State of the Hogs: Aggies Sit Atop the West

SEC West leader Texas A&M visits the Ozarks for a three-game series starting Saturday. The Aggies lead the conference with a .328 batting average.

If there is good news for the Arkansas baseball team as it prepares to play host to No. 2 Texas A&M, it's the way the Aggies play on the road. They are just 8-6 in true road games.

There's nothing else to give the Razorbacks a lot of comfort looking through the A&M stats. Yes, Dominic Taccolini and Zach Jackson pitched complete game shutouts last week at Kentucky, but they will face the SEC's best hitters this weekend.

Game one in the series is set for 6:30 p.m. Friday night on ESPN3. Game two is at 2 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2. Game 3 is set for 1 p.m. Sunday on ESPNU.

A&M leads the SEC in hitting at .328, well above the .281 the Hogs bat. Interestingly, A&M is almost as good in SEC games, hitting .323. The Hogs slip to .260 in SEC games.

Boomer White leads the Aggies with a .527 SEC batting average. He's a TCU transfer having a banner season.

"He helped TCU to the College World Series and didn't like it there so he went to A&M," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "He'd always wanted to be an Aggie."

It's an older lineup with only one freshman regular, shortstop George Janca.

"They are aggressive at the plate," Van Horn said. "They will take a walk if you give it to them, but they come up there to hit.

"They've got Boomer White and Nick Banks in the middle of that lineup and they can really hit. But they are good all the way through it."

A&M is 33-8 overall and tops in the SEC West at 12-6. The only tough weekend was a trip to No. 1 Florida where the Aggies were swept.

Arkansas has won four of their last five, including two of three at No. 12 Kentucky last weekend. The Hogs beat No. 18 Oklahoma State on Tuesday night.

The Hogs enter at 25-16, 6-12 in the SEC. They are outside looking in as far as NCAA tournament hopes. But Van Horn knows the Hogs have proven of late that they are capable against good teams.

"If we play well, we've got a chance to win," he said. "If not, we don't.

"A&M is very difficult to beat. They pitch well, they field it well and they are the best hitting team in the SEC. They've only lost a handful of games and that's why they are on top of the West."

Van Horn will go with Taccolini on Friday night, Jackson on Saturday. He's unsure of the Sunday starter.

"We are going to do what we can (pitching) to win games," he said. "We'll see who we have left on Sunday. We will do whatever we have to if we can win a game."

Blaine Knight, true freshman from Bryant, might be the closer for the weekend, but Van Horn said he'll be used when he's needed most.

"It could be late in the game, or it could be for a situation," he said. "He can finish games. He's got good stuff."

Carson Shaddy will stay in center field with Cody Scroggins, another freshman, staying at third base.

"Carson's arm has been bothering him and we'll leave him in center," Van Horn said. "I just didn't want to DH Carson. He can play in the field and there aren't a lot of times he has to throw in center. He's looked more confident since we did that.

"Carson just had the look in his eye that told you it was bothering him. The arm will be fine about Christmas time."

"Cody is such a good defender at third we wanted him there. He's not hitting much but we wanted his defense."

Scroggins is hitting .138 with four hits in 29 at bats. He's got two hits in 12 at bats in SEC games.

Cullen Gassaway has been out with a sore shoulder, but could be back in the lineup as a DH against the Aggies. His shoulder has been bothering him since getting run over in the Western Illinois series.

"He's got issues with the shoulder," Van Horn said, "since the collision with the football player."

Rain is in the forecast for the weekend. It might be tough to get a game in on Friday night. But there is a good window in the forecast starting Saturday afternoon. If it's a doubleheader on Saturday, the first game will still start at 2 p.m. because of the TV window.

"If we have to play a doubleheader on Saturday, we can do that," Van Horn said.

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