Baseball Preview: Texas A&M (9-5)

Cal State Fullerton has opened up the 2013 season with best start in the history of the program by winning the first ten games by a cumulative score of 69-20 before finally losing a game.

The Titans outscored their three opponents 30-9 in four games in the opening weekend, won 6-3 at Pepperdine in a midweek game and cruised thru a road trip to TCU by outscoring the Horned Frogs 20-4.  Fullerton looked to continue their roll last weekend against former coach George Horton's Oregon Ducks, who entered the series 7-1 and ranked in the top ten in most polls.  The Titans kept playing well in winning the first two games 8-2 and 5-2 before finally losing for the first time this season 9-1 in the third game of the series. 

Fullerton starter Thomas Eshelman and Oregon starter Jake Reed both retired every batter they faced over the first three innings before the Ducks became the first team to score first against the Titans with a run in the top of the fourth.  As Fullerton had done every time a team had scored in the first eight games, they immediately responded in their next at bat when Richy Pedroza singled, J.D. Davis walked and Anthony Hutting singled with two outs to drive in Pedroza to tie the game.  The wheels fell off for Oregon in the bottom of the fifth when Chad Wallach led off with a single, Clay Williamson walked, Keegan Dale bunted them over, Wallach scored on a wild pitch, Pedroza walked, Williamson scored and Pedroza went to second on a wild pitch and Pedroza ended up scoring later in the inning on a passed ball for the Titans to take a 4-1 lead.  The Ducks scored in the top of sixth to cut the lead to 4-2 and Fullerton came right back with four runs to put the game away.  Hutting hit a ball into the RF corner that looked like it would be a triple and Oregon's RF claimed the ball was stuck and he couldn't make a play on it but the umpires disagreed and Hutting came all the way around the bases for an inside the park HR.  With two outs, Wallach was hit by a pitch, Williamson singled, Dale's grounder up the middle went through the 2B's legs to score Wallach and end Reed's night, Dale stole second, Pedroza walked and Carlos Lopez's single to RF scored two runs.  All of those runs were more than enough for Eshelman, who was efficient in throwing only 95 pitches in a CG win, allowing two runs on four hits with no walks and six strikeouts to earn Big West pitcher of the week honors as the Titans set the school record for most consecutive wins to start the season with nine.

The second game of the series was an emotional one for Fullerton because the team found out after Friday's game that teammate Nick Hurtado had passed away after his three year battle with cancer.  Lopez honored Hurtado by wearing #56 and made a great play to start the game by snaring a grounder down the line that looked like it was headed into the RF corner for a triple.  Pedroza and Lopez led off the first with singles and Michael Lorenzen hit a shot down the LF line that curved directly into the screen on the foul pole to give the Titans a 3-0 lead.  Fullerton starter Justin Garza carried that lead into the sixth inning before Oregon finally got to him for two runs and was poised to tie the game when 2B Jake Jefferies made a diving stop on a grounder that looked like it was headed to RF.  Ducks starter Tommy Thorpe didn't give up a hit after Lorenzen's HR until the bottom of the sixth when Lorenzen lined a double to left-center, Wallach was hit by a pitch, pinch-hitter Dale's bunt moved the runners over, pinch-hitter Jared Deacon's SF to medium deep CF scored Lorenzen on a close play at the plate and Austin Diemer's double over the head of the CF who was playing shallow scored Wallach.  Garza ended up throwing eight innings, allowing two runs on six hits with one walk and four strikeouts to pick up his third win.  Lorenzen allowed a hit while pitching a scoreless ninth to pick up his third save as the Titans bumped up their school record for wins to start the season to ten.

Fullerton was probably due to lose a game and nobody expects to win every game and the law of probabilities caught up with the Titans in the final game of the series.  After a scoreless first, Oregon got to Fullerton starter Grahamm Wiest when Pedroza misplayed a double play ball and the Ducks ended up scoring two unearned runs.  The Ducks scored another unearned run in the fourth when Wiest's pickoff throw to 1B ended up in RF and they cashed that runner in.  Fullerton scored their only run of the game when Davis singled to lead off the inning and Jefferies' double to deep left-center drove him in.  Oregon scored two more runs in the sixth to finish off Wiest's day and the Ducks turned things into a rout against the Titans bullpen with four runs in the final three innings.  Oregon starting pitcher Cole Irvin was efficient in allowing only one run on eight hits in seven innings and Ryon Healy continued his onslaught of the Fullerton pitching staff with his third straight two hit game.  The Titans had nothing but frustration on the day and ended up stranding fourteen runners in the game as they lost for the first time this season.

