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Postgame: Texas A&M
Postgame: Dayton

A&M, Ole Miss victories set stage for big SEC matchup

By Beau Holder

More from Beau
June 1, 2012
3929

COLLEGE STATION — The ticker goes down, bit by bit, day by day. As July grows nearer, the days until Texas A&M's official entrance into the Southeastern Conference dwindle. The excitement in Aggieland is building and, thanks to the NCAA's selection committee, fans can get a little taste tomorrow at Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park.

The College Station Regional kicked off on Friday with a couple of well-attended games in a park designed with that specific purpose in mind. Fans saw a meeting of aces, the home farewell (perhaps) of an A&M legend and a pair of hard-fought games, but one of the top stories from the day had to be the meeting in the winner's bracket. At 6:35 p.m. on Saturday, Texas A&M and the University of Mississippi will square off in a future conference matchup. Many Aggies who attended the early game rooted for Ole Miss for that exact reason — the SEC alone.

The Rebels used just two pitchers on Friday, getting seven very strong innings from Second Team All-SEC ace Bobby Wahl and 2.0 IP, 3 K and one hit given up from part-time Sunday starter R.J. Hively. Ole Miss Head Coach Mike Bianco said after the game that the plan had been to use Hively regardless of the situation, so the feeling is that the Rebels are in exactly the position they wished to be when the regional began.

Andrew Kilzer, TexAgs Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park will play host to a 1-0 game between two teams one month away from uniting in the SEC West division, whetting the appetites of a drooling Aggie fanbase. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"right","Size":"large","Caption":"Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park will play host to a 1-0 game between two teams one month away from uniting in the SEC West division, whetting the appetites of a drooling Aggie fanbase.","MediaItemID":18736}
They fell behind TCU and stud pitcher Andrew Morrison early, trailing 2-0 going into the sixth, but scored two in that frame to tie it. In the eighth, Ole Miss loaded the bases, walked in a run, got a clutch two-RBI single from freshman DH Sikes Orvis and scored one more on an error charged to the Horned Frogs' second baseman, plating four in the frame to set the final margin at 6-2 and storm into the winner's bracket.

A&M, meanwhile, looked shaky against a 4-seed with limited pitching options, leaving 11 on base. The Ags scored one in the first, one in the third and another in the fourth, all on the strength of the Tyler Naquin-Matt Juengel-Jacob House combination. The trio finished with a combined seven hits in 15 at-bats, driving in two runs. Two Dayton errors in the seventh helped push across one more.

Still, the game never felt in danger due to one Michael Wacha. Making what might be his last start in Olsen Field, the first-round junior dominated his role as the opening man, shutting the Flyers out for 7.1 innings despite scattering five hits and walking three more. He struck out nine, including the final guy of the second and third innings with two men on in each, and stranded runners in the next three as well. A perfect seventh followed and he got one out to open the eighth, leaving with nine Ks.

Then he left, to a raucous, standing ovation from a crowd of 4,585 that seemed like more. Estevan Uriegas gave up one run, but he and Kyle Martin combined to get the final five outs, cementing a regional-opening 4-1 victory for the Ags.

"What a great venue that Texas A&M has here," Dayton Head Coach Tony Vittorio said after the game. "It's a great crowd and I'm really proud of how our guys competed today."

"It was a wonderful atmosphere," agreed Flyers second baseman Jared Broughton. "Very exciting, a lot of fun. It was great to play in this great park in front of these great fans that really love baseball and their team."

Matt Sachs, TexAgs With an easy path to Sunday on the line, Ross Stripling will take the ball against Ole Miss No. 2 Mike Mayers. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"left","Size":"large","Caption":"With an easy path to Sunday on the line, Ross Stripling will take the ball against Ole Miss No. 2 Mike Mayers.","MediaItemID":17930}
There's plenty to work with in this one. Because of the Aggies' unique position as an exiting member of the Big 12, it's the last year that an SEC team can be sent to College Station before the NCAA's restriction on in-conference regional opponents invalidates it. It's a nice preview for fans of both teams, and a nice dose of the SEC drug for Ags who can't wait to get the next month over with.

Then there's the matchup on the mound. Mike Mayers hasn't been Bobby Wahl this season, but he's been a solid Saturday guy for a team navigating the rough waters of SEC play. He'll take his 3.52 ERA to the diamond against Ross Stripling (10-3, 2.90), a two-time All-American and one of the Aggies' career leaders in strikeouts and wins.

Stripling, who threw a no-hitter late in the season and has been A&M's most consistent starter, will be out to rebound from a less-than-stellar start and loss against Kansas to end the Big 12 Tournament.

It also sets up as what's simply going to be a good game. The Rebels are one of a group of dangerous three-seeds, with a lineup that mixes youth and experience around an All-American (2B Alex Yarbrough), an All-SEC power-hitter (1B Matt Snyder) and a future star at DH (Sikes Orvis). They'll be no slouch for an Aggie squad focused squarely on earning its way to another super regional.

"It's going to be a great game. They're battle-tested, they've gone 33 games through the SEC, there's nothing they haven't seen," Rob Childress stated. "It just took them a spark (against TCU) and just like that, they ran past them. There's nothing you haven't seen if you've gone 32, 33 games in the SEC. It'll be a great challenge for us.

"You fight all year long to be a top-eight seed, and if you're not, you're fighting for one of 16 to be able to host. The luxury of hosting is the ability to be here tonight with five- or six-thousand all wearing maroon."

Isn't this exactly what we were all hoping for? The atmosphere in Olsen Field tomorrow, in an NCAA Regional, on a Saturday evening, for a great matchup, will be electric. As it should be.

Welcome to the SEC.
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A&M, Ole Miss victories set stage for big SEC matchup

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