COLLEGE STATION, Texas - The Aggies wrap up the regular-season with a three-game series against the Ole Miss Rebels. The Aggies are looking to finish above .500 in SEC action to add to their already impressive NCAA Tournament resume.
Texas A&M is 9-4 in the last 13 games. The Aggies are hitting .298 over the span, led by Cole Lankford batting .436 with two doubles and nine RBI. Lankford is in the midst of a career-long 13-game hit streak. Nick Banks is hitting .423 with seven runs, four doubles, one home run and 12 RBI over the last baker’s dozen.
The Aggies have been closing by committee in recent weeks, with AJ Minter emerging lately as the lockdown man. Minter has A&M’s last two saves, including getting out of a bases-loaded no out jam in a 10-inning win over Arkansas last Sunday and an inning of work in the midweek victory against Sam Houston State. Ty Schlottmann has two saves and Andrew Vinson is 2-1 with a save out of the bullpen over the last three weeks.
TEXAS A&M AGGIES (32-21, 13-14 SEC) vs #16 OLE MISS REBELS (38-15, 17-10 SEC)
Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park • College Station, Texas
SCHEDULE - Thursday 6:35 pm; Friday 7:05 pm; Saturday 2:05 pm
TELEVISION - Friday - ESPNU (Clay Matvick - play-by-play; Ben McDonald - color)
RADIO - WTAW-AM 1620 (Dave South - play-by-play)
LIVE VIDEO - All three games on ESPN3/WATCH ESPN; Thursday and Saturday (Will Johnson - play-by-play; Mark Johnson - color)
LIVE AUDIO - aggieathletics.com • radioaggieland.com (free)
LIVE STATS - tamu.statbroadcast.com/tamustats.com (mobile devices)
RANKINGS - Texas A&M - unranked; Ole Miss - 11 (BA); 13 (CB); 14 (USAT); 16 (NCBWA)
SERIES HISTORY - Texas A&M leads the series 6-3
SERIES STREAKS - Texas A&M has won the last two games
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
• THURSDAY: RHP Daniel Mengden (4-6, 3.62) vs RHP Chris Ellis (8-0, 1.97)
• FRIDAY: RHP Grayson Long (6-1, 2.96) vs LHP Christian Trent (7-0, 2.37)
• SATURDAY: RHP Parker Ray (4-3, 5.49) vs RHP Sam Smith (5-4, 3.01)
LANKFORD IS STREAKING
Cole Lankford enters the series with the Aggies’ longest hit streak of the season and the longest hit streak of his career at 13 games. In the last 13 games Lankford is batting .436 (24-for-55) with four runs, two doubles and nine RBI. He has seven multi-hit games over the span, including a four-hit effort in the Aggies’ 6-5 win at No. 16 Rice.
A&M has wheeled out four pitchers who have proven capable of locking down games with Jason Jester (3), AJ Minter (2), Ty Schlottmann (2) and Andrew Vinson (2) all recording multiple saves on the year. As a result, the Aggies are 27-0 when leading after six innings, 26-0 when leading after seven innings and 28-0 when leading after eight innings.
Jester owns the single-season saves record at A&M with the 14 he recorded last year and his 17 career saves rank second in Aggie annals. Minter has recorded the last two saves for the Maroon and White. He entered a bases-loaded, no-outs situation with the Aggies leading 6-5 on Sunday and got two strikeouts and a fly out to record his first career save. He followed with a midweek save in A&M’s 3-1 win over Sam Houston State. Vinson recorded road saves at UT Arlington (5-4) and at No. 16 Rice (6-5). Schlottmann bagged back-to-back saves in wins at Mississippi State to nail down 6-3 and 6-4 decisions.
TEXAS A&M/OLE MISS SERIES NOTABLES
Texas A&M and Ole Miss have met on nine occasions with the Aggies owning a 6-3 edge in the all-time series. The Aggies and Rebels have met twice in the post-season with the Aggies winning a regional game in College Station in 1999, 13-7, and losing a regional game in College Station in 2012, 6-3. Last season, the A&M won two of three in Oxford with the Rebels winning the opener and the Aggies bouncing back to sweep a doubleheader.
In the opening game of the series last season, Bobby Wahl worked a gem for Ole Miss, holding the Aggies to two runs, one earned, on seven hits while striking out nine over 8.0 innings in an 8-2 win in the Friday game. After Saturday’s game was postponed due to rain, the Aggies took the first game of the Sunday doubleheader, Daniel Mengden and Jason Jester combined to allow just one run on six hits in a seven-inning game which the Aggies won 2-1. Mitchell Nau drove in both runs with an RBI single in the first inning and a solo home run in the third. In the second game of the doubleheader, the Aggies fell behind 5-0 in the first inning, but bounced back to win 10-6. Matt Kent worked 5.0 of scoreless relief, scattering three hits and one walk while striking out three to earn the win. Brandon Wood went 3-for-3 with two doubles and three RBI and Troy Stein went 3-for-3 with one triple, four runs and one RBI.