The starting pitching for Fullerton was once again the main story in this series as freshmen Eshelman and Garza continued to be lights out and they have won all six of their starts with a 1.07 ERA.  Hits were tough to come by for the Titans and they only hit .239 in the series but they were opportunistic in the first two games while putting thirteen runs up on the board.  Lopez was 5-12, Hutting was 3-6 with an HR and two RBI, Jefferies was 3-7, Wallach was 3-8 and Lorenzen had the key three run HR on Saturday.

Fullerton got this week started with midweek games on the road at San Diego on Tuesday and USC on Wednesday.  The Titans losing streak extended to two games after losing to the Toreros 7-3 when probable first round pick Kris Bryant crushed two 2-run HR's and the pitchers surrendered a season high six walks.  Fullerton bounced back the next night when they jumped all over the Trojans pitching staff for eight runs in the first two innings on their way to an 11-4 win.  The Titans are looking to build on the momentum of their win against USC as they welcome Texas A&M to Goodwin Field this weekend.  The Aggies have never played at Fullerton but they aren't strangers to the west coast because they traveled to Malibu last season and swept Pepperdine.  These teams are also not strangers to each other after splitting midweek games in 2009 and 2011 in College Station before Fullerton won a tight series last series by coming back after losing the first game to win each of the next two games by one run.


Texas A&M Aggies (9-5)
  • 2012 Overall Record – 43-18
  • 2012 Conference Record – 16-8 (2nd)
  • 2012 Post-Season – 1-2 in College Station Regional (Win vs. Dayton, Loss vs. Ole Miss, Loss vs. TCU)
  • 2013 RPI/ISR – 70/54.  2012 RPI/ISR – 16/18
  • Current rankings – None
  • Pre-season rankings – 24th by USA Today/Coaches Poll, 24th by NCBWA, 26th by Collegiate Baseball, unranked by Baseball America, Perfect Game and Easton College Baseball
  • Predicted conference finish – 9th overall and 5th in the SEC West by the SEC coaches, Baseball America, Perfect Game and Easton College Baseball today

2012 Summary and 2013 Preview

Texas A&M has traditionally been one of the better programs in the central part of the country not named Texas but in the middle of the decade their program bottomed out.  The Aggies finished next to last in the Big XII in 2005 and finished in last place in Rob Childress' first season in College Station in 2006 but they righted the ship in a hurry and went to a Super Regional in 2007, won the Big XII and went to a Super Regional in 2008, went to regionals in 2009 and 2010 and won the Big XII and went to the College World Series in 2011 in their first trip to Omaha since 1999. 

Texas A&M was ranked in the top ten in every poll going into last season and expectations were high for a return visit to the College World Series with two standout starting pitchers and some key hitters returning. The Aggies rolled through the first three weeks of the season with a 12-1 start before Fullerton paid a visit to College Station and after Texas A&M thumped the Titans 6-1 in the opening game, Fullerton bounced back to win the second game 6-5 in 11 innings (with the extra innings being played the next day due to rain) and the final game 4-3.  That was part of a minor bump in the road for the Aggies, who lost two of their next three games before going on a 14-2 run before they lost five games in a row, including a sweep by Baylor as part of the Bears 18-0 start to the Big XII schedule.  Texas A&M went on a 13-2 run to finish the regular season and wrap up a regional hosting spot before dropping two out of three games in the Big XII tournament.  The Aggies won the opening game of their regional against Dayton before ending the season in disappointment by losing to Ole Miss and TCU and being eliminated in the regional they hosted.

Expectations aren't as high this season for Texas A&M after losing their two best starting pitchers (1st and 5th round picks) and three of their best hitters (one of them a 1st round pick) from the heart of their lineup and a youthful roster with 25 FR and Sophs.  The Aggies have scuffled a little bit out of the gate, winning two out of three against Illinois-Chicago (getting shut out on opening night) and losing a hard fought and low scoring series against Pepperdine (3-5, 3-1, 2-1) with two midweek wins before the Pepperdine series and two more midweek wins afterwards.  Texas A&M got their offense going in the first two games of the Minute Maid Park Tournament last weekend, losing 7-6 to Houston and upsetting Rice 8-3, before getting hammered 14-2 by North Carolina to end up losing two out of three games for the second straight weekend.  The Aggies improved their midweek record to 5-0 with an 8-2 win against Prairie View on Tuesday night.

