Aggies looking for wins on the road

The next three series are key for the Aggies' Big 12 Championship hopes, and it starts this weekend on the road against Kansas. Aggie Websider's Lanny Hayes takes a look at the Aggies' weekend match up.

The Texas A&M baseball club returns to the diamond this weekend with a key Big 12 road tilt against the Kansas Jayhawks. The three-game series wraps up A&M's seven game road-trip, its first games away from Olsen Field this season. Game one of the series will take place today at 4 PM, with games two and three coming at 2 PM Saturday and 1 PM Sunday.

The conference win column is begging for some help from the Aggies, as they currently sit in a tie for fourth place (with Oklahoma State) at 3-3, 2.5 games behind Nebraska (5-0-1) though Missouri technically leads the conference at 3-0.

The Kansas series begins what, for many reasons, is a pivotal three weeks for A&M's conference championship possibilities. The next three conference series come at Kansas, then back homes against Kansas State and Oklahoma. Not only are these three series against teams that combine for a 3-8-1 conference mark right now, and six of the games come at Olsen, but they're just before A&M hits the meat of the conference schedule against Top 25 clubs Baylor, Missouri, Nebraska, and Texas.

Clearly, the time to run up the win column is now.

A&M will need to do that on the road, where they've struggled in the Rob Childress era, against a streaking Kansas (18-9, 1-2) team. The Jayhawks have now won five games in a row, and were able to scrap a win at Disch-Falk against the Longhorns two weekends ago. Though their stat lines are much more pedestrian than their record, they're tough at home and will present a formidable challenge for the Aggies.

The Jayhawk offense enters the weekend batting just .283 on the season but scoring 7.22 runs per contest. Those numbers take the expected tumble in Big 12 play to .236 and 4.67. Many individual stat lines have been somewhat exaggerated by playing a schedule that has rated in the bottom half of college baseball, but this is a team with solid offensive credentials that will play station-to-station baseball and attempt to beat you with the big inning.

On the hill, the Jayhawks have a 4.36 ERA and opponents are batting .275 against them. Their strikeout to walk ratio is very good (2.43-to-1), but their battery has thrown out less than 40% of attempted base stealers.

The strength of their pitching staff comes primarily from their bullpen, as the three starters that A&M will see boast a combined 6.35 ERA. That bullpen has four members with ERAs below four, including their terrific closer Paul Smyth (1.45 ERA, 6 SVs, 18 Ks, 0 BB).

Clean execution, something that's plagued A&M in their losses, will be necessary to take this weekend series. Kansas' stat lines show a team that does not hurt themselves, such as the low walk count (under 3 per contest) and a solid fielding percentage of .964. A&M will need to hit to get runners on base, move them over against a very average defensive battery system, and drive them home much more consistently than they have in recent contests.

Aggie pitchers will also need to follow the Childress way and pound the strike zone consistently. Kansas batters strike out in nearly 20% of their at bats, and reach base just 38% of the time. The team doesn't ground into many double plays (just 15 on the year), and averages just a single sacrifice bunt per game.

Pitching Matchups
Brooks Raley (3-0, 2.89 ERA, 27 K, 8 BB) vs Wally Marciel (2-3, 6.41 ERA, 16 K, 10 BB)
Barret Loux (1-1, 3.76 ERA, 26 K, 12 BB) vs Nick Czyz (1-3, 7.77 ERA, 24 K, 10 BB)
Carson Middleton (unannounced, but projected – 3-0, 2.37 ERA, 18 K, 6 BB) vs Sam Freeman (4-0, 5.04 ERA, 16 K, 8 BB)

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