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Texas A&M Baseball

Diamond Notes Regional Edition: A&M hits the road for the postseason

May 27, 2019
10,598

Country roads, take me home.
To the place I belong.
West Virginia, mountain mama.
Take me home, country roads.

The John Denver classic is what a couple of our reporters noticed some of the Texas A&M players singing and humming as they walked into the Diamond Club at Blue Bell Park prior to the NCAA Tournament Selection Show late Monday morning on ESPNU.

The team clearly knew their marching orders prior to the bracket unveiling and appeared to take a businesslike approach to their regional assignment: a trip to Morgantown.

The Aggies (37-21-1) were selected as the No. 2 seed in the Morgantown Regional and will face 3-seeded Duke (31-25) Friday at 3:00 p.m. CT on ESPN2. Host West Virginia (37-20), the No. 15 overall seed who beat Texas Tech twice last week in OKC to advance to the Big 12 Tournament title game, is hosting for the first time since 1955. The Mountaineers will play 4-seeded Fordham (38-22) on Friday night following the Aggies and Blue Devils.

The winner of the Morgantown Regional will face the winner of the Nashville Regional featuring and hosted by No. 2 overall seed Vanderbilt.

Since we’ve covered the trip to Hoover forwards and backwards already, this week’s Diamond Notes will focus specifically on the trip to the northern tip of West Virginia and how the Aggies stack up with the other three teams in the Morgantown Regional.

TexAgs
Childress has led A&M to the postseason for 13 straight years, but the Aggies haven’t hosted a regional since 2016.

• First of all, it’s always good to just get into the NCAA Tournament. There are quite a few historically good-to-great programs that can’t say that today. Namely, the Texas Longhorns, the Arizona Wildcats, the Cal State-Fullerton Titans and the South Carolina Gamecocks. That’s 13 straight for A&M under Rob Childress, which trails only Florida State and Vandy for the longest active streak going right now. There’s something to be said for that.

• However, this is also the third consecutive year that the Aggies will play a regional away from Olsen Field. That should never happen around here. The entire Braden Shewmake-John Doxakis era has watched A&M fail to grab a top 16 overall seed and host on the first weekend of the postseason. Think about that. Texas A&M currently has a top-five pitcher in the Rob Childress era and a top-three position player together for three years and possesses one of the three-to-five best pitching staffs in the entire country, and they find themselves traveling again for a regional. Of course, none of that matters if the Aggies can somehow get hot offensively this weekend and get out of the Morgantown Regional and then manage to scratch and claw their way back to Omaha for the second time in three years. But there’s no doubt that it’s time A&M gets back to the point where it is hosting its most important games of the season far more frequently than what we’ve seen in recent years.

• What should be the expectation for Aggie baseball as a program? Right now, you’re looking at a good, solid top 20-25 program. A&M has hosted a regional six times in 14 seasons under Childress. It’s been a national top eight seed once and has made two trips to the CWS. But would you agree that A&M has every advantage at its disposal to take that next leap and become a top 10 program? I think a top 10 program looks like this:

  • Host a regional about four times every five or six years.
  • Gain a top eight national seed at least twice during each five- or six-year window.
  • Get to Omaha at least twice every five or six years.
  • Win games in Omaha.

• The Aggies have a total of one win in Omaha in my lifetime, a victory over Kansas in the ’93 CWS. This has to change. And while we know full well how difficult it is to even get there – much less win games there – it is far more attainable if you have a program capable of winning at a high enough clip during the regular season that it plays its postseason games in advance of the CWS on its home field.

TexAgs
A late collapse against Mizzou in March is one of several huge “what if?” moments that cost A&M the chance to host a regional.

• As we saw this season, the line between hosting and not hosting is razor thin. If Kasey Kalich doesn’t allow a two-run homer to a homer-less pinch hitter for Mizzou when he’s one strike away from a win... If the Ags could manage another run in the tie game with the Tigers the next day... If Jonathan Ducoff would have caught that fly ball down the line vs. LSU... If A&M hadn’t blown a late lead in game one at Ole Miss... If the Aggies could have managed just a speck of offensive success versus Georgia and Ole Miss in Hoover when their pitchers each took no-hitters into the eighth inning...