Texas A&M has had about the same level of offense over the last three years, scoring around six runs a game in 2010 with the old bats and the last two years with the BBCOR bats.  Where the differences have come about with the Aggies is with their offensive philosophy.  Texas A&M hit 67 home runs in 2010 but only hit 53 over the last two seasons.  The Aggies have ratcheted up their running game and have been in the top 15 nationally in SB's over the last two seasons so runners will be in motion as often as possible.  As part of their aggressive philosophy, the Aggies will also go to the plate hacking away and swing at lots of pitches because they led the Big XII in strikeouts in 2011 and were 3rd last season.  Texas A&M bunted much less last season (44) than they did in 2011 (76) as they relied on their bats and running to do the damage.

The backbone for Texas A&M's program has traditionally been the pitching staff because their head coach is one of the better pitching coaches in the country and last year was no exception.  The Aggies team ERA has been in the top fifteen nationally in each of the last three seasons and their weekend rotation was 24-6 after going 28-8 in 2011.  Texas A&M's pitching staff has also been in the top ten nationally over the past two seasons in BB/9 IP, walking a little over two hitters per game, and were #4 nationally in K/BB ratio and #2 nationally in WHIP.  The Aggies didn't have to rely that much on their bullpen and when they did, they had two workhorses who led the Big XII in appearances.

Texas A&M has been averaging 4.5 runs per game but much of that has come against midweek pitching (35 runs in five games) and they are only averaging 3.6 runs per game on the weekends and have been held to four runs or less six times in nine games.  The Aggies don't have much power with only two HR's and have been relying on most of their lineup to slap the ball and use their speed for most of their 26 extra base hits with many of those coming due to running hits into doubles and triples and they already have 33 SB's (18-23 in 9 weekend games, 20-20 in five midweek games).  Texas A&M is also bunting much more than they did last season and already have 21 SAC's, the most in the nation.  The Aggies usually haven't been that patient at the plate and were averaging under three walks per game before drawing ten walks against North Carolina.   

Texas A&M has been getting solid pitching most of the time and they have allowed three runs or less in nine of their thirteen games, although many of those positive results came against teams that didn't have good offenses.  The Aggies carried a 1.80 ERA into the Minute Maid Tournament but their pitching staff got banged around by Houston and North Carolina for 21 runs and they left the weekend with a 3.24 ERA.  The starters for Texas A&M were effective most of the time the first two weekends but only one of them threw well in Houston.  The Aggies are relying on a bunch of newcomers and little used relievers out of the bullpen and for the most part they have thrown well, especially their closer.


Offense
  • Park Factor according to Boyd's World – 108 from 2008-2011 (increases offense by 8%).  330 down the lines, 375 to the power alleys and 400 to CF.  The ball travels well when the air warms up and there are short dimensions to the power alleys.  
  • Batting Average – .287 in 2013 (98th in the NCAA).  .288 in 2012 (3rd in the Big XII, 75th in the NCAA)
  • Runs Per Game – 4.5 in 2013 (#191).  5.8 in 2012 (2/91)
  • Home Runs – 2 in 2013.  23 in 2012 (8/158)
  • Stolen Bases – 33 in 2013 (#8).  129 in 2012 (1/4)
  • Slugging Percentage – .373 in 2013 (#146).  .385 (4/119)
  • Walks – 47 in 2013, 3.4 per game (#77).  227 in 2012 (3/78), 3.7 per game.
  • Strikeouts – 84 in 2013, 6.0 per game.  409 in 2012 (3/x), 6.7 per game.
  • HBP's – 17 in 2013 (#40).  59 in 2012 (5/124)
  • Sac Bunts – 21 in 2013 (#1).  44 in 2012 (8/127)

Lineup
  
Infield

Texas A&M is inexperienced on the corners after losing two of their best power hitters, Jacob House and Matt Juengel, but returns all three of their starters up the middle from 2012 with one of them shifting over to 3B.

