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Texas A&M Baseball

Diamond Notes: Lost series at Auburn makes LSU a must-win for Aggies

May 17, 2021
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Good series against Auburn with a lot of fight ... yada, yada. We’ve seen this story play out for weeks, and other than the Ole Miss series, A&M has nothing to show for its ability to battle down the stretch of a miserable season with almost nothing to play for. The way I see it, a 1-2 weekend is still just that ... a 1-2 weekend. And 1-2 absolutely could not happen in this series with War Eagle. The Ags desperately needed to dig deep and find a way to win that series. It would have put them two games up on Auburn and Missouri in the battle for the 12th and final spot in the SEC Tournament.

As it now stands, The Tigers are tied with the Aggies at 8-19 in the SEC and hold the tiebreaker as they face Mizzou this weekend. So if both teams close the season with the same number of wins on the final weekend, Auburn goes to the SEC Tournament. But now in play is Mizzou, which is one game back of A&M but also holds the tiebreaker on the Ags. So let’s say A&M goes 2-1 against LSU to get to 10-20 ... then the Ags get to Hoover as long as Auburn goes 1-2. But here’s the deal ... if Auburn were swept by Missouri, that would give Mizzou 10 SEC wins and the Tigers would then get the 12th spot in Hoover. There is no chance the Ags get to the SEC Tournament with a 1-2 showing this weekend against LSU. They have to win a minimum of 2 games and then hope Missouri wins the series over Auburn BUT does not sweep.

Brian Okosun
The Aggies face a must-win series this weekend as the LSU Tigers visit Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park for the first time since 2018.

More simply put ... A&M needs to win at least one more game on the final weekend than Auburn AND at least as many games as Missouri does against Auburn to clinch spot #12 and get to Hoover. Anything short of that and the season is officially curtains.

As for this weekend’s display on the Plains, the Aggies did not deserve to win the series. Auburn pitched better, played a little bit better defense, put the ball out of the yard at a better clip, delivered more often in the clutch and played the game at a slightly superior rate to that of the Aggies. In a series that finished with just a two-run total edge to War Eagle, 22-20 on the weekend, The Tigers’ best players had a very strong weekend and A&M’s best players — particularly Will Frizzell, Austin Bost and Chandler Jozwiak — were a notch or two down by their own standards.

All of this will be laid out a little more in this week’s G.A.B.E. section, but it really boils down to this: If you have a conference series where two of your three starting pitchers get yanked with no outs in the 2nd inning, you’re in big, big trouble and almost certainly are not going to win the game. This team has about 2-3 reliable arms, and right now all of them are relievers. The starting pitching stinks and is worse than the ’06 stable of starters in Rob Childress’ first season as A&M head coach. He’s built his entire program on elite starting pitching and good left-right balance in relief. But this group has come up way short.

Combine that with a lineup that is below average in this league and has been very inconsistent outside of Frizzell and Ray Alejo and a VERY shaky infield defense and you get what you get ... a hard-playing group of Aggies who aren’t quite good enough to win series in the SEC and a team that is fighting like heck to just make it to the league tournament, with pretty much a 0.0% chance of extending their NCAA Tournament streak to 14 years.

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 three-game series against the Rebels this week:

Good

Taylor Smith. Went 4-for-10 (.400) with a double, 2 home runs, 4 RBI and 5 runs scored. The burly catcher/DH is about as strikeout prone as they come, but he also has a tendency to deliver the big extra-base hit and he did that in big moments all weekend long. Smith has the average up to .250, and while he has a ridiculous 42 strikeouts in 72 at bats in ’21, he also has 7 home runs (third on the team and just 2 behind Austin Bost despite 110 fewer ABs). While Taylor has just 18 hits this season, 13 of them are for extra bases, giving him a .639 slugging percentage (2nd on the team and just 43 points behind Frizzell). It’s been a nightmare season for Smith, but I’m actually hoping he’ll do away with “That Nomad Life” and not transfer to a fourth school in four years. I want Smith to stay on board and just put in a ton of work to get better and take over as the everyday catcher in ’22. He’s got a bazooka arm behind the dish and the bat is slowly coming back to life.