There are so many “what ifs” that if any one of the above scenarios would have turned out in A&M’s favor, the Ags are unquestionably hosting this weekend, and if half of them would have gone their way, they’re a top eight seed even despite the offensive issues that have plagued this team all season long.

• But like I wrote earlier, none of that matters at all now. It’s onto the big tournament and the trip to West Virginia. I was quite surprised to see A&M heading to Morgantown. I had myself convinced that it would be a Big 12 school but not that Big 12 school. The Aggies have played in Texas during the regional round every year since the trip to Oregon State in ’13. I thought that trend would continue and that we would see A&M head to Lubbock as the 2-seed or at worst travel to OKC to face Oklahoma State. Sending the Ags to West Texas would have shown them much more respect for essentially being the highest ranked #2 in the tournament and would have given them a far more manageable road to Omaha. Instead, Dallas Baptist got the 2-seed in the Lubbock Regional and Florida is the 3-seed. Texas Tech is the #8 overall seed and is paired with Oklahoma State and the OKC Regional. That, to me, would have shown A&M much more respect as a more high-quality 2-seed (despite the fact that the Aggies lost to the Patriots early this season) than sending the Ags to Morgantown in a regional paired with Vanderbilt.

• Nonetheless, while the entire two-week road from College Station to Omaha is now much longer and more winding than it could have been (and perhaps should have been), the actual regional itself is more attainable than trying figure out how to take down Texas Tech on their home field and with all of that swirling, gusty wind. None of the three teams in A&M’s regional hit very well at all. The highest batting average among the four-team field is Duke at .271. West Virginia has hit the most home runs with just 47 in 57 games. We know already, having seen Fordham in the season opener, that the Rams have the ability to run all day (177-of-225 in stolen bases) but barely even tried to run on the Aggies’ lefties in the series. They won’t get away with that this weekend. A&M has the best ERA among the regional teams at 3.04 and clearly the deepest and most talented pitching staff from top to bottom. The Aggies, in my opinion, got a favorable draw when you look solely at this weekend and don’t factor in the travel and location.

The Mountaineers ace has overpowering stuff and looks like Goliath on the mound when he’s standing just 60-feet, 6-inches from his enemies. And beyond an act of God on very few occasions, Big 12 hitters have caved in his presence all season.

• The biggest non-A&M storyline of the weekend heading into action in Morgantown that could greatly impact the Aggies is what West Virginia’s plan is for 6-6 right-handed phenom Alek Manoah. The Mountaineers ace has overpowering stuff and looks like Goliath on the mound when he’s standing just 60-feet, 6-inches from his enemies. And beyond an act of God on very few occasions, Big 12 hitters have caved in his presence all season. Manoah is 9-3 on the year with a 1.85 ERA. He’s allowed just 67 hits in 102.1 innings, walking just 23 and striking out 135. Opponents are hitting a paltry .186 against him.

Manoah tossed eight innings in a win over Texas Tech on Thursday in the Big 12 Tournament. He will be fully rested and ready for action on Friday against Fordham if called upon. But what you often see teams do in a #1 vs. #4 game, especially if they have a second strong option on the mound, is to “pitch back” and use the #2 guy in game one and hold your ace for the winner’s bracket game on Saturday. But now for the interesting part. Big 6-7 lefty Nick Snyder is clearly the only other reliable starter for the Mountaineers, but he threw 102 pitches and got lit up by Kansas last Wednesday in OKC and then came back in the Big 12 title game game and tossed 61 pitches and was very impressive on short rest vs. OSU. Would WVU consider starting Snyder on short rest again? I don’t think so. My gut tells me they’ll start Manoah and try to get off to a big lead early against Fordham and save him for an if-necessary situation or a high-leverage bullpen spot late in the regional. That allows him to impact two games on the weekend instead of one.