C – JR #6 Troy Stein (RH – .268/.302/.366, 0-3-1.  '12 – .304/387/.418, 2-25-1) only started five times in the first fourteen games in 2012 but started the last two games of the Fullerton series, going 3-6 with an RBI, and took control of the position and rarely came out of the lineup after that series.  He improved as the season went on and hit .321 in conference games and was 2nd team All-Big XII.  Stein usually hit 7th in 2012 and has been hitting 5th or 6th most of the time.  He has only hit .188 in weekend games thus far and his problems have been due to his issues with plate discipline.  Stein struck out 44 times in 2012 and has a poor 1/11 BB/K ratio.  Soph #30 Mitchell Nau (RH – 7-24, 1 HR, 5 RBI.  '12 – .217 in 60 AB's) is the backup and has split time between C and DH and hit a HR on Tuesday against Prairie View.

1B – Soph #12 Cole Lankford (LH – .289/.341/.421, 0-6-1.  '12 - .146 in 48 AB's) was also part of the mix behind the plate in 2012 but has moved to 1B to help fill the void left by House moving on.  He started the first eight games while hitting in the middle of the order but has only started twice in the last six games.

1B/3B – FR #17 Logan Taylor (RH – 5-21) has seen more playing time over the last six games, splitting time between 1B and 3B, and could develop into a power threat.

2B – JR #4 Charlie Curl (RH – .188/.350/.250, 0-5-4.  '12 – 2-13.  '11 –.276/.336/.336, 1-18-4) was a part-time starter at 2B in 2011 and was on the FR All-Big XII team but barely got off of the bench last season.  He started the first eleven games but didn't hit much and didn't start the last two games last weekend.

3B/2B - Soph #1 Blake Allemand (Both – .139/.367/.194, 0-5-5.  '12 – .289/.395/.336, 0-14-4) split time between 2B and 3B in 2012 and had a solid FR season.  He is a small guy with not much power but he has good plate discipline with a 22/21 BB/K ratio in 2012 and a 9/8 ratio this season and leads the team in walks.  Allemand is a good bunter and led the team with 10 SAC's last season.  He has gotten off to a terrible start but had a key bases loaded double against Rice.  He has been playing 3B most of the time and hitting 6th or 7th but started playing 2B in the last two games in Houston.  Allemand went 1-5 with an RBI against Fullerton in 2012.

SS – SR #16 Mikey Reynolds (RH – .463/.508/.500, 0-10-7.  '12 – .306/.417/.403, 1-23-21) came in as a JC transfer in 2012 and the little guy has been a sparkplug in the leadoff spot over the last two seasons, averaging almost a run per game.  He makes good use of his speed and was 2nd team All-Big XII after finishing third in the conference in R and SB.  Reynolds will do whatever he can to get on base and led the team with 31 BB's and 11 HBP's in 2012.  He has been on fire to start the season and is currently on a thirteen game hitting streak so the Fullerton pitchers will have to keep him off base to help slow down the Aggies offense.  Reynolds doesn't have much power and uses his speed to leg out what would normally be singles into extra base hits.  He was a 20th round pick last June but is looking like he has a chance to move 10-12 rounds up the draft board to become an inexpensive SR sign that a team can plug into their organization.  Reynolds went 4-13 with an RBI against the Titans in 2012.

Outfield

Texas A&M lost their best player, 1st round pick RF Tyler Naquin, but returns most of the other players who saw time in the OF and have been using a FR as one of the regulars.

LF – FR #40 Jonathon Moroney (RH – .390/.386/.585, 1-9-1) wasn't one of the more heralded recruits in a solid FR class but he is a good athlete and has ended up taking over as one of the corner OF's for Naquin.  Moroney has been one of the few productive players in the middle of the lineup and has taken over as the cleanup hitter.  He had a big weekend in Houston and went 5-11 with with 4 RBI and hit Texas A&M's only HR of the season and was named the SEC's FR of the week.  Moroney isn't too selective at the plate and has only walked once.

CF – JR #13 Krey Bratsen (RH – .320/.370/.340, 0-7-6.  '12 – .226/.316/.286, 1-25-21. '11 – .332/.395/.373, 0-36-31) won the CF job from day one as a FR and was named 1st team All-Big XII after hitting .380 in conference games and was a FR All-American.  He got off to a very slow start in 2012 and was moved down in the order, the coaching staff tried moving him up to second and that didn't work so he was moved back down in the order.  It looks like the problem might have been that Bratsen was having trouble seeing the ball because he commented recently that he got his eyes examined and got new contacts before the season.  He has been one of the hotter hitters on the team and had an eleven game hitting streak snapped over the weekend and has been moved up to the second spot in the order.  Bratsen doesn't have much power and any extra base hits he gets will usually come from his exceptional speed, which he used to steal 52 bases in his first two seasons.  He is also an outstanding bunter and was also 9th in the country with 19 SAC's in 2011 (he bunted less last year with 8 SAC's) and is a threat to bunt in every AB to use his speed to get on base.  One issue that Bratsen has is making contact and he struck out 54 times as a FR and 43 times in 2012, which nullifies his speed, although he is doing a better job this season with his plate discipline and has only struck out three times.  He is 5-15 in his career against Fullerton, with hits in all four games, and has stolen three bases.