Angelina Alcantar, TexAgs
After beginning the season in the starting rotation, Jonathan Childress moved to the bullpen. This weekend, he was solid in relief for the Aggies.

Jonathan Childress. It’s been a rough year for the third-year freshman. From looking nearly untouchable during the non-conference to getting rocked in SEC play and losing his spot in the rotation to withering in the bullpen late in the season, you had to wonder if Childress had another bright moment or two in the tank in ’21. Well, in a loss on Sunday, Childress came in for Nathan Dettmer with two outs in the 3rd inning and worked the next 2.1 to get the Aggies through 5, giving up just a run on 3 hits. Jonathan walked 2 and fanned 2. He certainly wasn’t GREAT — just over a 50% strike rate in 43 pitches — but much, much better than we’ve seen him since he got rocked against Florida on opening weekend of league play. Another guy who needs to come back, get in great shape and be ready to take a giant step forward in ’22. The talent is there, no doubt, but the velocity eventually must return if he’s going to once again be squarely on the MLB Draft radar.

Average

Chandler Jozwiak. For a lesser man, I would have put Jozwiak’s production in the “Good” category. But for Joz, you have to say it was average. The fourth-year lefty from Brenham was the last guy on the mound in each of A&M’s two losses on the Plains. A wild pitch brought home the go-ahead run on Friday in an otherwise strong 2 innings of work. And on Sunday, A&M kept pecking away at Auburn’s lead and cut it to 2 runs in the 8th, but Joz gave a run right back to Auburn in the bottom half of the frame, forcing the Aggies to head into their final at bat down 3 instead of 2. All told, Jozwiak worked 5 innings, giving up 2 runs (both earned) on 4 hits with 3 walks and 4 Ks. Again, solid but not special, which we’ve become used to seeing from Joz.

Bad

Starting pitching. Again, I’m flabbergasted at the inept display from the starting pitching for the better part of the last 6 weeks. your game one starter — Dustin Saenz — allowed 4 earned runs on 5 hits in 6 innings, walking 2 and punching out 6 and throwing nearly 2/3 strikes. That’s not bad at all but certainly not a tremendous outing out of your Friday night guy. But on this pitching staff, Saenz is Clayton Kershaw by comparison to what little this team is getting from the rotation right now. In game two, Chris Weber failed to get an out in the 2nd inning before hitting the showers having allowed 3 runs on 3 hits with 2 walks and 0 Ks. Then on Sunday, Rob Childress elected to give Mason Ornelas his first career start. Made sense on paper to use Ornelas as an “opener” to try to get at least one time through the lineup. It did not go well. That’s putting it lightly. The right-hander gave up 5 runs (one earned) on 2 hits and was pulled, like Weber, with no outs in the 2nd. Here’s what really hurt ... Mason gave up 3 walks and hit a man. This coming from a pitcher that came into the game having walked just 9 guys all season. Only 16 strikes total in 45 pitches before exiting unceremoniously. Something tells me the opportunity to start was just too much for Ornelas and he was too amped, because locating pitches is his specialty. That and a low heart rate. I was actually pretty shocked to see him look so rattled and having no ability to find the zone even to get it over for a strike. Such is life right now with this hapless and helpless starting rotation. It’s the number one reason why A&M is in the position it’s in right now. A lot has gone wrong this year as a team and very little has gone right, but the starting rotation has flat-out let this team down. Period.

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
After setting the world on fire against Ole Miss, Will Frizzell was just 2-for-9 against Auburn as Tiger pitching ensured the imposing left-handed bat was a non-factor.

Will Frizzell / Austin Bost duo. A&M slugger Will Frizzell came back to Earth after an other-worldly series against Ole Miss, going 2-for-9 (.222) with a double in his first at bat of the series and no extra-base hits after that. He also failed to drive in a run at all, scoring twice on the weekend. Meanwhile, Bost continues his struggles since being moved right behind Frizz in the order and into that clean-up spot. After going 2-for-13 against Ole Miss, Bost went 1-for-12 (.083) with 2 RBI and a run scored against War Eagle. That’s a combined 3-for-25 (.120) the last two weeks from your four-hole and a combined 3-for-21 against Auburn for the Frizzell/Bost combo. Ouch. What else can you say about that? Frizz will be fine and still made his presence felt with several key walks, and he drove the ball hard several times. But Bost has to move up to two-hole or down in the lineup ... he can’t stay in that clean-up role against LSU with the way he’s swinging the bat right now.

