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Texas A&M Baseball

Diamond Notes: Missed opportunities cost Aggies another SEC series

April 26, 2021
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Another week where we saw some good fight by the Aggies against a much more premier opponent in a 1-2 weekend showing. Tennessee is a very good team, and much like the Arkansas series, the Aggies lost game one in a very one-sided affair in the early game of a Saturday doubleheader. But the Aggies came right back and edged the Vols, 6-5 in a thriller. The Aggies got down big early in the Sunday game but stormed back with a five-run fifth inning to take the lead momentarily … only to give it right back up with a couple of crooked numbers allowed in the later innings. In the end, it’s just another 1-2 showing for the Aggies in a series that very easily could have been 2-1. And there is a HUGE difference — in the standings, in momentum of the season and in the overall feeling in the clubhouse — between a 1-2 series and a 2-1 weekend.

Look, I’m no coach, and I’m fully aware that Rob Childress is one of the premier pitching minds in college baseball, but I think this entire series and the difference in a 1-2 vs. 2-1 series for the Aggies can be boiled down to two pitching decisions in the seventh inning of game three, one by Childress and one by the Tennessee coaching staff. Joseph Menefee was cruising into the seventh in relief of Nathan Dettmer before allowing a leadoff double and a single to open the frame.

With A&M leading, 6-5, but with the dangerous Evan Russell at the plate, Childress elected to go with Alex Magers to get the right-on-right matchup instead of putting in white-hot lefty Chandler Jozwiak in the most high-leverage moment of the weekend. Sure, Jozwiak closed out the late game on Saturday with a two-inning, 36-pitch effort but has proven time and time again that he can come back on no rest and be equally as effective. The move, of course, came back to bite Childress as Magers allowed a three-run blast to straightaway center field to put the Vols up for good. Two pitches later, another homer against Magers and his day — and A&M’s hopes of winning the series — had vanished. Jozwiak never pitched in the game.

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Pitching decisions meant A&M never got to Jozwiak, their most reliable arm, with Sunday's rubber match still in reach.

You might say that it was still too early to put him in the game. I would follow by saying that you need your best bullpen arm hot and ready to come into the game in the most critical spot in the late innings. Would you rather throw Jozwiak in the seventh and then have to potentially bring in someone for him in the ninth if he tires out late, or have the scenario that we saw play out where you pitch less effective arms and let the game get away from you where you don’t even get a chance to use your best arm? That’s what I thought.

Meanwhile, Tennessee went with their closer, Sean Hunley, in the fifth inning to stop the bleeding during A&M’s big four-run inning. And when he started to lose command and the Aggies started making one last run at getting back into the game, the Vols’ coaching staff elected to go with lefty Redmond Walsh against the right-handed hitting Ty Coleman representing the tying run with the bases loaded and two outs. Tony Vitello and Frank Anderson said, “To heck with the right-on-right matchup.” They put in the guy that they thought was going the best and had the best chance to get that big out. And, of course, Walsh did just that by getting Coleman to ground out on a spectacular play by the Tennessee shortstop to get out of the jam. And that was pretty much the last noise the Ags made on Sunday as the Vols went on to roll, 20-7.

Go. With. Your. Best. Guys. In. The. Most. Critical. Moments.

Period.

Rant. Over.

Each week, we look back on the week that was with a “Good, Bad and Ugly” spin-off and breaking it down in four categories: Good. Average. Bad. Excellent. Here is this week’s G.A.B.E. looking specifically at the 1-2 showing in the three-game series vs. No. 6 Tennessee.

Good

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Menefee has proven he’s a quality pitcher and a quality guy.