RF – JR #3 Jace Statum (LH – 5-19.  '12 – .289 in 45 AB's) has been a part-time player as the fourth OF over his first two seasons and has started six times in RF, more than anybody else where several players have started at least once.  He is a little guy with good speed but not much power.

SR #8 Brandon Wood (RH – 0-9.  '12 – .258/.343/.410, 5-25-10) split time in LF for the first 40 games of 2011 before starting the last 29 games and was the regular LF last season but has been supplanted in the lineup and has only started in three games.  He has good speed but also doesn't make good use of it and has struck out 100 times over the past two seasons (58 K's in 2012 and 42 K's in 2011).

DH – Soph #15 Daniel Mengden (RH – .326/.429/.435, 0-8-1.  '12 – 4-18) focused mostly on pitching as a FR but has been the DH most of the time and started in RF twice.  He has been hitting well while usually batting 3rd and had a nine game hitting streak snapped last weekend.  Mengden has good patience at the plate but will strike out some (7/11 BB/K ratio) and is one of the few power threats in the lineup.
  

Defense

Fielding % - .979 (#27) with 11 errors in 2013.   .969 (7/91) in 2012 – 74 errors.  Texas A&M was below average on defense in 2012 but has been much improved this season.  The Aggies had excellent outfield defense last season but made 55 errors in the infield.  They have fixed that situation so far with Reynolds making only one error after committing 16 in 2012.  Curl and Allemand haven't hit much but they have been solid in the field with only two errors.  The outfield defense hasn't been as strong as it was in 2012 with a FR (Moroney) in LF and a platoon in RF but they still have Bratsen covering a bunch of ground in CF.

Stolen Base Attempts – 2-7 in 2013.  42-65 in 2012.  Runners were 27-41 against Stein and he improved as the season went on as he went from being part of a platoon to starting almost every game.  He has completely shut down the running game of their opponents this season.

WP's/PB's Allowed – 11 in 2013.  46 in 2012.  Stein is average at blocking pitches.


Pitching
  • ERA – 3.24 in 2013 (#74).  2.92 in 2012 (1/9)
  • AVG – .242 in 2013 (#66).  .237 in 2012 (3/xx).  8 H/9 IP was #15 nationally.
  • HR – 2 in 2013.  25 in 2012 (9/xx)
  • SLG – .292 in 2013.  .312 in 2012.
  • Walks – 45 in 2013, 3.3 BB/9 IP (#85).  149 (1/xx).  2.3 BB's/9 IP was #5 nationally.
  • HBP's – 18 in 2013.  30 in 2012.
  • WHIP – 1.23 in 2013 (#58).  1.14 in 2012 (1/2)
  • Strikeouts – 107 in 2013, 7.8 K's/9 IP (#111).  469 in 2012 (3/xx).  7.6 K's/9 IP was #41 nationally.
Starters

Texas A&M had one of the best Friday and Saturday SP combos in the country in 2012 with Michael Wacha (1st round pick) and Ross Stripling (5th round pick) but both of those pitchers have moved on so the Aggies have bumped up their closer and weekend starter into the weekend rotation and the results were very positive the first two weekends but a couple of their starters struggled last weekend.

