight different players have hit in the seven hole. Last season, A&M used 52 different batting orders in their 63 games.
REVERSED EARLY GAME FORTUNES
In the first 18 games, the Aggies outscored opponents in the first inning of games 17-0. The Maroon and White went 13-5 over that span. The Aggies also outscored foe 61-11 in the first four innings of games.
In the last 24 games, Texas A&M is being outscored 19-15 in the first inning. During the stretch the Aggies are 12-12. The Maroon and White are still outscoring opponents in the first four innings, but the margin is down to 68-59. The negative trend slowed the last eight games, with A&M outscoring Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Abilene Christian and Rice 13-4 in the first inning and 41-14 in the first four innings.
BANKS SETTLING IN AS A FRESHMAN
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 .368 (35-for-95) over the last 26 contests. His on-base (.276/.413) and slugging (.200/.516) are also up substantially over the span. On the year, Banks is hitting .325 (39-for-120) with five doubles, two triples, two home runs and 15 RBI in 37 games, including 35 starts.
ALLEMAND ENTERS WITH 18-GAME STREAK REACHING BASE
Blake Allemand has reached base in each of the last 18 games. During the span he boasts a .464 batting average with 13 walks and a .357 batting average (25-for-70). He has 14 runs, two doubles, one triple, 17 RBI, four sacrifice bunts and two stolen bases. He has helped spark an offense that is averaging 6.72 runs per game, up from 5.21 runs per game in the first 24 games.
SCHLOTTMANN SEES INCREASED WORKLOAD
After amassing just 7.2 innings in the Aggies’ first 35 games, Ty Schlottmann has twice logged career-long outings in A&M’s last seven games. Since the Maroon and White’s Saturday game at Vanderbilt, Schlottmann has worked 12.0 innings, allowing two runs on six hits and two walks while striking out nine and holding opponents to a .150 batting average. He worked 6.2 scoreless innings against Kentucky, holding the Wildcats to two hits and one walk while striking out five. The sophomore pitched two blank frames in A&M’s 6-5 win over No. 16 Rice, holding the Owls to one hit and one walk. Prior to his 3.1 inning outing against Vanderbilt, Schlottmann’s career-long was 2.1 innings against Houston and he had only worked more than 1.0 inning on four occasions in his first 18 appearances
BREAKOUT WEEK FOR BIRK
Ryne Birk had a breakout week last week with the Aggies’ midweek game against Abilene Christian and three-game series against No. 24 Kentucky. In the four games, he got two starts and hit .636 (7-for-11) with one double and two home runs. In the four games, he logged a 1.273 slugging percentage, seven runs and eight RBI. The week, included a 2-for-4 performance against Kentucky in which he logged a home run and five RBI. Thirty-seven games into the season, Birk appeared in just 14 games with five starts. He hit just .192 (5-for-26) with one double, one triple and three RBI. Despite the limited action, he did have an impact in those first 37 games logging four of his five pinch-hits, including a three-run triple at No. 7 Vanderbilt.
HEALTHY TAYLOR STARTING TO HIT
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 25 games, Taylor is hitting .301 (31-for-103) with 11 doubles and 13 RBI. His on-base (.219/.339) and slugging (.200/.456) numbers are also up substantially over the span. On the year, Taylor is hitting .275 (41-for-149) with 20 runs, 12 doubles, two triples, one home run and 21 RBI in 37 games, all starts at shortstop.
PINCH-HIT SPARKS ALLEMAND HOT STREAK
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 .349 (30-for-86) with 18 runs and 12 RBI in 23 games, including 11 starts. For the year, Allemand is batting .294 with 24 runs and 18 RBI in 36 games, including 33 starts.
EVERY DAY PITCHER
Andrew Vinson has logged plenty of work in the first 42 games, making 22 appearances. Vinson enters the weekend ranked sec-ond in the SEC in appearances, trailing just Missouri’s Austin Tribby who has pitched in 25 contests.
He is 1-1 with a 2.67 ERA and two saves. He earned his first career save in the Aggies’ 5-4 win at UT Arlington and earned save in A&M’s 6-5 win at No. 16 Rice. 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 nine runs, eight earned, on 15 hits and six walks while striking out 28 in 26.2 innings of work. He has already exceeded his 2013 workload when he made 16 appearances and pitched 20.0 innings.
