Top-seeded Texas A&M returns to NCAA regional play for the first time in three years tonight, taking on fourth seed Le Moyne at Olsen Field. Second seeded Louisiana-Lafayette and third seeded Ohio State will meet at 1 PM, with the winners and losers squaring off tomorrow.
Friday's game is A&M's first postseason contest since a 4-0 loss to LSU in the 2004 Baton Rouge Super-Regional. The last postseason contest at Olsen Field was a 2003 loss to Houston in the College Station regional championship game. A&M's last postseason win at home was a 16-5 win over Alabama in 2003, and the last postseason series won at home was the 1999 Super Regional over Clemson.
Le Moyne College earned their berth in the NCAA tournament by winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament championship, sweeping through with a perfect record. The Dolphins also won the regular season championship, and have a 34-17 overall record. The final NCAA RPI figures place them as the 104th best team in the country.
Those rankings would lead some to believe that the Aggies throw one of their lower starters on Friday night, leaving the ace arms to throw later into the weekend. Rob Childress, however, saw MAAC champion Manhattan take down top seeded Nebraska last season, and isn't doing any riverboat gambling tonight.
David Newmann will take to the hill for A&M, a testament to both the importance of the game and Childress' respect for the Le Moyne program.
"We talked about it all week long," Childress said. "Manahattan had a very good pitcher who came in and handled them pretty good. It wasn't even a close game. To go into a place like Haymaker Market in front of that crowd that will be similar to the crowd we'll hopefully have here tomorrow night (is impressive). They didn't back down and I don't expect Le Moyne to either.
"When you're playing a game, you've got to win that game. I don't think you can look to and say I've got to keep someone back for Sunday's game. You've got to win every game that you play."
The Dolphins enter the contest with a fair .295 batting average, which is slightly aided by a .365 on base percentage and significantly helped by a .436 slugging mark. They strike out nearly twice as much as they walk (1.79:1 ratio), and average nearly six runs per contest.
They're led offensively by All-American shortstop Andy Parrino, who holds the team lead in batting average (.408), runs scored (46), hits (78), homers (9), RBI (44), slugging (.660) and OBP (.482). He's not much of a threat to run (5 for 6) on the base paths, and that isn't particularly Le Moyne's style. They've attempted only 79 steals, succeeding just 49 times.
The Dolphins don't play much small ball either (25 sacrifice hits), but rely on doubles and consecutive hits to spur their offense. Parrino is complemented in that line-up by Mike Brown (.338 avg, 3 HR, 23 RBI), Stephen Crawford (.319-2-25), and Phil St. Amant (.312-5-41).
Their pitching staff only goes eight deep, but they've performed well and have excellent statistics to back that up. As a team, they've amassed a 3.82 ERA and strike out 1.87 more batters than they walk. The team's 1.38 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) is on par with the Aggie pitching staff, and opponents hit just .246 against their staff.
Bobby Blevins, a senior right-hander, (9-2, 2.77 ERA, 99 K, 34 BB in 104 IP, .230 opp. avg.) is expected to start tonight's contest.
Should the game be tight in the late innings, the Dolphins also sport one of the nation's best closes in Ryan Woods. Woods has 14 saves on the season, striking out 41 while walking just 12 in 55 innings pitched.
Tonight's game is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be televised by Cox Sports (Channel 119 on Sudden Link in College Station).
AGGIES' KEYS TO VICTORY vs. LE MOYNE
Fundamentals – A&M is the better team in this matchup and should win, but they must play fundamentally sound baseball; something that hasn't happened at all times this season. Staying error free, getting bunts down, and making the smart play are all key to winning games that you should win, and today will be no exception. If both teams play to their ability, the Aggies should be fine. But if A&M plays even a hair under themselves, this Le Moyne squad has the potential to rock the Aggies' world.
Get on Down the Road – Opponents are swiping bags off the Dolphins with a success rate of nearly 73 percent, and it's doubtful that anyone in the MAAC has the aggressive style of offense that Matt Deggs lives and breathes. A&M cannot get complacent, and must routinely turn walks and singles into doubles, move runners around with small ball, and apply continual pressure to the Dolphin battery.
David Newmann – Newmann is the Grand Old Duke of York. When he's up he's up, and when he's down he's down. He doesn't have many bad overall outings, but he does have a penchant for walking batters when he doesn't have his stuff. Should he come in and consistently throw first pitch strikes and stay ahead of batters, the Ags should be in good shape. If the free passes start mounting and his confidence is shaken, it could spell trouble or, at the very least, unnecessary hardache.
Dolphins look to continue MAAC ways
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