MORE ON OLE MISS
Ole Miss enters the fray with a 38-15 record and the Rebels lead the SEC West with a 17-10 mark. The Rebels lead the SEC with a .305 team batting average. Ole Miss’ team on-base percentage stands at .370 and they own a .421 slugging percentage. Auston Bousfield leads the league with a .366 batting average and has logged 46 runs, 15 doubles, two triples, five home runs, 42 RBI and 15 stolen bases in 53 games. Will Allen is hitting .351 with 35 runs, 19 doubles, seven home runs and 52 RBI in 53 games.
The Rebels rank fifth in the SEC with a 2.69 ERA and opponents are batting .244. Thursday night’s starter Chris Ellis is 8-0 with a 1.97 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 82.1 innings. Opponents are batting .258 against the right-hander. Southpaw Christian Trent is slated to start on Friday. He owns a 7-0 record and 2.37 ERA while holding opponents to a .233 batting average. Closer Josh Laxer is 2-2 with five saves and a 1.67 ERA.
THURSDAY’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... ranks 14th on A&M’s career strikeout list with 226... heads into the weekend ranked third in the SEC in strikeouts (91) and sixth in innings pitched (87.0).
FRIDAY’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 6.14 in 2014... held No. 7 Vanderbilt to two runs on 11 hits and one walk while striking out four over 7.2 innings... four weeks he held hard hitting No. 21 Kentucky to two runs on eight hits while striking out eight over a career-long 8.0 innings.
SATURDAY’S PROBABLE STARTER: #54 PARKER RAY
In 2013, ranked fifth in the SEC in ERA (1.73) and 10th in opponent batting average (.213)... appeared in 10 SEC games, including four starts, logging an 0-1 record, 2.80 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 35.1 innings... started the 2013 campaign in the bullpen, posting a 0.69 ERA in 26.0 innings of work over 17 appearances, walking five and striking out 16... stepped up in postseason going 2-0 with a 0.54 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 16.2 innings in wins over Vanderbilt (5/22) at SEC Tournament and UTSA (6/1) at the NCAA Corvallis Regional... best outing down the stretch this season was 5.0 inning relief effort at Vanderbilt, allowing one run on two hits while striking out 10... Is 2-1 with a 4.78 ERA in seven starts this season.
PROTECTING THE HOMEFRONT
The Aggies are 23-10 in home games in 2014. Offensively, the Aggies are hitting .313 at home with seven players logging batting averages of .300 or higher. Ryne Birk (.395), Jace Statum (.386), Nick Banks (.376) and Cole Lankford (.348) are all batting .340 or higher. Lankford leads the team with 29 RBI with five doubles and three home runs. Allemand leads the team with 23 runs at home. Logan Nottebrok (.269) has five doubles, five home runs and 20 RBI. Grayson Long is 3-0 with a 2.91 ERA in seven starts at Blue Bell Park.
The Aggies are 9-11 on the road this season. Cole Lankford is the top hitter on the road, batting .350 (28-for-80) with nine runs, five doubles, one home run and 13 RBI. Nick Banks is batting .314 (22-for-70) with seven runs, four doubles and 12 RBI on the road. Krey Bratsen has team highs with 12 runs and eight stolen bases. On the mound, Grayson Long is 3-1 with a 3.03 ERA in six road starts.
A&M has won seven of its last 11 road games. The Aggies are batting .268 (102-for-381) over the span and the Maroon and White are averaging 5.63 runs per game. The stretch includes six wins over Top 25 teams. Cole Lankford is hitting .383 (18-for-47) with four runs, two doubles, one home run and 11 RBI. Nick Banks is batting .370 (17-for-46) with five runs, four doubles and 10 RBI. Bratsen is hitting .282 with 11 runs and eight stolen bases during the stretch.
BRATSEN CLIMBING AGGIES’ ALL-TIME GAMES LIST
After missing the beginning of the season with an illness, Krey Bratsen has seen action in 41 games, including 29 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 236 career games under his belt, five shy of the career record of 241 set by Scott Livingstone (1985-88). On Tuesday he matched Kevin Gonzalez (236 - 2008-11), second on the list.
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.
IN A PINCH
The Aggies are currently hitting .392 (20-for-51) with five walks, one sacrifice fly, two sac bunts, two doubles, one triple, one home run and 14 RBI in 59 pinch-hit appearances. Mitchell Nau (3-for-4, one double, one home run, 6 RBI), Patrick McLendon (2-for-2, one walk), Ryne Birk (6-for-12, one triple, 4 RBI) and Jonathan Moroney (3-for-9, one sac fly, 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) and JB Moss (1-for-2, two walks) account for the other six hits.
