Aggies head to Manhattan to take on Kansas St

The Texas A&M baseball team continues their trek toward a national seed in the Little Apple this weekend, traveling to Manhattan to take on the Kansas State Wildcats. The two teams will square off at 6:30 on Friday and Saturday, with Sunday's finale coming at 1 PM.

The Texas A&M baseball team continues their trek toward a national seed in the Little Apple this weekend, traveling to Manhattan to take on the Kansas State Wildcats.  The two teams will square off at 6:30 on Friday and Saturday, with Sunday's finale coming at 1 PM. 

 At 38-11 overall and 11-9 in Big 12 play, there's much for the Aggies to play for this weekend.  The 38-11 record is among the best in the nation, and is a big reason the team has an RPI ranking of six at this point.  Forty wins have long been considered the "magic number" to secure a host position, and a pair of wins this weekend likely sews that up.  Hopes of a national seed, however, may require the Aggies to get a bit greedy.  That will be a challenge against a Wildcat club who hasn't been swept all season. 

 With the talk of regional hosts and national seeds abounding, it's easy to forget that A&M hasn't been to the Big 12 tournament since 2004 and is yet to officially punch their 2007 ticket.  That seems to be a mere formality, however, as they must finish ahead of just two other clubs.  A&M's magic number to guarantee placement ahead of the bottom teams in the conference (A&M wins plus losses by those teams) are one for Kansas, two for Texas Tech, and three for each of Baylor and Oklahoma.  In fact, a pair of A&M wins this weekend clinches a tournament berth, and the Aggies could lock up as high as a sixth place finish with a little help elsewhere in league play.

 The Wildcats enter the series at 31-17 overall, and 9-11 in Big 12 play.  That 9-11 mark is good enough to sit alone in sixth place, just two games behind the Aggies.  Their RPI is very respectable at #32, and all major regional projection models have them in the postseason despite their sub-.500 conference record.  They sit at 2-6 vs teams in the RPI Top 25.

 If there's a mantra of this Wildcat club, it's that they do not frequently beat themselves.  Errors are very low, unearned runs stay at a minimum, and consistency throughout the line-up trumps large statlines.

 The Kansas State offense is as unremarkable as they come, but don't mistake that plainness for weakness.  They're batting a very average .292, but reach base a hundred points better at .392.  Their power game is pedestrian, as evidenced by just 19 homers and a .387 slugging percentage.  Though they're not afraid to move on the basepaths, stealing 72 bases in 91 tries, but aren't really small ball oriented (averaging just one bunt per contest). 

 Despite that no offensive sticks out as overpowering, they find ways to get runs across the board.  The Wildcats put an average of 6.21 runs on the scoreboard per contest, an almost amazing number given the lack of power and average. 

 The key, though, has been patience at the plate.  KSU holds the highest walk-to-strikeout ratio in the Big 12 at .736, and has found a way to be plunked 58 times in the 48 games.  When those runners get on, the hitters get opportunistic; the Wildcats hold the third best average with runners in scoring position in the Big 12.  They also do a good job of not killing themselves, hitting into merely 31 double plays on the season.

 Consistency throughout the order also makes the Wildcats dangerous.  The variance between 3rd best and 10th best hitter on the team is just .032, effectively making the ninth hitter little worse than the three hole. Despite the low averages, the overall consistency will force Aggie pitchers to stay focused throughout the line-up, a tough mental challenge for a group struggling with their confidence.

 Where the Wildcat hitting is consistent, the pitching has been far from it.  The three weekend starters bring ERAs of 3.01, 4.40, and 7.53 to the hill; much movement around the team ERA of 4.29.  Those starters give away as many free passes as the offense earns, holding a collectively uninspiring 1.45-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio.

 While the starters' pitching numbers are all over the map, their bullpen has been comparatively stellar.  The KSU pen will go seven deep, led by closer Daniel Edwards (3-0, 0.92 ERA, 11 Sv, 43 K to 9 BB, .127 BAA).  Middle relief will come from a group of five whose ERAs all fall between 3.76 and 4.17.

 The biggest challenge for A&M hitters will be that KSU does not beat themselves.  While the walk number is relatively high, just seven of the 102 runs scored against Wildcat starters has been unearned.  If a starter gets into a jam, the bullpen will be called upon quickly rather than letting a game get out of hand while trying to squeak in a few more pitches; just one KSU starter has a complete game on the season.


Game 1
Kyle Nicholson - Senior – RHP (10-1, 1.71 ERA, 20 App., 7 GS, 94.2 IP, 73 H, 14 BB, 77 K, .214 Opp. BA)
Brad Hutt - Junior - RHP (8-3, 3.01 ERA, 77.2 IP, 77 H, 46 K, 25 BB)

Game 2
David Newmann - Junior – LHP (8-1, 3.68 ERA, 13 App., 13 GS, 73.1 IP, 54 H, 34 BB, 73 K, .210 Opp. BA)
Trevor Hurley - Sophomore – RHP (1-2, 3.76 ERA, 38.1 IP, 34 H, 29 K, 12 BB)

Game 3
TBD VS. Chase Bayuk - Junior – LHP (4-4, 4.40 ERA, 57.1 IP, 50 H, 41 K, 38 BB)



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