Prior to the Nebraska series, the Aggies were a perfect 31-0 when leading after seven innings, dating all the way back to last June, when Rice came back to win in game one of the NCAA Super Regional in Houston.
The biggest reasons for that streak? Kyle Thebeau and Travis Starling.
Starling earned first-team All-Big 12 honors from the Dallas Morning News and the Big 12 coaches this week as the league's top relief pitcher this season with an ERA of 3.05 in 23 appearances, posting a record of 8-0 with nine saves. He allowed 14 earned runs in those appearances, and kept his opponents scoreless in 15 of 23 outings this season.
Thebeau, who was a second-team All-Big 12 selection by the Dallas Morning News, and an honorable mention award winner by the Big 12 coaches, allowed just 13 earned runs in 25 appearances and 62.2 innings of work (20.1 innings more than Starling). As the Aggies' go-to setup man out of the pen, he didn't have the flashy numbers that Starling racked up in terms of wins and saves, but he may have been more productive over the course of the season, posting a team-best 2.01 ERA, allowing one run or less in 24 of his 27 outings.
The duo have combined to pitch 105 innings this year, and the Aggies are 13-3 in games that both relievers have made an appearance.
Both say that they thrive on their role on this team, but for different reasons.
"I like being able to throw every day," Thebeau said. "When I was a starter it was just once a week, but I feel like my role (out of the bullpen) suits me well and I have Travis to compliment me. Sometimes I get into trouble with walks late and I know that Travis is there to have my back."
But the two both say they love the role of coming in and slamming the door shut when the Aggies have the lead late in ball games.
"Psychologically, there's a lot of pressure, but that pressure and that stress and the game coming down on you, that's what I pitch for," Starling said. "We love to compete, we love the pressure and we love the adrenaline we get from pitching. That's how I get my pleasure from the game, coming in during a close situation and helping the team get a win."
But it's not always fun and games. The Aggie bullpen, including Thebeau and Starling, has taken its lumps lately, blowing late leads against Nebraska—thanks in part to inconsistent defensive play behind them—and getting knocked around by UT-Arlington and Texas.
Thebeau says it just comes with the territory.
"You've definitely got to have a short memory," Thebeau said. "Coach Childress always says how you handle your failure will determine your success. There's going to be a lot of times you fail at this game and if I couldn't bounce back from my failures I would have quit pitching here after my freshman year."
With postseason play beginning on Wednesday in Bricktown, and a possibly national seed on the line, there's no time like the present to test the two relievers' resiliency.
T-Star and Thebeau enjoy tag-team punch
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