Big 12 Tournament Notebook - Day 2

In a strange turn of events on Thursday in Oklahoma City, the Aggies' chances of advancing to the Big 12 Tournament title game went from unlikely to probable in a matter of hours. Aggie Websider's Lanny Hayes takes a look at the incredible events of Day 2 and discusses what the Aggies need to do to advance to Sunday's championship game.

Texas A&M has Friday off, but if Rob Childress is a smart man he won't just lounge around the hotel. He'll find the nearest Indian casino and bet whatever comes into his mind.

Ever since the batting order stabilized in early March, Childress hasn't been much of a gambler. In fact, the most calculated risk that he's made in the last ten weeks was moving Nicholson from the bullpen to a regular starting role – or maybe the two game experiment of Parker Dalton in the two-hole.

Don't confuse aggression, which this team has a metric mess load on offense, with gambling. You don't always have to have the best cards to win the hand, but you have to play them the strongest.

Childress' actions in the last two games, however, have been flat out gambling. Both of them have worked.

Sure, it's easy to point at Wednesday's loss and say that Childress didn't win, but he did everything he could. In poker terminology, he found a way to get all of his money into the pot with the best hand. His pitcher by committee approach was greatly successful against the Cornhuskers, but you can't strand 13 people on base and win. That's execution, not coaching.

One day after the radical idea worked for the pitching staff, it worked for the offense. Hardcore fans have wondered how the line-up would look if A&M had a true leadoff hitter, which they don't have. Brandon Hicks filled into that role very nicely, but he's much more of a natural hitter in the third spot. Dane Carter was expected to be a guy towards the top of the order after last fall, but an injury and lack of performance kept him out of the line-up consistently.

So, let's lead off Carter, followed by a semi-slumping Feltner, Hicks, and then an anti-clutch-of-late Stouffer.

The dice came up seven, literally, as the Aggies put up that many runs through aggression, a little luck, and the big time "Big Fly" from Craig Stinson.

Will Childress stick with this line-up? Maybe. Maybe not. Hicks has been as good as you can ask for in the lead-off role (for not being a lead-off hitter), and the dynamic from the 9 through 5 hole (and six when Kyle Colligan is on his game) is among the toughest in the nation.

Either way, here's to another seven.

Day 2, Part II
When lady luck is in your lap, she usually wants to hang out for a while. Aggie fans are hoping for that possibility.

Twenty four hours ago, it seemed unlikely that A&M could reach the Big 12 title game. Right now, they're the odds on favorites.

To advance, A&M must beat Kansas State while Texas must beat Nebraska. On paper, this puts A&M in the driver's seat; both teams that need to win are the higher seed and thus, in theory, the better team.

Theory is all well and good, but breaks down when the bat hits the ball. Even then, the realities of the season—and the tournament—seem to put A&M in great shape.

The Aggies hook up with a KSU team at 10 AM Saturday that's on a high from the Nebraska win, but otherwise in trouble. They've already thrown nine pitchers, and their star closer has struggled in both games this week. All three pitchers who started against the Aggies two weeks ago have already thrown. Chase Bayuk, the Sunday starter against A&M, threw just two thirds of an inning and is likely to start Saturday's contest. The rest of the pen will be available on two days rest. Available, certainly, but at their best? Who knows?

Meanwhile, A&M will be throwing David Newmann against the Wildcats, two weeks since his outstanding performance against them in Manhattan. Every A&M reliever will be available, including Kyle Nicholson. Nicholson threw 2.1 innings against Texas, and will be available in a closing-type role with one day of rest on Saturday. Given that he may start on Friday or Saturday in a regional next week, he will not pitch on Sunday. Childress will have the fortunate dilemma of being forced to throw Nicholson if needed; a dilemma that would put the smile on the face of any coach.

In game two, Nebraska is reeling and Texas has bullets in the gun. The Huskers have thrown their best two starters already, while the Longhorns hold All-American Adrian Alaniz in their back pocket. Both teams will have their key bullpen arms ready, but Texas holds the edge in depth. Offensively, the Longhorns compare favorable to the Huskers.

Additionally, Texas will have an added incentive if A&M wins on Saturday morning. An Aggie win eliminates Texas from contention for the tournament title. While Augie Garrido surely isn't in the business of providing aid to A&M, knowing that his team is eliminated will eliminate any thoughts of holding arms back.

The advantage is certainly to A&M, but they have to capitalize.

Aggie Digest Top Stories