SR #32 Kyle Martin (RHP – 0-2, 5.09 ERA, 3 GS, 18 IP, 19 H, 2 BB, 20 K, .271 AVG, 1 HR, 3 HBP, 1 WP, 0-0 SB. '12 – 6-5, 3.20 ERA, 7 saves, 38 apps, 56 IP, 57 H, 21 BB, 52 K, .254 AVG, 2 HR, 5 HBP, 4 WP, 4-7 SB) was second on the team in appearances in 2011 and led the Big XII in 2012 and was a workhorse out of the bullpen.  He got off to a slow start last season but pitched very well during the conference season and went 4-2 with four saves and a 2.45 ERA and was honorable mention All-Big XII.  Martin is 6'6" and is tough on RH hitters, throwing from a 3/4 to sidearm arm slot as a reliever but he has moved his release point a little more over the top as a starter.  His fastball has increase from the 86-88 range to the 90-91 range with good sink and he has a solid changeup and a decent slider.  Martin was a 35t round draft pick last June but has a chance to go 20-25 rounds higher with a solid season.  He was the hard luck loser against Illinois-Chicago on opening night, allowing two unearned runs on five hits and no walks with 10 K's in 6 2/3 IP, didn't pick up a decision in a solid start against Pepperdine (7 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 6 K) but was bombed by Houston in his start last weekend (4 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 2 BB, 4 K).  Martin pitched in all three games against Fullerton in 2012, allowing a run on four hits in 3 2/3 IP and picking up the loss in the series deciding game. 

Soph #15 Daniel Mengden (RHP – 3-0, 2.18 ERA, 3 GS, 21 IP, 12 H, 5 BB, 18 K, .176 AVG, 1 HR, 3 HBP, 0 WP, 1-3 SB.  '12 – 3-4, 3.83 ERA, 3 saves, 22 apps, 4 GS, 47 IP, 48 H, 8 BB, 41 K, .258 AVG, 3 HR, 4 HBP, 4 WP, 4-5 SB) started out last season as the closer and struggled in that role, was moved into middle relief and didn't pitch great there either but when he was moved into the midweek SP spot in last April he was lights out and went 3-0 in four starts with a 0.68 ERA, allowing 19 H and one BB with 16 K's in 26 2/3 IP.  It was a natural move for him to move into the weekend rotation and he has been the anchor of the rotation, picking up wins in all three starts against Illinois-Chicago (5 2/3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K), Pepperdine (7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 8 K) and Rice (8 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 8 K).  He is one of the harder throwers on the team with a fastball that sits in the low 90's and can touch 95 and has a good slider but his changeup is a work in progress.  Mengden is projected to be among the top five players drafted out of the SEC in 2014, which means he will be looking at being picked in the first 2-3 rounds.  He pitched twice against Fullerton in 2012 and allowed a run on four hits in four innings, picking up the loss in the Titans extra inning win in the second game of the series.

Soph #55 Rafael Pineda (RHP – 1-1, 3.68 ERA, 4 apps, 3 GS, 15 IP, 15 H, 6 BB, 10 K, .283 AVG, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 2 WP, 0-1 SB.  '12 – 5-1, 2.71 ERA, 15 GS, 1 CG, 83 IP, 75 H, 16 BB, 44 K, .237 AVG, 5 HR, 6 HBP, 3 WP, 12-14 SB) didn't pitch during his first two years on campus as he worked on getting his mechanics down but pitched well in the summer in 2011 and continued to throw well during the fall and worked his way into the Sunday SP spot.  He allowed three runs or less in every start except for one, didn't walk more than two batters in any start but was usually on a short leash and only went past the sixth inning in five of his starts.  Pineda pitched well in his first two starts against Illinois-Chicago (W, 6 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 5K) and Pepperdine (ND, 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 3 K) but was uncharacteristically wild in his start against North Carolina last weekend and walked the first four batters of the game and was taken out.  He allowed a run on two hits in 1 2/3 IP on Tuesday to get in some extra work.  His fastball sits around 89-90 with sink and he has a decent changeup.  Pineda received a ND after allowing 3 R on 4 H in 5 1/3 IP in his start against Fullerton in 2012.

The midweek SP's have been FR #38 Grayson Long (RHP – 2-0, 1.65 ERA, 4 apps, 3 GS, 16 IP, 11 H, 7 BB, 17 K, .200 AVG, 0 HR, 3 HBP, 0 WP, 0-0 SB) and Soph #22 Corey Ray (RHP – 2-0, 6.28 ERA, 4 apps, 2 GS, 14 IP, 12 H, 10 BB, 13 K, .231 AVG, 0 HR, 5 HBP, 4 WP, 0-0 SB.  '12 – 2-0, 3.52 ERA, 12 apps, 3 GS, 31 IP, 27 H, 10 BB, 17 K, .250 AVG, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 8 WP, 3-6 SB).  Long started on Tuesday night against Prairie View and picked up his second win (5 IP, 1R, 3 H, 3 BB, 8 K) after throwing well in his first two starts against Texas Southern and Northwestern State.  He is a big guy with a good fastball that sits in the 92-94 range and a good changeup and has a bright future as a probable weekend starter next season.  Ray had two solid starts against Stephen F. Austin and Northwestern State but got lit up by North Carolina in relief last Sunday (1 1/3 IP, 5 R, 2 H, 3 BB). 