Texas A&M has five walk-off wins this season at Blue Bell Park. Cole Lankford leads the team with three walk-off RBI. HE 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. He evened the series against LSU with a walk-off single of Saturday’s 3-2 win over the Tigers.
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.
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 18 games and the Brenham native has logged four appearances of 2.0 innings or longer. Since the Maroon and White’s Saturday game at Vanderbilt, Schlottmann has worked 20.1 innings, allowing six runs on 16 hits and five walks while striking out 16 and holding opponents to a .213 batting average. He earned saves in both of A&M’s wins at No. 21 Mississippi State, including a 3.0-inning effort in the Friday win. 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 three weeks ago with the Aggies’ Wednesday 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. In the last 16 games, Birk is reaching base on a .450 rate and hitting .340 (17-for-50) with a team-high 14 runs, two doubles, one triple, two home runs, team-high 11 RBI and three stolen bases. 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.
RESULTS TIED TO EARLY INNING 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 during the stretch.
In games 19-34, the opponents were outscoring the Aggies 15-2 in the first inning of games and 40-32 in the first four innings, resulting in a 7-9 record for A&M during the stretch.
Over the last 19 games, the pendulum has swung back in favor of the Maroon and White with Texas A&M posting a 17-9 scoring margin in the first inning and a 62-31 advantage in the first four innings, resulting in a 12-17 record.
The Aggies are 10-6 in one-run games and 10-7 in games decided by one run or/or extra innings. In their most recent home series, all three games were decided by one run with the Aggies winning two against No. 5 LSU. The Tigers won the first game, in 10 innings, 5-4. Texas A&M finished off the series with 3-2 and 5-4 wins. Last weekend, the A&M dropped the opening game at Arkansas, 3-2, and won the final in 10 innings, 6-5.
BRATSEN STEALING THE SHOW
With his 17 stolen bases on the season, senior Krey Bratsen passed Chuck Knoblauch (83 - 1987-89) for second place on A&M’s career list for stolen bases with 87. The Bryan, Texas native trails only Jason Tyner, who owns the school record with 118 from 1996-98.
The mercurial centerfielder has stolen 11 bases in the last 16 games, including three in the series finale against Kentucky and two in the series finale against Vanderbilt.
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.
BRATSEN IN ACTIVE PURSUIT
Krey Bratsen enters the weekend ranked second among all active players in the nation in Games Played (236), Stolen Bases (87) and Sacrifice Bunts (51). He trails only Georgia Tech’s Mott Hyde (240) in games played. Bratsen entered the season as the active leader in games played, but was hampered by an illness throughout February. His stolen base mark trails only North Carolina State’s Trea Turner who enters the weekend with 108 steals. The 51 sacrifice bunts are second only to Oregon’s Aaron Payne (54).
JESTER CLIMBING AGGIES CAREER SAVES LIST
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).
AGGIES HIT 2,500-WIN MARK
Texas A&M enters the weekend with a 2,511-1,425-42 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 10 wins shy of the plateau and have the possibility of reaching the mark this season.
MENGDEN CLIMBING THE AGGIE CAREER STRIKEOUTS LIST
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 200-strikeout mark. With his 11 strikeouts Friday at Arkansas, the junior surpassed Kevin Wunsch (223 - 1991-93) to move up to 14th on the all-time strikeout list. He need 21 more strikeouts to crack the Aggie Top 10 and is approaching No. 11 Mark Ross (232 - 1976-79), No. 12 Rick Luecken (230 - 1980-83) and Doug Rau (228 - 1968-70). Casey Fossum owns the school career record with 404 from 1997-99.
The Aggies have already produced 17 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 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 two times 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, and their 10-inning loss to LSU, 5-4, when the Aggies tied the game with four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, but were robbed of a game-winning fifth run in the inning when LSU’s Jared Foster made a SportsCenter Top Play.
In all, Texas A&M pitchers have allowed six “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; four runs in the eighth inning of their 11-4 loss in the second game against Kentucky; four runs in the eighth inning of a 7-3 loss at Arkansas, 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 40 contests, hitting .297 (417-for-1,402) over the span. A&M’s on-base (.351/.370) and slugging (.343/.394) 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 5.65 in the last 40.
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 .384 (53-for-138) over the last 37 contests. His on-base (.276/.434) and slugging (.200/.528) percentages are also up substantially over the span. On the year, Banks is leading the team with a .350 batting average (57-for-163) and .409 on-base percentage and he has 26 runs, nine doubles, two triples, two home runs and 24 RBI.
The Aggies head to the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Alabama with the first game slated for Tuesday.