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Baseball Preview: LSU vs Texas A&M - Series Begins Friday Night

Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports
(Published on the Tiger Rant by AstroTiger)

#7 LSU Fighting Tigers vs. Texas A&M Aggies at Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park.

LSU is heading west for the second consecutive season to face the Texas A&M Aggies in College Station, TX. With 9 games remaining, LSU (34-11-1, 12-8-1) trails Alabama and Ole Miss by a half game in the SEC Western Division. The Tigers are heating up at the right time, winners of 14 of the last 17 games and 4 straight conference series. The only road series win on the year was the most recent against Ole Miss, so the Tigers look to build upon the success in Oxford with a trip to A&M. LSU avoided a huge upset on Tuesday night coming from behind to beat Alcorn State and evading a big RPI hit. Texas A&M (28-18, 10-11) are winners of 5 of their last 6, including a midweek win over Rice, a series victory at Mississippi State, and a win over Texas State on Tuesday night. LSU leads the all time series 15-14-1 and has won 9 of the last 10 matchups between the teams. The Tigers came back and won the series last season after the dropping the Friday night game. Aaron Nola won game 2 of that series with Sean McMullen piling up 4 hits in that contest.

Viewership should be high for this weekend with all 3 games being played on national TV and no blackouts in effect. Friday night’s game will start at 6:30pm and will be on CBS College Sports. You can find out your local CBS-S channel using the CBS-S Channel Finder on their website. Saturday’s game is an early afternoon 12:00pm start and will be televised on ESPN2 in addition to being streamed on ESPN3.com and the watchESPN app. Game 3 will start at 1:00pm on Sunday and be seen on ESPNU. As usual, games on ESPN networks are also streamed on ESPN3.com and the watchESPN app. As always, audio is available all 3 games in the GeauxZone.

Texas A&M Aggies
Record: 28-18
Conference: 10-11, t5th SEC west
Non-Conf: 18-7
Home: 20-9
Away: 7-9
Neutral: 1-0

Record vs. RPI: (LSU numbers in parentheses)
Team RPI: 36 (16)
vs Top 25: 6-5 (3-7)
vs Top 50: 10-11 (8-8)
vs Top 100: 13-16 (13-9)

Team Overview:
Texas A&M is led by head coach Rob Childress, who is in his 9th season with the Aggies. Childress has lead A&M to the postseason every year since 2007 including an appearance in the 2011 College World Series, the 5th in program history. In 2004, prior to Childress, the Aggies played a Super Regional in Baton Rouge, a series which the Tigers swept 11-8 and 4-0. Texas A&M joined the SEC last season and faired decent with a 13-16 record, which was good enough to make the NCAA tournament, but eventually lost out to the #3 national seed Oregon State in regional play. The 2014 baseball Aggies are a veteran group trying to battle its way back into the SEC west race. Unlike most teams in the country, A&M has just as many losses at home as they do on the road. They have a pair of impressive series wins against Florida and at Vanderbilt, but also have lost bad series against Auburn and Georgia. That lack of consistency has been a detriment for this club all season and it starts with the starting pitching, which I will get into below. They are, however, coming off of a nice series win in Starkville. They are likely looking at being a low 2 or high 3 seed this year in the NCAA regionals.

Team Stat Comparison (LSU in parentheses)
Runs/game scored: 5.8 (6.0)
Runs/game allowed: 3.9 (2.9)

Team ERA: 3.54 (2.58)
Opponent ERA: 4.92 (4.99)

Team BA: .293 (.276)
Opponent BA: .263 (.220)

Team Fielding %: .973 (.973)
Opponent Fielding %: .962 (.967)

Good OOC wins: @ Rice (1-0)
Bad OOC losses: Louisiana Tech (2-1)

SEC Series Wins: vs Florida (2-1), @ Vanderbilt (2-1), @ Mississippi State (2-1)
SEC Series Losses: @ Auburn (1-2), @ Georgia (1-2), vs Alabama (1-2), vs Kentucky (1-2)

Common OOC Opponents: None

Starting Pitching:
Like most teams, Texas A&M has had some volatility in their weekend rotation. They have started 5 different pitchers on the weekend this season and the record of those starts is 11-11. Straying away from recent weeks, coach Childress has decided to start senior Parker Ray. Ray will be making his first since a March 15 loss to Auburn. In his five starts, Ray is 2-1 with a 4.44 era and opponents hit .300 against him in those games for a very high 1.56 WHIP in 26.1 innings. His 21 walks are tied for most on the team in the fewest recorded innings among starters. Ray’s fastball will be just 88-92, which is nothing special for a RHP, but his changeup is his best pitch. Ray will be dueling Aaron Nola, who is looking to bounce back from his worst start of the season last week. Of note: Texas A&M is just 3-8 this year in the opening game of a series, including 1-6 in SEC series.

