Aggies take weekend series

The Aggie baseball team was hoping for a sweep heading into Sunday afternoon's finale against Kansas State. But a series victory moved them into the 40-win club, a huge improvement over the past two seasons. Aggie Websider's Lanny Hayes breaks down this weekend's series.

The 2007 Aggie baseball team had a milestone weekend in Manhattan, reaching a handful of goals that have eluded them in the past few seasons.

By virtue of a 2-1 series win, the Aggies secured their first 40 win season since 2004, and just their fifth of the last ten seasons. That 40 win mark has been a solid past indicator of a team's worthiness to host an NCAA regional, and those close to the program are certainly optimistic about that possibility given an expected finish to the season.

Additionally, the two A&M victories secured a trip to Oklahoma City and the Big 12 tournament to be held next weekend. The Aggies return to the tournament after a two year hiatus, and return to OKC for the first time since their Saturday meltdown in 2003. Results elsewhere in the conference ensure that A&M can finish the season no lower than fifth, but it also seems unlikely that A&M will scratch the top three. A&M's likely bracket in the Big 12 tournament will come with the first, fourth, fifth, and eighth seeds. Texas is likely to hold that top spot, while the fourth and fifth seeds will most likely be A&M and Nebraska. All of the bottom half teams, Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas tech are still alive for a tourney bid and can finish in any ordinal ranking.

The milestone weekend for the Aggies, though, went about as a neutral observer would expect. Pitching figured to be the top storyline this weekend, and it didn't disappoint. Conference play was an unfortunate indicator of how A&M would handle that fact; great starting performances took the Aggies to victory in the first two games, while the staff was shelled in a high scoring loss in game three.

Kyle Nicholson did everything he could in the Friday contest to keep his name atop the list for Big 12 Pitcher of the Year. The senior threw a six hit gem and struck out nine batters in a 4-2 victory. Nicholson hurled 126 pitches, 85 of which were strikes. He was matched almost step for step by KSU front-liner Brad Hutt, who also threw a complete game.

The Aggie offense was just a bit more efficient than the Wildcats, scoring three runs in the first two innings and a huge insurance run in the ninth. Brandon Hicks singled to lead off the game then scored on a pair of Wildcat errors as he stole second base. Kirkland Rivers walked in the second inning and was promptly driven home on Kyle Colligan's sixth homerun of the season. Colligan would score the final A&M run of the evening on an infield single by Dane Carter.

That run would be huge for Nicholson, who began to fade in the eighth but, true to his bulldog mentality, fought through a huge ninth inning jam to secure his eleventh victory of the season.

David Newmann took to the hill on Saturday and continued his recent Jekyll and Hyde routine. He struggled in the early innings versus Dallas Baptist last week, but had no such trouble against Kansas State. Newmann threw eight outstanding innings, allowing just one unearned run on three hits and a walk while striking out eight.

With A&M trailing 1-0 in the fourth, the Craig Stinson show took off. After Blake Stouffer was hit by a pitch and moved to third on a Luke Anders single, Stinson drove Stouffer home to tie the game with a sacrifice fly to deep right field. Three innings later, Stinson hit a solo homer to left to give A&M a 2-1 lead.

Those two runs would hold up thanks to Newmann and Rivers. Gary Campfield started the ninth but was pulled after surrendering a four pitch walk. Rivers then entered and retired the first hitter on a sacrifice bunt, and then followed with a strikeout and fly ball to center field to end the game. The save was Rivers' second on the season.

Sunday was again all about the pitching for A&M, but there was unfortunately none to be found in the 11-6 loss. A&M pitching allowed ten runs in the first three innings before settling down, and by then it was far too late. Scott Migl took the start and had his worst outing in an Aggie uniform, allowing six runs while retiring just four Wildcat hitters. Matt Ueckert followed in the 2nd and promptly allowed a grand slam that was reduced to three runs as the hitter passed the runner on first base. That out would be the only that Ueckert would earn, and he passed the ball to Kiel Renfro. Renfro allowed three runs of his own in a single inning pitched.

In somewhat of a bright spot for A&M's postseason potential, Kyle Thebeau entered in the third inning and pitched very well. He allowed just three hits and one run in 4.1 innings pitched, the one run being a solo homer in the sixth inning. Thebeau was pulled for an experimental run with Jason Meyer, who threw as a sidearmer for the first time in his career. His uneasiness in that style was obvious as he allowed a single, walked a hitter on four pitches and plunked his final opponent before exiting the game. Travis Starling would replace Meyer and strike out two in his single inning of work.

The Aggies would threaten offensively several times, but ultimately worked themselves out of their own jams with a lack of clutch hitting. The six runs and RBI were distributed singularly throughout the line-up, and only Hicks and Parker Dalton had multi-hit games.

A&M hit just .242 on the weekend, their worst offensive showing in conference play all season. Stinson and Dalton were the only Aggies with solid showings at the plate this weekend. Stinson hit .444 with a homer and three RBI, and Dalton tacked onto his outstanding season average with a 6-for-11 (.545) effort.

The Aggies return to action on Tuesday at Olsen Field against McNeese State and will finish the conference season this weekend with a split series against Texas. Friday's game will be at Olsen Field (6:30 pm) before the series moves to Austin for games two and three.

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