Joseph Menefee. I want to brag on Menefee for a minute if you’ll indulge me. Last week, I discussed Menefee’s struggles with command of late and that his father’s serious battle with COVID-19 in recent weeks might have played a role in his struggles. Well, last Monday, we found out that one of our Little League kids’ father was in ICU and on a ventilator after coming down with COVID-19. In an effort to cheer up our little player, I reached out to Menefee, and he and Mikey Hoehner sent the boy a wonderful video of encouragement. I got to share it with the boy before our game last Tuesday, and he lit up and had a great game. I sent it to the kid’s mother, and they played it for the dad, and the family was so encouraged by Joseph’s and Mikey’s message. You won’t find anyone that has a negative thing to say about these two gentlemen, and I can’t thank them enough for taking the time to do that for a local boy who has been struggling in the same way that Menefee has recently. By the way, it looks like both dads are going to fully recover, so that is great news!

As for Menefee’s mound effort against Tennessee, I thought he pitched as well as he has in quite a while. Menefee came on with the bases loaded and no outs and immediately got a strikeout and induced an infield fly for out number two. He then walked a man in with the bases loaded before getting a foul out to end the frame and minimize the damage. Menefee then worked a hitless fifth and sixth before the back-to-back hits to open the seventh ended his Sunday appearance. Good kid that did a lot of good this week, on and off the mound.

Average

The Bullpen. The A&M relievers were excellent in Saturday’s doubleheader, as Chris Weber, Mason Ornelas and Chandler Jozwiak combined to work eight innings, allowing just a run (earned) on five hits, striking out six without issuing one walk. It was the best Weber has looked all year, tossing three hitless innings with a pair of Ks in game one. Joz closed out the win in the late game with two scoreless frames for his sixth save of the season. Outside of some salty pitching during parts of Menefee’s relief outing, Sunday’s bullpen effort could not have been more disastrous, and like I dove into off the top, part of that boils down to the coaching decision to not use Jozwiak when it mattered most. All told, the A&M relievers combined in game three to give up 15 runs (all earned) on 16 hits over the final six innings of baseball in relief of Dettmer, walking three and fanning seven. No bueno, my friends. And not a redeeming moment in the whole batch beyond Menefee (Magers, Kobe Andrade, Chris Farrell, Trevor Werner, Will Johnston or Wyatt Tucker). Facts are facts, and A&M has just a small handful of relievers that you feel can come in and get outs right now (Jozwiak, sometimes Ornelas, sometimes Menefee and sometimes Weber, with Magers hit-and-miss of late).

Bad

Will Frizzell. This is probably the first time Frizz has been listed in this category this season, but a 1-for-10 weekend performance will do that to even the best of players. The fourth-year junior did smash his 13th home run in Saturday night’s win, but that was it for the entire series. It’s hard to win much of anything without Frizzell leading the way. Chalk it up to some salty pitching against him and just an off series for big #50. He’ll be fine.

Discrepancy in leadoff OBP and two-out hitting. The Aggies hit just .107 (3-for-28) and drove home just one run in three games with two outs, while Tennessee hit .294 (10-for-34) and drove in a whopping 10 two-out runs. The Vols also did a much better job of getting the leadoff man on base in the series, doing so at a .481 clip, while A&M managed to get the leadoff runner on less than a quarter of the time (.231). Yikes.

Starting pitching. The starting pitching continues to struggle mightily against SEC hitting. Not one quality start in the series, and you won’t find more than one quality start for A&M total since game two of the Missouri series nearly a month ago. It’s been atrocious and the worst stretch of starting pitching under Rob Childress since his first season as the A&M coach in 2006. Big problems in the rotation right now. Dustin Saenz gave up six runs (3 ER) on eight hits in six innings in Saturday’s game one loss. He walked two and fanned six. And that was a Clayton Kershaw-like mound display as compared to games two and three. Bryce Miller gave up four runs (all earned) on seven hits over four innings in game two, walking three and punching out three. On Sunday, Nathan Dettmer was yanked with no outs in the fourth and the bases loaded, with Menefee coming on and giving up just a single run, so the numbers for Dettmer could have been much worse. His totals in game three: 3.0+ innings, five hits, five runs (4 ER), two walks, one strikeout.