Saturday, ESPN2 will feature a matchup between Jared Poché of LSU and Daniel Mengden of Texas A&M. Following a sensational sophomore campaign in which he was 2nd team all SEC with a 2.11 era, Mengden has taken somewhat of a step back as a junior. Formerly a two-way player, Mengden has turned his focus to pitching as the Friday night starter this season, but has faltered to a 3-6 record and just 1 win in the SEC. He’s got the stuff to compete with a fastball up around 94 and a plus changeup. He has can strike out a lot of guys with that change, but he has surrendered a .350 BABIP (avg on balls in play) and really labored at times. Mengden earned the victory on Friday night of the series against LSU last season throwing 8 innings of 1 run ball. LSU freshman Jared Poché looks to build off of his best road outing, 6 innings of 2 run ball at Ole Miss. This may be the pivotal matchup of the series.

On Sunday, Grayson Long, the big 6’5 right handed power arm, will take to the bump for the Aggies. Long has been the best and most consistent starter for the A&M staff this season. He has a 5-1 record in SEC games with impressive wins over Florida, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State. Long comes with a three-quarter arm slot and brings his fastball up to 95mph. He will throw a two variations of a breaking ball in addition to a changeup that is the better of the offspeed pitches. LSU has not announced a starter once again this weekend in the event that Alden Cartwright is needed in relief in game 1 or 2. However barring disaster, we will see Cartwright take the hill on Sunday. I have listed him as the starter below, though it is unofficial. Also of note: A&M is 6-1 in game 3 of SEC series.


Friday's Pitching Matchup:
LSU - Jr. RHP Aaron Nola (7-1, 1.40 ERA, 77.1 IP, 47 H, 12 ER, 19 BB, 95 K, .175 OBA, 0.85 WHIP)
TAMU - Sr. RHP Parker Ray (4-3, 5.48 ERA, 47.2 IP, 52 H, 29 ER, 21 BB, 41 K, .284 OBA, 1.53 WHIP)

Saturday's Pitching Matchup:
LSU - Fr. LHP Jared Poché (6-3, 2.59 ERA, 62.2 IP, 49 H, 18 ER, 18 BB, 40 K, .219 OBA, 1.07 WHIP)
TAMU - Jr. RHP Daniel Mengden (3-6, 4.00 ERA, 72.0 IP, 72 H, 32 ER, 21 BB, 75 K, .260 OBA, 1.29 WHIP)

Sunday's Pitching Matchup:
LSU - Fr. RHP Alden Cartwright (1-0, 1.59 ERA, 22.2 IP, 16 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, 18 K, .198 OBA, 0.93 WHIP)
TAMU - Sr. RHP Grayson Long (6-1, 2.79 ERA, 67.2 IP, 74 H, 21 ER, 17 BB, 44 K, .280 OBA, 1.34 WHIP)

Relief Pitching:
A&M does not have a true closer, but that hasn’t prevented them from having a solid bullpen overall. They have a good balance of left and right arms and some power guys that can get out of jams when needed. If there is a developing closer it would be sophomore southpaw Ty Schlottman. He has really come on of late and earned the save in both wins last weekend to clinch the series against State. Andrew Vinson has appeared in half of the team’s games and is best among regulars with just a .170 OBA and 0.79 WHIP. Lefty A.J. Minter has surrendered just 3 earned runs in 14.2 innings this season. Jason Jester has made a pair of Friday night starts in SEC play, but has not been very effective this season allowing 36 hits in 22.2 innings. Jester made two relief appearances against the Tigers last season, earning the save in game one and taking the loss in the rubber game 3.

Top Bullpen Arms:
Fr. LHP Tyler Stubblefield (15 app, 3-2, 4.12 ERA, 48.0 IP, 53 H, 22 ER, 15 BB, 50 K, .283 OBA)
So. LHP Ty Schlottman (16 app, 0-1, 2 saves, 24.1 IP, 18 H, 4 ER, 6 BB, 22 K, .205 OBA)
So. LHP A.J. Minter (18 app, 1-0, 1.84 ERA, 14.2 IP, 12 H, 3 ER, 10 BB, 14 K, .235 OBA)
So. RHP Andrew Vinson (23 app, 1-1, 2 saves, 2.57 ERA, 28.0 IP, 16 H, 8 ER, 6 BB, 28 K, .170 OBA)
So. LHP Matt Kent (12 app, 2-0, 3.38 ERA, 29.1 IP, 33 H, 11 ER, 4 BB, 23 K, .284 OBA)
Sr. RHP Jason Jester (19 app, 2-2, 3 saves, 5.16 ERA, 22.2 IP, 36 H, 13 ER, 13 BB, 22 K, .371 OBA)

