Former A&M players ready to host No. 5 Aggies

After racking up nearly 50 wins against Sam Houston State as A&M head coach, Mark Johnson will look for his first win over Texas A&M as the Bearkats host the fifth-ranked Aggies in the first meeting between the two teams since Johnson left Aggieland. Aggie Websider's Dallas Shipp will report from Huntsville with reaction from Johnson and former A&M players Keith Stein and Todd Sebek afterwards.

Over the course of his 21-year career as a head coach at Texas A&M Mark Johnson compiled a 47-14-2 record against Sam Houston State. But tonight, he'll be looking for his first win against the team that he led to the College World Series when his Sam Houston State Bearkats host the fifth-ranked Aggies.

But A&M second-baseman Blake Stouffer, who is one of just two players left on the Aggies' roster who was recruited to Aggieland by Johnson and his staff, said that the Aggies are focused on picking up their ninth consecutive road win and taking care of business.

"It's just another ballgame for us," Stouffer said. "We're not going to overanalyze anything like the history or coaches and all that stuff. We're just going to go out and play the game like we've been doing."

But just 52 miles down Highway 30, two former Aggies, Keith Stein and Todd Sebek were a little less full of coach-speak as they prepare for a game they've been looking forward to for quite some time.

"It has a little more emotion behind it but it's still 90 feet to first base and you still have to do what you have to do to play baseball," Stein told KBTX. "You're playing with a little more emotion, but it should be a lot of fun."

Sebek was even more direct.

"This is a game that I've been waiting for a long time I can't deny that," he said.

Stein leads the team with a .379 batting average and 51 RBI while Sebek leads the team with 22 doubles and 18 stolen bases in 19 attempts.

First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m.

Aggies finally gaining respect

Less than two weeks ago, the Aggies were still ranked as low as No. 18 in the nation, but after picking up their fifth consecutive sweep in a Big 12 Conference series—setting a school and conference record in the process—the Aggies are finally earning the recognition that they felt they deserved.

"There's a little frustration with the lack of respect that we get, but at the end of the year when hopefully we're on top, they'll have no other place to put us but at No. 1," said A&M center fielder Kyle Colligan after the Aggies' dramatic win in the final game against Missouri last weekend at Olsen Field. "It's a little frustrating because we're better than a lot of people give us credit for, but our coaches do a great job of not allowing us from getting caught up in the media and all of that so we just stay within ourselves and I think that's another reason why we're doing so well."

And now the polls are starting to take notice as well.

The Aggies are ranked No. 5 by the USA TODAY/ESPN Coaches Poll, No. 6 by the National College Baseball Writers Association and Collegiate Baseball Newspaper and No. 9 by Baseball America, which was the last poll to include the Aggies in its Top-10.

But even though the polls are starting to take notice of the Aggies' rise back to relevance, Aggie outfielder/catcher Brian Ruggiano isn't taking his eye of the prize.

"I don't think the polls are worth much, especially the preseason polls," Ruggiano said. "We have to earn our respect every year. We're not a big name school like some that will get ranked every year no matter what they do. We just kind of say forget them.

But when asked if this year's team may be on their way to making A&M a big-name school again, Ruggiano didn't miss a beat.

"I hope so."

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