It’ll be a fascinating storyline to follow, and the decision that head coach Randy Mazey makes could have a profound impact on the entire weekend in Morgantown.

• By the way, A&M lefty Asa Lacy’s opponents average is .164 ... 22 points lower than Manoah. If West Virginia pitches back and wins and A&M beats Duke, you’re looking maybe the best game two mound matchup in any regional in the country on Saturday.

wvusports.com
How West Virginia handles Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Alek Manoah could shape the entire Morgantown Regional.

• The West Virginia offense isn’t extremely efficient (.261 average and nearly double the strikeout totals vs. walks). They don’t put the ball out of the yard (47 homers on the season). But they run all day long. The Mountaineers have 93 stolen bases on 133 attempts in ’19 and feature three guys with 18 or more steals. Sure, watch out for DH Paul McIntosh (.287 / .363 / .503 ... 9 HR; 32 RBI), right fielder Darius Hill (.304 / .365 / .511 ... 6 HR; 40 RBI), first baseman Marques Inman (9 HR; 41 RBI) and third baseman Kevin Brophy (8 HR; 32 RBI). But the key to limiting the WVU lineup is keeping three guys off the bases at all cost:

  • Second baseman Tyler Doanes (.318 / .402 / .509 ... 5 HR; 29 RBI; 18-24 SB)
  • Center fielder Brandon White (.396 OBP; 26-32 SB)
  • Shortstop Tevin Tucker (.370 OBP; 19-24 SB)

• Let’s talk about these Duke Blue Devils for a minute. The very last team to make the Field of 64, this team finished 31-25 and an even 15-15 in ACC play. They aren’t a great hitting team (.271 / .362 / .405) but have a few guys in their lineup that raise your blood pressure. Namely center fielder Kennie Taylor (.333 / .400 / .527 ... 6 HR; 39 RBI; 10-11 SB), shortstop Ethan Murray (.316 / .403 / .458 ... 5 HR; 37 RBI; 6-7 SB) and catcher Michael Rothenberg (.260 / .378 / .458 ... 10 HR; 49 RBI). Right fielder Chase Cheek (.293 / .380 / .403 ... 20-23 SB) was having a great year before going down with a season-ending knee injury seven games ago. He was tearing up the base paths for the Blue Devils. That’s a significant loss, as Cheek’s replacement is RJ Schreck who is hitting .179 with no steals. You would think a guy named Schreck would have better power numbers in 56 at bats than no homers and four RBI.

I kid. I kid.

• Duke sits at a 4.17 staff ERA with a 2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a .248 opponents average. Their closer is very good in 5-11 right-hander Thomas Girard. The sophomore has nine saves and a 1.44 ERA this season, punching out 59 hitters in 43.2 innings of work. The four primary starters for the Blue Devils all hold and ERA over 4.41. A&M will almost certainly face 6-1 right-hander Ben Gross in game one. The grad transfer from Princeton is 6-4 with a 4.41 ERA. He’s struck out 64 and walked 28 in 63.1 innings this season. Gross has allowed at least four earned runs in four of his last five starts.

• Fordham is the all-time winningest baseball program in the country and it’s not even close. Of course, a lot has changed since 1940. What has been consistent for a good while is that the Rams are going to pitch it and run all day on the bases. Look for Fordham to be a tough out this week because of their ability to put constant pressure on opposing pitchers and defenses and with the starter-closer combination of John Stankiewicz (8-3; 1.21 ERA) and Kyle Martin (6-2; 2.30 ERA; 10 SV).

A&M has been on fire on the mound of late and is at the tail end of the most dominant pitching season in the Childress era. They were historically good in Hoover last week and awesome versus Arkansas the week before that.

