Cal Fullerton Game Review

The score card did not tell the whole story, but at the end of the day that is all that matters when it comes down to wins and losses. Aggie baseball dropped yet another game yesterday, losing to Cal State Fullerton. Websider takes a look at the loss.

The #3 Texas A&M baseball team played eight innings of epic baseball last night, fighting punch for punch with the #4 Titans of Cal State Fullerton. The game went back and forth, with the teams trading jabs and everything else they could, well into the 10 PM hour.

That 9th inning, though, showed the difference between a Top 10 team on paper, and a Top 5 program in the flesh. Fullerton took advantage of mistakes on the hill and in the field, plus a bit of Aggie misfortune to blow the contest wide open. Those who didn't see the game, and only read the final score, see a 15-5 Fullerton victory that legitimizes that Titans while placing conceptions of A&M's strength in peril.

There were no victories, moral or otherwise, to be found on this Tuesday night. Aggie fans, however, can take some solace in the box score and learn a few key lessons from watching this game.

First, the bullpen is indeed deep, but maybe not "that deep." A&M sent six hurlers to the hill, none of which cracks (on paper) A&M's top 5 pitchers this year, and some relatively ugly line scores don't necessarily tell the whole story. If it's possible to "scatter" ten hits in 4.2 innings pitched, Clayton Ehlert did it. The Titans were putting excellent bat-to-ball all night, but struggled very early against Ehlert before finally knocking the door down. Ross Hales got his first real exposure to big time baseball, and pitched better than his 2 ER in 1.2 IP would suggest. They same could be said for reliever Hank Robertson, whose stuff looked awfully wicked before the wheels came off. In that ninth inning, the wheels surely did, as neither Robertson, Estevan Uriegas, or Ross Stripling would survive. Nick Fleece would finally end the ninth inning disaster with a called strike three, perhaps a mercy call after a half-inning where Aggie fans could've turned on a Two and a Half Men rerun, watched it, and turned back to catch the end of the game.

Second, to be big time, A&M has to play big time. Robertson's final line may look different if Kyle Colligan makes a big league play on a 399 foot drive to deep center, and Stripling's ERA doesn't boom by 11 points if Dylan Petrich can run down a line drive that seemed to be in reach, or if Brooks Raley doesn't trip and fall before getting five-holed by a bases loaded line-drive. That's a bunch of "if this, then that" happenings in the ninth, and Fullerton certainly benefitted from some "50/50" type plays that all went their way, but teams that want to not only go to Omaha - but make a splash there - find a way to make those plays.

The Aggie bats, though only scoring five runs, showed something that excited fans; some inning-to-inning consistency in scoring. A&M tacked on runs in four frames, finding ways to score off of the long ball and piecing an inning together. It's been feast or famine from inning to inning this year, and tonight's consistency may just be enough against other big-time opponents without a ninth inning maelstrom. What the bats can learn from watching Fullerton, though, is how to truly work a pitcher and force them into a mistake. Fullerton's manufacturing of their 2nd inning run was a thing of beauty; three consecutive batters took fouled off two-strike pitches from Ehlert before working big hits. Nearly every bit of contact, all night, was hit hard; placing incredible pressure on the defense to make the right play the first time. There were no easy outs through the line-up, and the Titans constantly made A&M pay for making mistakes against them - even before the late snowball.

At the end of the day, the Titans looked like a team that's played this brand of baseball for years and years, and that's true. They took the Aggie barrage throughout the game, delivering shots of their own and keeping A&M just at arm's length. Then came the knockout punch.

A&M has every opportunity to put this game behind them, and quickly, with a split series with #5 Baylor coming in just days. The Bears don't hit as well as the Titans, but they pitch on the weekends about like A&M does, setting up the potential for a few truly epic games. An Aggie series win would be enough to bury the memory of Tuesday's ninth inning, but the lessons of that game need to follow this team through June.




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