Do Texas A&M fans have legitimate reason to be disappointed with this weekend's sweep at the hands of the rival Longhorns? Yes. Upset? Indeed. Discouraged? Sure. Shocked? Maybe. Surprised? Not really.
Make no mistake, no one in College Station thought that No. 5 Texas would sweep the No. 9 Aggies, even if the Horns somehow won the Friday night contest. Two top-10 teams are so evenly matched, typically, that a sweep usually only occurs when one team—either team—completely plays outside of their normal means. One club may go off on a ridiculous hot streak, or the other tanks in a way that they haven't all season.
That's the shocking part of the weekend; neither team played outside of a fashion that they've recently shown.
The Longhorns reminded us why they're the best program in the country, and made A&M play them on their terms. Down by three early in a difficult Friday road game? No worries, just slowly grind on the opposing team's All-American pitcher and get the win late after chipping away. Texas' own All-American struggled early against the A&M offense, going just four innings. A cause for concern? Absolutely not. Just put the ball in play and good things will happen.
For A&M, the first few innings of both Friday and Saturday were as close to script as you can get. The Aggie offense made two-strike hit after two-strike hit on Friday night to scratch a pair of early runs. Then Luke Anders hit another opposite field homer off of a left handed pitcher. On Saturday, a pair of RBI singles gave A&M an early lead. Both starters seemed on their game, and when they didn't seem to have their best stuff, they made up for it with resolve.
A&M hasn't had much trouble winning the first six or seven innings of games this year, though. Unfortunately, the last few innings went disturbingly close to a prior script as well.
The Aggies didn't invent new ways to lose these games, they just followed methods that they'd tried and proven in their previous 12 losses. Friday, it was a shaky late bullpen performance and an inability to extend their lead early in the game. Saturday was an untimely error on a routine play. Sunday was, well, Sunday for the Aggies in the Big 12 with trouble on the hill and a mixed bag at the plate.
It's not shocking in and of itself that A&M dropped each contest individually, especially given the methods, but the disconcerting factor to fans is to see this happen when it did, to whom it did, and with the stakes that were on the line.
The results from this weekend have ultimately come close to destroying an entire season of work when it comes to seeding for the NCAA tournament. A&M's Top 10 RPI suddenly seems irrelevant, given that a 13-13 conference record isn't going to appeal well to the selection committee. A national seed was effectively squandered and a hosting spot might not be far behind. The host spot could be regained with a good week in Oklahoma City, and that will no doubt be Rob Childress' battle cry at Bricktown.
He's going to need that battle cry to resonate as well, because regional play doesn't situate well for the Aggies' shorthanded pitching staff. Some of that could have been hidden with a favorable first round match-up as a No. 1 seed versus a weaker No. 4 seed, but if the Aggies slip to a No. 2 seed, Nicholson or Newmann must pitch game one. It's not hard to imagine A&M in the winner's bracket there, and even easier to see them in the championship game, but what happens then?
Playing in front of several thousand Aggie fans at Olsen would also make the job easier, but that's becoming an increasingly difficult scenario to imagine. A&M's new home away from home, Rice's Reckling Park, probably isn't in the cards again either. Rice is a lock to be one of the top three national seeds and, given what A&M has done against them this year and in 2004, the NCAA will not be quick to subject a protected seed to such a storm. A few other local teams have bid for regionals that would be beneficial for creating an artificial home field advantage, such as Louisiana-Lafayette and TCU, but a little creativity from the selection committee can stymie that in a hurry.
If anyone can figure it out though, it's Childress, who may have also lost the Coach of the Year crown to Missouri's Tim Jamieson this weekend. The job he's done in two seasons is remarkable and, if he can make last year's Aggie club this good in one year, hopefully the magic wand has a little left for a few weeks of prosperity. Many forget how fast the program has come back after being so far down, and it's entirely possible that the best days for this year's team are yet to come.
With Childress on my side, I wouldn't be shocked to see it happen.
Aggies swept in Top-10 match up
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