• For the Aggies, we know they’re going to pitch. A&M has been on fire on the mound of late and is at the tail end of the most dominant pitching season in the Childress era. They were historically good in Hoover last week and awesome versus Arkansas the week before that. Not to mention Alabama the week before that and Mississippi State the week before that. A&M will pitch it well in Morgantown and is certainly built for a regional and super regional setting. You need high-level arms and a ton of depth to make it out alive in a regional, especially if you happen to fall into the loser’s bracket after day one or two. A&M certainly has the pitching for it with the ability to start Doxakis in game one, Asa Lacy in game two, Christian Roa in game three and Chris Weber in game four. Then if Johnny Fullstaff in an if-necessary game includes the likes of Moo Menefee, Chandler Jozwiak and Jake Nelson, that is about as talented of a Monday game situation as you’re going to find.

• So that brings us to the hitting. What more can I say or write that hasn’t already been talked about or written ad nauseam? There isn’t a perfect way to construct this lineup, and frankly, I’m out of ideas. I’ll throw one out in a minute versus lefties and righties (A&M will see both this weekend) but it comes down to waking up Jobu, finding the nearest KFC and sacrificing one whole chicken, getting Willie Mays Hayes to do away with the launch angle swing and the lazy pop flies and start barreling up baseballs at a higher level. Stop chasing bad pitches. Stop swinging through mistake pitches out over the plate. Stop trying to put the ball out of the yard. Get back to an even plane approach and try to drive the baseball hard somewhere in an effort to scratch home three or four runs per game for this pitching staff. Do that and play above average defense and the Aggies have a chance here.

• Here’s what I would do vs. the right-hander on Friday:

1. Shewmake - SS (L)
2. Blaum - 2B (R)
3. DeLoach - CF (L)
4. Hoehner - C (R)
5. Frizzell - DH (L)
6. H. Coleman - 1B (R)
7. Blake - LF (L)
8. Ducoff - RF (R)
9. T. Coleman - 3B (R)

• Here’s what I would do vs. the lefty if A&M beats Duke and West Virginia plays it straight and uses Manoah on Friday to beat Fordham, saving Snyder for the Aggies:

1. Shewmake - SS (L)
2. Blaum - 2B (R)
3. Hoehner - C (R)
4. Frizzell - DH (L)
5. H. Coleman - 1B (R)
6. Ducoff - CF (R)
7. Foster - RF (R)
8. Blake - LF (L)
9. T. Coleman - 3B (R)

• Here is a full statistical comparison between the four teams in the Morgantown Regional:

#1-seed West Virginia

Record: 37-20 (13-11 Big 12)
RPI: #13
SOS: #21
Top 50 Record: 9-11
Batting Average: .261
OPS: .754
Home Runs: 47
Stolen Bases: 93-133
ERA: 3.63
Strikeout-to-walk ratio: 2.5 / 1 (562 K / 228 BB)
Fielding Percentage: .971
Best Hitter: 2B Tyler Doanes (.318 / .402 / .509 ... 5 HR; 29 RBI; 18-24 SB)
Best Pitcher: RHP Alek Manoah (9-3; 1.85 ERA; 102.1 IP; 67 H; 28 R; 21 ER; 23 BB; 135 K; .186 Opp. BA)

#2-seed Texas A&M

Record: 37-21-1 (16-13-1 SEC)
RPI: #15
SOS: #7
Top 50 Record: 14-16-1
Batting Average: .249
OPS: .685
Home Runs: 36
Stolen Bases: 39-55
ERA: 3.04
Strikeout-to-walk ratio: 3.3 / 1 (631 K / 190 BB)
Fielding Percentage: .971
Best Hitter: SS Braden Shewmake (.315 / .376 / .487 ... 6 HR; 46 RBI; 7-9 SB)
Best Pitcher: LHP John Doxakis (7-3; 1.84 ERA; 97.2 IP; 74 H; 27 R; 20 ER; 26 BB; 106 K/ .207 Opp. BA)

