The Series – A&M and Oklahoma State meet up at Olsen Field this weekend for their annual three game set. As much as each program would probably like to not admit it, these teams are both neck-and-neck when considering overall Big 12 performance since the league began. A&M has won more Big 12 titles (3 regular season, 1 conference tournament) than OSU (1 tournament), but the teams both have a single trip to Omaha (in 1999 for both) and are close on total tournament bids. OSU leads the series 23-17 in Big 12 play, and the games have rarely been uneventful; 16 of the last 19 have been decided by two runs or less. A&M does lead the series at Olsen Field, but OSU won the last series there in 2007.
The RPI – The NCAA selection committee uses many metrics when selecting schools for the NCAA tournament field, first round host teams (typically #1 seeds), and the top eight national seeds. While RPI isn't an end-all-be-all stat, it's the first criteria considered. A&M enters the weekend with an ordinal ranking of 30, and the weekend results against OSU can swing A&M any number of ways. An Oklahoma State sweep wouldn't be devastating to postseason chances, lowering A&M's RPI to #37. A 1-2 series would drop A&M to #32, while a 2-1 series win would climb the Ags to #25. Should the Aggies sweep, though, their RPI would shoot all the way to #18. An RPI in the Top 20 plus A&M's overall resume and trend (in theory, 29-14 overall, 14-7 in league, plus four wins over RPI Top 15 teams), puts A&M squarely back in the hosting discussion. Please note that all of these figures presume "all things being equal" across the country, which they obviously will not be, but these numbers are a very good basis to work with.
Line-Up Shake-Up – Rob Childress and Matt Deggs shook the Aggie lineup completely last Tuesday, and the result has been a statistical windfall. In those five games, the team is hitting .395 (raised the team season batting average by 12 points to .294), with 11 doubles and seven homeruns, and averaging 11 runs per contest. Excluding Tuesday's destruction of Prairie View, the team is still hitting .360 through the stretch. In that same stretch, the team has reached by walk or hit-by-pitch 40 times, compared to just 18 strikeouts. The middle of the order has really fueled the change, as Luke Anders (.476, 8 RBI, 8 R, 2 HR), Kyle Colligan (.500, 11 RBI, 7 R, 3 HR), and Caleb Shofner (.556, 10 RBI, 5 R) have had monster weeks. Brodie Greene (.333 average, .476 OBP) and Brooks Raley (.313, .400) have done their job to get on base consistently and let the middle push them through. David Alleman (.500, .529) and Adam Smith (.267, .421) have done their job at the bottom, as well. Joe Patterson was tremendous in his platoon role, hitting .833 with three runs scored and five RBI, along with an .867 OBP.
Success Begets Success – As good as the A&M hitters have been in the last week, the pitchers have seen similar overall success. A&M has allowed just 11 runs in the five contests (10 earned) for an incredible 2.09 ERA. Aggie pitching has allowed just 29 hits and 12 walks in the 43 innings pitched, for a similarly impressive 0.95 WHIP, and have struck out 44 batters in the same time span. Only 11 over the 29 hits went for extra bases, and the Aggie defense committed just one error in that span (first inning against Prairie View on Tuesday). A&M will roll the dice again this weekend, keeping Alex Wilson in a late relief role. Raley and Ross Hales will start on Friday and Saturday, while Barret Loux is penciled to resume his Sunday starting role.
About OSU – The Cowboys enter the weekend with a national ranking of 25, but have struggled with a 5-9 conference mark (27-15 overall), and hold an RPI of 24. This OSU club isn't as strong at the plate as some in recent years, but feature some very potent bats at the top of their order, including a very talented Neil Medchill (.344-11-45). The Cowboys are free swingers, holding a very similar K-to-BB ratio as the Aggie hitters, and will move on the basepaths more than most teams (36 SB in 45 attempts). On the hill, the Cowboy pitching staff is talent loaded. Oddly, Friday starter Tyler Blandford (who has a very good arm) may be the least talented of the three starters – all Big 12 candidate Tyler Lyons will throw on Saturday while Andrew Oliver, a likely first round draft pick who's struggled since being reinstated by the NCAA in February, will toss on Sunday. OSU pitchers trail only the A&M staff (league-wise) in strikeouts and strikeouts per nine innings, and are helped out by a very good defense (.976 fielding percentage).
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