Aggie Offense: (LSU numbers in parentheses)
Team BA: .293 (.276)
Team OBP: .369 (.364)
Team SLG: .389 (.387)

In 46 games, A&M has used 43 different starting lineups, so the projected list below is strictly guesswork. Nick Banks leads the team in batting average (.343) and slugging (.460) as a true freshman. Blake Allemand started the season off slow, but the switch hitting third baseman is batting .386 since March 7th and his .438 on base percentage is 6th best in the SEC. He has reached base in 22 straight games. Allemand and Banks are not slacking against SEC pitching notching a .373 and .363 average, respectively, in conference matchups. Though the team BA is .293, the Aggies improve for a .314 average in games at Blue Bell Park. Senior Jace Statum really likes enjoys his home park. He is batting a team best .371 at home this year, over .150 points higher than this average of .217 on the road. Logan Nottebrok will surely see some action this weekend, and he leads the team with 5 long balls on the season. Texas A&M doesn’t run too much on the bases but does so very effectively. The biggest threat to steal is Krey Bratsen, who has stolen 16 bases in 17 attempts this year. Jace Statum has swiped 7 bags in as many attempts.

Texas A&M Projected Lineup:
1) 3B Blake Allemand (.326 avg, 3 2B, 3B, 20 RBI, 30 R, 27 BB, 20 K, 3-6 SB)
2) 2B Patrick McLendon (.309 avg, 3 2B, 3B, HR, 19 RBI, 23 R, 14 BB, 14 K, 1-2 SB)
3) 1B Cole Lankford (.335 avg, 9 2B, 4 HR, 37 RBI, 23 R, 9 BB, 12 K, 3-5 SB)
4) RF Nick Banks (.343 avg, 6 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 23 R, 11 BB, 20 K, 4-7 SB)
5) DH Hunter Melton (.248 avg, 4 2B, 12 RBI, 12 R, 16 BB, 19 K, 1-2 SB)
6) SS Logan Taylor (.274 avg, 14 2B, 2 3B, HR, 21 RBI, 21 R, 9 BB, 33 K, 3-3 SB)
7) C Troy Stein (.289 avg, 8 2B, 2 3B, 17 RBI, 23 R, 11 BB, 18 K, 4-6 SB)
8) LF Jace Statum (.274 avg, 3 2B, 13 RBI, 19 R, 17 BB, 17 K, 7-7 SB)
9) CF Krey Bratsen (.276 avg, 3 2B, 3B, 9 RBI, 25 R, 8 BB, 10 K, 16-17 SB)

Other Contributors:
INF Logan Nottebrok (.237 avg, 5 2B, 5 HR, 21 RBI, 19 R, 14 BB, 17 K, 0-0 SB)
2B/OF Ryne Birk (.314 avg, 2 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 13 R, 5 BB, 8 K, 3-3 SB)
OF Jonathan Moroney (.299 avg, 5 2B, 3B, HR, 12 RBI, 11 R, 3 BB, 13 K, 0-0 SB)
C Mitchell Nau (.291 avg, 3 2B, HR, 15 RBI, 6 R, 3 BB, 8 K, 1-1 SB)
OF J.B. Moss (.262 avg, 3 2B, HR, 7 RBI, 16 R, 12 BB, 10 K, 6-7 SB)

Defense:
A&M is fielding a solid .973 as a team, which is just a small fraction better than LSU’s .973, ranking 6th and 7th in the SEC respectively. Texas A&M has turned the fewest double plays in the SEC and ranks 282nd nationally in the category. The Aggies are particularly bad on the base paths defensively. The main catcher Troy Stein has thrown out just 21% of attempting stealers. LSU’s catchers are 2nd in the SEC in throwing out base runners at a 42% mark, which will come in handy since the Aggies are 2nd in the SEC in SB% during conference games.

Season Stats
Roster
Schedule (via Warren Nolan)

Media Coverage:
TV: Friday – CBSS; Saturday – ESPN2; Sunday – ESPNU
Online: Saturday and Sunday - espn3.com and the watchESPN app
Radio: 98.1 FM (check your local listings) all 3 games; audio always available through the GeauxZone

Big thanks to AstroTiger for posting this on the Rant = LINK
Filed Under: LSU Baseball

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