#3-seed Duke

Record: 31-25 (15-15 ACC)
RPI: #44 RPI
SOS: #17
Top 50 Record: 9-15
Batting Average: .271
OPS: .767
Home Runs: 44
Stolen Bases: 64-75
ERA: 4.17
Strikeout-to-walk ratio: 2.1 / 1 (545 K / 260 BB)
Fielding Percentage: .967
Best Hitter: CF Kennie Taylor (.333 / .400 / .527 ... 6 HR; 39 RBI; 10-11 SB)
Best Pitcher: RHP Thomas Girard (1-5; 1.44 ERA; 9 SV; 43.2 IP; 25 H; 7 R; 7 ER; 17 BB; 59 K; .168 Opp. BA)

#4-seed Fordham

Record: 38-22 (15-9 A10)
RPI: #135
SOS: #262
Top 50 Record: 0-3 (vs. A&M)
Batting Average: .253
OPS: .692
Home Runs: 25
Stolen Bases: 177-225
ERA: 3.08
Strikeout-to-walk ratio: 2.4 / 1 (592 K / 246 BB)
Fielding Percentage: .970
Best Hitter: SS Jake MacKenzie (.313 / .364 / .463 ... 3 HR; 28 RBI)
Best Pitcher: RHP John Stankiewicz (8-3; 1.21 ERA; 89.1 IP; 59 H; 18 R; 12 ER; 15 BB; 102 K; .186 Opp. BA)

• Finally, kudos to the SEC for getting a record-tying 10 teams into the NCAA Tournament. This is the third time that the league has put 10 in the Field of 64. The ACC has done it once. It could have very easily been 11 had Mizzou won one game in Hoover. The Tigers were among the first four teams left out of the tournament, while TCU was the fourth-to-last team in. I was shocked the Horned Frogs got in and feel this was more of a reputation insertion than a pick based on their resume and what they did on the field in '19.

• I have four SEC teams reaching Omaha this year (Vanderbilt, Georgia, Arkansas and Mississippi State) with Mississippi State winning it all. I went back and forth on Vandy and MSU, but I think the Bulldogs have everything you want and feel that Mississippi State finally wins a national title in baseball. What's your pick?

Discussion from...

Diamond Notes Regional Edition: A&M hits the road for the postseason

6,191 Views | 9 Replies | Last: 4 yr ago by W
Tex100
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AG
Thanks, Gabe. That kind of work is what makes TexAgs head and shoulders above every other Aggie sports site.
Gabe Bock
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AG
Tex100 said:

Thanks, Gabe. That kind of work is what makes TexAgs head and shoulders above every other Aggie sports site.
Certainly appreciate it!
Hot Corner
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AG
Thanks Gabe for a very complete look at the teams in the Morgantown regional. You have provided information on just about every comparison imaginable. Good work as usual. Go Ags!
aggiedaddie
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nicely done. I think the ags should win this regional and they will unless the offense craters completely.

It's a shame to see Shewmake batting first, but no one seems to want the job bad enough to take it.
cs69ag
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AG
Great detailed info Gabe! I agree with MSU to win the NC...most complete team I saw all year.
Really tough for them to go to Arky to get to Omaha....what a great super regional that will be.
Foxo
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AG
West Virginia baseball stats

https://wvusports.com/cumestats.aspx?path=baseball

West Virginia only has two 300 hitters.

Their pitching looks strong.
twk
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AG
cs69ag said:

Great detailed info Gabe! I agree with MSU to win the NC...most complete team I saw all year.
Really tough for them to go to Arky to get to Omaha....what a great super regional that will be.
That's Ole Miss that is lined up to travel to Fayetteville for the super regional, not State (they would host the winner of the Stanford regional in Starkville).
Agsuffering@bulaw
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Nice observation on the pitching dilemma WV faces!

This is an awesome draw for a #2. They gave us a wraparound. Usually the committee gives it dry.

-#4 has a real ace
-#3 does not
-none are even above (SEC) average offensively

Even if WV's #2 were not on short rest, I doubt many coaches have the stones to hold back the ace against Fordham's ace. The regret factor is too high.

Even though not hosting, I have to think we are the favorite to win the regional.
W
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AG
excellent write-up
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