Relievers

Texas A&M didn't have a deep bullpen last season and relied primarily on two pitchers in the late innings who led the Big XII in appearances but one of them (Martin) is now in the rotation and the other one (Estevan Uriegas) moved on.  The Aggies mixed and matched with the other relievers and midweek starters and have been doing more of the same with seven relievers already making at least four appearances.

JR #20 Jason Jester (RHP – 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 3 saves, 6 apps, 8 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 6 K, .207 AVG, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 0 WP, 0-0 SB) was supposed to be the closer in 2012 but had eligibility issues with his transfer from the JC he attended and wasn't cleared to play.  He hasn't looked rusty with the time off and has been throwing very well, attacking the strike zone and his fastball usually sitting in the 92-94 range and an effective changeup.

FR #31 Matt Kent (LHP – 0-1, 5.87 ERA, 9 apps, 8 IP, 8 H, 1 BB, 3 K, .296 AVG, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 0 WP, 0-1 SB) leads the team in appearances and has usually pitched a couple of times every weekend.  He was down the pecking order among the incoming FR as a crafty lefty but he has been very effective and threw three scoreless innings against Houston last Friday before being rushed into duty when Pineda was pulled in the first and allowed four runs on five hits in 1 1/3 IP.

FR #34 AJ Minter and FR #36 Ty Schlottmann are the other LHP's in the bullpen.  Minter has made five appearances (3 IP, 0 R) and Schlottman has made four appearances (2 2/3 IP, 0 R).  Minter has good upside with a low 90's fastball and a cutter.

The other pitchers who could make appearances this weekend are all RHP's – JC transfer #21 Zach Brashear (0-1, 0.00 ERA, 7 apps, 5 1/3 IP, 4 H, 2 unearned runs, 2 BB, 3 K), Soph #44 Jason Freeman (1-0, 1.93 ERA, 4 apps, 4 2/3 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 4 K.  '12 – 1-1, 4.13 ERA, 28 apps, 28 IP, 26 H, 11 BB, 22 K, .248 AVG, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 0 WP, 2-3 SB), JR #54 Parker Ray (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 3 apps, 4 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 3 K.  '12 – 2-1, 1.29 ERA, 16 apps, 14 IP, 9 H, 6 BB, 16 K, .191 AVG, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 3 WP, 1-3 SB) and FR #10 Andrew Vinson (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 5 apps, 4 IP, 3 H, 4 BB, 6 K).


Outlook

Fullerton has been opportunistic on offense while averaging over seven runs a game in their wins and displaying much more power than they did in 2012.  The Titans have also been getting outstanding pitching with their weekend rotation holding teams to a 1.47 ERA.  Fullerton has also been playing good, and at time times spectacular, defense with a .980 fielding percentage.  The Titans have been playing well in all facets of the game, which is why they have gotten off to such a good start.

Texas A&M will provide an interesting challenge for Fullerton because of the speed and small ball game that they want to play.  The Aggies ran the Titans ragged last season in College Station when they went 7-9 on SB attempts and will try to do that again to rattle the young Fullerton pitching staff.  The best way for Fullerton to take Texas A&M out of their game plan of running and bunting will be to get out to leads, something that the Titans have been doing quite often this season.  The Aggies have had trouble scoring runs most of the time against weekend pitching so they could have issues putting runs up on the board.

Texas A&M's pitching staff has been solid most of the time although they showed some leaks last weekend in their two losses.  The Aggies have the pitching depth to make this a difficult series for Fullerton if their starters re-establish their command of the strike zone.  Texas A&M has allowed three runs or less in ten of their fourteen games and Fullerton has often been taking advantage of the other team giving them free baserunners to generate offense.

Texas A&M is a solid team but Fullerton has been better this season.  The best way for the Aggies to sneak out of town with a series win is to keep things tight and have their pitching staff keep this a low scoring series.  If the Titans are able to keep their offense cranked up and if the Fullerton rotation continues to pitch like they have thus far then they should be able to come out of this weekend with a series win.