Aggie Baseball Tech Preview

It has been an interesting year for the Aggie squad, who seem to go the opposite of many of the top teams. In a week where the elite have fallen, the Aggies are riding a win streak into the weekend. Websider's Lanny Hayes takes a look at this week's matchup.

What's at Stake – The Aggies (19-9) enter the weekend ranked as high as #10 in the national polls, and are riding a five game winning streak. Their 6-3 mark sits atop the Big 12 conference, statistically tied with Oklahoma (4-2). When A&M sat at 13-9 just 12 days ago, it seemed that many of the larger season goals were slipping away, but the Aggie surge has come at a time when many top national clubs have slid. They enter the weekend with the #15 RPI, thanks mostly to an incredibly high strength-of-schedule (19th in the nation, currently, using RPI figures). The NCAA selection committee has historically valued RPI above nearly all other numbers when choosing host sites and national seeds, and continuing to push this figure forward will do nothing but help. Earning a Big 12 title for the third consecutive year also demands that A&M win on the road, as 11 of the remaining 18 conference tilts are away from Olsen Field.

Breaking History – A&M's dominance over Texas Tech at Olsen Field is well documented, but the Aggies have struggled just as mightily against the Red Raiders in the last decade. The Ags have not won a series in Lubbock since 1997; the 1999 and 2001 clubs did not win a game in Lubbock, while the 2003, 2005, and 2007 clubs won just a game each. Dan Law Field, once notorious for its hybrid grass/Astroturf design, has moved to a Field Turf surface that many Aggies will play on for the first time. Rob Childress' career has seen more success in Lubbock: The Aggie skipper was 6-3 there as Nebraska's pitching coach and split a weather-shortened 2007 series.

The Top of the Order – A&M's early offensive struggles were credited to a lack of production at the top of the order, but that group has surged forward over the last few weeks. Kyle Colligan and Brodie Greene both saw batting averages below .100 posted for them at Minute Maid Park, right at 1/6th of the way through the regular season, but both have stormed back with a vengeance. Colligan has hit safely in the Ags last eight games (batting .379 with 11 runs in that streak), has also hit safely in the last 16 Big 12 conference games (3rd all-time in school history), and enters the weekend hitting .313 and reaching base at .463 in league play. Brodie Greene seemed to be getting back on track before getting hit in the face with a fastball some three weeks ago, but has hit .400 since coming back and has raised his season batting average to .282, while hitting .381 in six Big 12 games.

This Series may Hinge Upon…the play behind the plate. Both A&M catcher Kevin Gonzales (.310-3-20 overall, .387-2-8) and Tech catcher Jeremy Mayo (.333-6-17, .360-4-9) have come through in recent weeks and have put together solid offensive numbers. Not only will the two be asked to drive in runs, but managing the pitching staff and baserunners will be key. Mayo is saddled with Tech's pitching staff that allows over 5.5 earned runs per game, and is throwing out under 39% of attempted thieves. Gonzales gets the advantage of the better pitching staff, but is throwing out less than 26% of runners that attempt to swipe. The team whose catcher performs better in these areas is likely to take the weekend.

The Bottom Line –Tech has struggled for their 12-18 record, but their weekend pitching has kept them at a middle-of-the-pack 4-5 in the league standings, which include stealing a road game each from Texas and Baylor. Dan Law Field has been an Aggie nemesis for some time now, but Childress' success there is without argument. Baseball is a funny game, but A&M has the clearly superior team on paper this time and, if they can't win this series, Bill Byrne should talk to Gerald Myers about playing this series in Arlington each year.

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