BRATSEN STEALING THE SHOW
With his three stolen bases in last Sunday’s game against Kentucky last Sunday and his steal at Rice on Tuesday, senior Krey Bratsen passed Chuck Knoblauch (83 - 1987-89) for second place on A&M’s career list for stolen bases with 84. 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.
MENGDEN REACHES 200 STRIKEOUT PLATEAU
In his outing 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. He enters the weekend with 208 strikeouts and with one more strikeout, Mengden will tie John Stilson (209 - 2010-11) for 15th place on A&M’s career list. He need 39 more strikeouts to crack the Aggie Top 10. Ca-sey Fossum owns the school career record with 404 from 1997-99.
AGGIES HIT 2,500-WIN MARK
Texas A&M enters the weekend with a 2,504-1,421-42 mark. At Vanderbilt, the Aggies became the 12th NCAA Division I program and first SEC team to hit the 2,500-win plateau. The last team to reach the milestone was Washington State in 2011. Fellow SEC teams Mississippi State and Alabama both enter the weekend less than 15 wins shy of the plateau and have the possibility of reach-ing the mark this season.
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 are 7-4 in one-run games and 7-5 in games decided by one run or/or extra innings. In their most recent tightly contest game, A&M held on for a 6-5 win against No. 16 Rice.
The Aggies have already produced 15 innings in which they have scored four or more runs this season. By contrast, A&M pro-duced just 11 “big innings” in the entire 63-game season in 2013. In four games the Aggies have produced multiple “big innings”: the Aggies’ 11-2 win over Northeastern, 12-3 win over Stephen F Austin, 13-8 win vs Alabama and 20-2 win against Abilene Christian. The highest run total in an inning this season is seven in the seventh inning of A&M’s win against ACU. The Aggies also scored six runs in the fourth inning. 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 five “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, four runs in the second inning of an 8-1 loss to Sam Houston State and four runs in the eighth inning of their 11-4 loss in the second game against Kentucky, in addition to the aforementioned five-run fourth inning against Houston.
After starting the season batting .252 (103-for-408) in the first 13 games, the Aggie offense has revved up the last 29 contests, hitting .303 (313-for-1,032) over the span. A&M’s on-base (.351/.372) and slugging (.343/.402) numbers are also up over the span. It is starting to translate into a jump in runs as the Aggies scoring has ticked up from 5.15 runs per game in the first 13 contests to 6.17 in the last 29.
BRATSEN GETTING UP TO SPEED
After missing the beginning of the season with an illness, Krey Bratsen took time to get in the groove in 2014. He played in just 16 of A&M’s first 24 games, including seven starts, hitting .219 (7-for-32). Bratsen has heated up to the tune of .320 (16-for-50) over the Aggies’ last 18 contests. His on-base (.306/.364) and slugging (.219/.400) are also up substantially over the span and he owns team-highs with 17 runs and 10 stolen bases in the A&M’s 18 games (17 games/14 starts). On the year, Bratsen is batting .280 (23-for-82) with 22 runs, two doubles, one triple, eight RBI and 14 stolen bases.
The Aggies are 6-8 on the road this season. Krey Bratsen is the top hitter on the road, batting .357 (10-for-28) with 10 runs, two doubles, one triple, four RBI and six stolen bases. Cole Lankford is batting .352 (19-for-54) with eight runs, three doubles, one home run and nine RBI. On the mound, Grayson Long is 2-1 with a 2.13 ERA in four road starts.
A&M has won four of its last five road games. The Aggies are batting .320 (55-for-172) over the span and the Maroon and White are averaging 7.6 runs per game. The stretch includes three wins over Top 25 teams. Bratsen is hitting .471 (8-for-17) with nine runs, two doubles, one triple, three RBI and six stolen bases. Lankford is batting .429 (9-for-21) with one home run and seven RBI. Blake Allemand is hitting .421 (8-for-19) with one triple and seven RBI.
The Aggies return to Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park next Tuesday for a 6:35 pm contest against Texas State.