The more things change, the more they stay the same. So, here we are again, Frogs and Aggies, with a trip to the College World Series at stake. This time, it's A&M that holds home field advantage and is the National Seed, while the Frogs come in as the underdog. But, if there's one thing we know about baseball, it's that anything can happen.
The Aggies won the SEC tournament for the first time in their history, earning a National Seed in the process. The SEC was awarded seven regional hosts sites, including Florida as the #1 overall seed, for the strength of their conference and further establishing them, and thus A&M, as a baseball power. A&M went 20-10 in SEC play and 15-7 against fellow post-season participants on their way to a 45-14 overall record. Especially dangerous at Blue Bell Park, where they were 29-5, TAMU lost consecutive games only three times all year, most notably the four game skid that included a sweep on the road at Florida and dropping a game against Rice in Houston.
Led by former Frog Boomer White on offense, whose .389 batting average and .476 on base percentage vaulted him to player of the year honors, the Aggies crushed 58 home runs on their way to averaging almost 7.5 runs per game, and batting .317 as a team. Backing up a dangerous offensive attack was one of the best pitching staffs in the country; Aggie arms had a 3.07 team ERA, 572 strikeouts, and limited opponents to a .232 batting average. The staff was led by senior righty Kyle Simonds, who posted a 2.73 ERA against a 10-3 record including three complete games and a no-hitter against Vandy on May 7th.
Joining Simonds as regular starters are Brigham Hill (9-1, 1.95 ERA), Tyler Ivey (2-3, 3.56 ERA), and Jace Vines (6-1, 4.87 ERA). They are backed up by a flexible bullpen that can throw a myriad of looks at an opponent, before shutting them down with stud closer Mark Ecker, a junior righty with eight saves in 24 appearances and a scant 0.41 ERA. He's allowed only 24 hits and five runs in 44 innings, while surrendering only four walks against 52 strikeouts. If the Aggies have the lead late, they're probably going to keep it.
While White is the engine that makes TAMU go, he's not the only dangerous bat in the lineup. Hunter Melton bats over .300 and leads the team with 11 home runs and 66 RBIs, J.B. Moss has stolen 16 bases in 20 attempts and has scored 65 runs, and 11 of 13 regulars bat .280 or higher. There's not an easy out in the lineup, they can all pretty much hit it out of the park, but if there is one area of weakness, it may be either striking out - which they do 6.5 times per game (or about the same pace as TCU hitters) - or a lack of elite patience at the plate, shown by their limited walks. That's nitpicking though.
Texas A&M's season was defined by their response to their four game skid: after dropping the series at Florida and the one-off game against Rice, A&M went on a tear, going 26-7 in their last 33 games, including stretches of nine and seven straight victories.They absolutely dominated their Regional, dispatching Binghamton, Wake Forest, and Minnesota in straight games by a total margin of 34-6, highlighted by a 22-2 beatdown over the Demon Deacons.
Heading into the Super Regional this weekend, TAMU hasn't lost since the opening game of SEC Tournament play, when they fell to Vanderbilt in a 6-5 decision. They are as hot as any team in the country, and welcome in an equally on fire TCU squad for a Super Regional rematch that is sure to draw national attention. This is a very good team playing great right now, and with the advantage of playing on their home field, they may have the upper hand on paper this weekend. Add in the revenge factor after having their heart ripped out one year ago, and the Aggies, and their fans, probably expect to book their trip to Omaha. But winning in College Station is nothing new to the Horned Frogs, and Schloss' squad will be ready to play.