Infield defense. A&M was error-free outside of one failed pickoff attempt through the first two games of the series, but the infield defense — particularly the left side — was so erratic on Sunday that you absolutely have to classify this in the “Bad” section. There were 4 errors in total: 2 by Ty Coleman at third base on routine middle school level plays, one error on Kalae Harrison on a routine ground ball to his backhand that went right under his glove and one error on catcher Mikey Hoehner. But there were several other miscues that were not ruled as errors that certainly could have been, and all of that had as much as anything to do with Auburn piling up 8 runs on Sunday. Heck, the Tigers’ 3-run 1st inning never happens if Coleman could have just fielded an exceptionally easy ground ball to his left and stepped on the 3rd base bag for the force to end the inning and strand the bases loaded. But he booted it and it opened up the flood gates. The normally sure-handed Harrison was all over the map with the glove and the arm in game 3 as well. Just a miserable effort on the dirt on Sunday, and if the Aggies had just picked it cleanly on the infield as they did in the first two games, they very well could have won the rubber match and had taken a stranglehold on that 12th spot in Hoover next week.

Excellent

Moo Menefee. Moo was incredible in the lone win on the weekend at Auburn, going a career-best 4.2 innings to close out an 11-9 result for the Aggies. The Tigers were hooked up at the plate prior to his arrival into the ball game. They had belted 6 solo homers through 4 innings, chasing Weber after one-plus inning and running Bryce Miller out of the game after 3.1 frames and 6 runs (5 earned) allowed. Menefee’s second pitch of the outing was deposited into the right field corner for an RBI double. His fourth pitch was a cross-up with Taylor Smith for a passed ball on a high fastball that plated another run. And from that point ... it was lights out for Auburn. Final line: 4.2 innings, 3 hits, 0 runs (other than the inherited runs), 1 walk, 5 strikeouts. A 63-pitch gem that slammed the door on a hot-hitting Tigers team and gave the Aggies time to overtake the home team on the scoreboard in the late innings.

Angelina Alcantar, TexAgs
Alejo has been a bright spot at the tip of the A&M lineup in 2021.

Ray Alejo. The sixth-year grown-up center fielder was very good. He’s been outstanding all season other than two weeks, really ... the trip back to his home state of Florida for the series against the Gators and the series last weekend against Ole Miss, where he began his college career before transferring to UCF. Alejo went 6-for-15 (.400) with a homer, 1 RBI and 2 runs scored. He also stole a bag in all 3 games in the series. Ray still has an outside shot at the team batting title. He’s at .328 ... 16 points behind Frizzell (.344) so it would take an exceptional series against the Bayou Bengals combined with a lousy weekend from Frizzell to pull it off. Put me down for not wanting that to happen. The Ags need a big weekend from #50 to have any shot at pulling out a series win and sneaking into the SEC Tournament next week.

The Five Factors: Offense

Here’s a look at what the Aggie bats did in five critical situational areas in the series loss at Auburn:

  • Two-outs: .263 (10-for-38)
  • Runners on: .220 (13-for-59)
  • Runners in scoring position: .256 (10-for-39)
  • Leadoff OBP: .481 (13-for-27)
  • Two-out RBI: 2.7 PG (8 total)

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

  • Two-outs: .258 (153-for-594)
  • Runners on: .275 (240-for-872)
  • Runners in scoring position: .283 (155-for-548)
  • Leadoff OBP: .358 (166-for-464)
  • Two-out RBI: 2.4 PG (126 total)

The Five Factors: Pitching

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

  • Two outs: .258 (8-for-31)
  • Runners on: .220 (11-for-50)
  • Runners in scoring position: .200 (7-for-35)
  • Leadoff OBP: .480 (12-for-25)
  • Two-out RBI: 2.3 PG (7 total)