They need to change up the rotation, but who in the world do you roll out there? That’s the issue. The pitching staff isn’t good. There isn’t an ace. The #2 and #3 guys are talented but wildly inconsistent, and the bullpen has one steady hand that you can rely on game in and game out. Of all of the issues with Rob Childress’ team in what will almost certainly be his last season at A&M, the lack of development from this pitching staff has been the most head-scratching.

Excellent

Angelina Alcantar, TexAgs
Bost was by far A&M’s most reliable offensive weapon against UT.

Austin Bost. Safe to say, the A&M sophomore is enjoying his move into the two-hole and the protection offered by three-hole hitter Will Frizzell. After getting a night off on Tuesday against Texas Southern, Bost went 5-for-13 (.385) with two doubles, a home run (his seventh of the season), four RBIs and four runs scored. Bost has been one of the few bright spots on the roster, and I would say A&M’s third-best player behind Frizzell and Jozwiak this season.

The Five Factors: Offense

Here’s a look at what the Aggie bats did in five critical situational areas in the win over Texas Southern:

  • Two-outs: .222 (2-for-9)
  • Runners on: .208 (5-for-24)
  • Runners in scoring position: .214 (3-for-14)
  • Leadoff OBP: .750 (6-for-8)
  • Two-out RBI: 2

Here are the five key split stats in the series loss to Tennessee:

  • Two-outs: .107 (3-for-28)
  • Runners on: .333 (14-for-42)
  • Runners in scoring position: .290 (9-for-31)
  • Leadoff OBP: .231 (6-for-26)
  • Two-out RBI: 0.3 PG (1 total)

Here are A&M’s updated season totals to this point in all five areas:

  • Two-outs: .253 (117-for-462)
  • Runners on: .282 (192-for-681)
  • Runners in scoring position: .284 (122-for-430)
  • Leadoff OBP: .358 (130-for-363)
  • Two-out RBI: 2.2 PG (92 total)

The Five Factors: Pitching

Here are the raw numbers from what the Aggie pitching staff did in five critical situational areas vs. Texas Southern:

  • Two outs: .100 (1-for-10)
  • Runners on: .188 (3-for-16)
  • Runners in scoring position: .231 (3-for-13)
  • Leadoff OBP: .333 (3-for-9)
  • Two-out RBI: 1

Here are the five key split stats vs. Tennessee:

  • Two-outs: .294 (10-for-34)
  • Runners on: .339 (19-for-56)
  • Runners in scoring position: .325 (13-for-40)
  • Leadoff OBP: .481 (13-for-27)
  • Two-out RBI: 3.3 PG (10 total)

Here are the updated season totals for Aggie pitching to this point in all five areas:

  • Two outs: .231 (107-for-463)
  • Runners on: .246 (166-for-675)
  • Runners in scoring position: .240 (101-for-421)
  • Leadoff OBP: .399 (148-for-371)
  • Two-out RBI: 1.7 PG (73 total)

Parting Shots

It’s likely all for naught, but until all of the games have been played, there is still more baseball out there, and there isn’t anything wrong with hoping for a turning of the corner down the stretch, even if it feels like hoping against hope.

In closing, A&M is sitting here at 23-19 overall and 5-13 in SEC play. If the season ended today, the Aggies and Auburn would be the two teams on the outside looking in without an invite to the SEC Baseball Tournament. The NCAA Tournament chances are gone, outside of sneaking into the Tournament in Hoover and making some miraculous run to the SEC championship. Hey, it’s baseball, so one can dream, right? A&M will almost certainly miss the Big Dance for the first time since ’06 in Childress’ final season. So right now, the goal is just to make it to Hoover. And it won’t get any easier with A&M getting Mississippi State on the road next week and hosting Ole Miss the following week. Then it’s at Auburn and three at Olsen vs. LSU, with midweek games vs. Texas State at home and UTA at Globe Life Field.