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

  • Two outs: .247 (145-for-587)
  • Runners on: .251 (221-for-881)
  • Runners in scoring position: .245 (133-for-543)
  • Leadoff OBP: .416 (195-for-469)
  • Two-out RBI: 1.8 PG (97 total)

Parting Shots

As we like to do each week, let’s take a look at what the typical lineup should look like this week for the Aggies, taking on LSU at home to close out the regular season. What would you do if you had to win 2 of your final 3 games and your ability to keep playing this game was squarely and utterly on the line (not to mention a likely coaching change soon after the season ends so you would want to extend this sucker as long as possible)? I would personally like to limit the swing and miss in the lineup, but you also like how Taylor Smith is swinging the bat right now and producing XBH so he has to stay in there. Here’s my crack at it...

1. Alejo - CF (R)
2. Sartori - 2B (R)
3. Frizzell - 1B (L)
4. Smith - DH (R)
5. Thompson - RF (R)
6. Bost - LF (R)
7. Blaum - 3B (R)
8. Hoehner - C (R)
9. Harrison - SS (L)

I think Blaum has one more moment of magic left in him, and who better to do it to than LSU on his way out after a long career at A&M? You have to keep Jordan Thompson in the lineup because he competes at the plate about as well as anyone you have. He’s also a very good base runner and defender.

As for the rotation? Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe Saenz, Weber again and then Dettmer as an “opener.” Then you pray for some length from those guys. Let Jozwiak, Miller and Moo handle the back half of games one and two and you go Johnny Fullstaff on Sunday and hope for the best.

We’ll have much more on the Ags and Tigers and the battle for Hoover as the week progresses, and David Sandhop will have a full preview of the series on Thursday.



Key notes from Justin Seely interview on TexAgs Radio

  • I thought we competed hard but we didn't play particularly well. Offensively, we competed hard. On the mound, we competed hard, but we didn't throw a ton of strikes. We didn't make enough plays on defense.
     
  • We had the bases loaded with Austin Bost at the plate, and Rankin Woley makes the play down the third-base line to turn the double play to get them off the field. That ended up being the difference in the series. It's hard to boil it down to one play, but that's what ended up happening.
     
  • It was going to take two heroic efforts on the mound. We got one from Joseph Menefee. On Sunday, Nathan Dettmer was good. Jonathan Childress was as good as he's been in a long time. Chandler Jozwiak was his typical self. We just needed one more guy to be great.
     
  • Bost has struggled these last two weeks. Taylor Smith picked up the slack behind Bost. Austin has been very good for us the whole season. He is entitled to having a bad weekend, but he's a better hitter than that. We need him. If that ball goes down the line instead of Woley making that play, we're talking about him having a shot of confidence. In a weekend where Will Frizzell was not Superman, we needed somebody else to step up. We didn't get the results to show for it.
     
  • Smith has been better of late and he's trending in the right direction. He's (more of) a volume shooter than a sniper. When you're in this league and trying to win games at this level when the rest of the team is not giving you a lot of room, he'd probably get more at-bats earlier if we were winning more. It's unfortunate for him, but it's what we thought the team needed. The flip side of it is the 40-something punchouts that come with it. You have to have other guys around that can absorb the punchouts.
     
  • If Smith hits .250 and hits 17 home runs, that's fine if you're still moving the baseball around him.
     
  • We won that Saturday game and gave up six home runs. I'm not sure I've ever seen it. There's probably a stat there somewhere. I was proud of that. We moved the ball, got timely hits and just kept coming, putting ourselves in a position to win the game.
     
  • The goal is to take all three against LSU this weekend. We got to go out and play good. LSU needs to win too, and everybody is playing for something. They have a good offense, but we're at home. With their pitching, they have some similarities to us.
Discussion from...

Diamond Notes: Lost series at Auburn makes LSU a must-win for Aggies

1,591 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 4 mo ago by 12thMan9
Operatorgray
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Concerning the second and third paragraphs of possible outcomes, what happen if the Ags go 3-0 against LSU? How does that affect Auburn and Mizzou if it happens?
12thMan9
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AG
They would both be out if it's a 2-1 series either way. If AU sweeps, us, lsu, & Au would be in a 3 way tie.
Ronnie '88
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