Gun to head, my prediction for A&M’s final record would be 30-26 overall and 10-20 in the SEC. That puts the RPI right around 80. However, somehow get hot and win a series against one of the Mississippi schools, and the RPI could jump up significantly. It’s likely all for naught, but until all of the games have been played, there is still more baseball out there, and there isn’t anything wrong with hoping for a turning of the corner down the stretch, even if it feels like hoping against hope.

It’s Texas State at Olsen on Tuesday before the trip to Dudy Noble this weekend. There isn’t a finer venue for college baseball than the New Dude in Starkville, and quite frankly, if they can build something like that at Mississippi State, why can’t A&M’s phase two renovation of Blue Bell Park make our facility just as nice? It’s the SEC. This is a big-time college baseball program. Change is almost certainly on the horizon. Now do more than slap some lipstick on a good and solid SEC park. Make it great. The stadium and the program. It’s time.



Key notes from Justin Seely interview on TexAgs Radio

  • Tennessee got out to an early lead in game one. Dustin Saenz was sharp early but gave up a home run down the right-field line. They extended their lead, and at that point, you're thinking, "Oh, gosh, how far are we going to get Dustin through?" He showed some toughness to finish six innings, and Chris Weber finished it, giving us a chance to win the second game. We figured out that Dustin needs to throw the change up a bit more at the end.
     
  • In the second game, I thought we competed and played hard. We found a way to win. Chandler Jozwiak slammed the door. We got some big hits and clawed back. I was really happy with our guys.
     
  • On Sunday, Tennessee got out to a lead. It's not easy when you're chasing runs. We showed some gumption and toughness to have a 6-5 lead, and obviously, it got off the rails at that point. That one was tough to swallow at the end of the day.
  • In game one, this isn't going to make anybody feel better, but in evaluating our team, if I go back, we hit eight balls over 100 mph. We scorched the ball. It was a tougher day to hit, and we didn't have anything to show for it. Nothing got by the outfielders. I did not feel like our offense was bad, even though the numbers might say otherwise. We didn't make an adjustment in-game regarding our ball flight. The score was lopsided, but I didn't think the game was. In game two, we made that change and got the result out of it. We did what we needed to do to continue to move the offense.

  • Once we got into the spot that the double-play ball was going to matter in that third game, we were going to put Alex Magers in the game. I did not think their bullpen was going to stop us. Obviously, he did not get that double-play ball. Looking back, we might have gone with Kobe Andrade for Lipcius and maybe Werner to get us out of the inning with the game tied. We were hoping to go to Jozwiak with the game tied or us up with six outs remaining. You're danged if you do, danged if you don't. We've done that before with Joz and run out of bullets with him.

  • Tennessee had their guy in the right spot as Liam Spence made a tough play. They made the play we didn't make. If we throw a guy out early in the game on the chopper to third, how much different is the game? It is the hits, the runs and the matchups, but there are the small plays that matter. The ones you sometimes forget about after the game are the ones that change the complexion of the game.

  • We wanted to give Will Frizzell the opportunity to have more guys to drive in. If Ray Alejo's at first and Will is up, you want to give Will the hole. That takes the running game away from Ray. If Bost is on first, you're not worried about it. That's the reason why we moved Bost to second. Get those opportunities and not handcuff Ray on the bases as much. It worked out well for Austin.

Discussion from...

Diamond Notes: Missed opportunities cost Aggies another SEC series

1,282 Views | 3 Replies | Last: 19 days ago by BBGigem
coloradoag69
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AG
I appreciate Seely's positive attitude, at least how it sounds when I read what he said. But without a major miracle, this team is done. I know they are trying, but there isn't enough talent to overcome virtually any mistakes against good teams.

When the coaches are cleared out, I hope Seely lands on his feet. He seems like a good guy.
Gabe Bock
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Staff
AG
Seely is a great guy. That entire staff is a bunch of awesome guys.
BBGigem
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AG
Gabe Bock said:

Seely is a great guy. That entire staff is a bunch of awesome guys.
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