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Photo by Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Texas A&M Baseball

Series Preview: Texas A&M vs. Penn

February 25, 2022

Also included above is a radio segment with Ryan Brauninger and Richard Zane from Friday morning, previewing this weekend’s series between Texas A&M and Penn.

Who: Penn Quakers (6-8, 0-0 Ivy League in 2021)
Where: Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park – Bryan-College Station, Texas

Friday: 2 p.m. CT (SEC Network+)
Saturday: 2 p.m. CT (SEC Network+)
Sunday: 1 p.m. CT (SEC Network+)

Pitching matchups

Friday: Nathan Dettmer (RHP, 1-0, 1.50) vs. Kevin Eaise (RHP, 2-0, 2.42 in 2021)
Saturday: Micah Dallas (RHP, 1-0, 1.42) vs. Joe Miller (LHP, 0-3, 9.00 in 2021)
Sunday: Ryan Prager (LHP, 0-0, 2.08) vs. Brian Zeldin (RHP, 2-0, 3.24 in 2021)

Scouting Penn

The Penn Quakers decided to come to the warm, comfy confines of Texas to kick off their 2022 season. They will be greeted with freezing rain and temperatures that haven’t surpassed the 40-degree mark since Wednesday.

So much for that warm, southern road trip.

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Nathan Dettmer gets his second consecutive Friday starter this week.

Friday’s night game has been moved up to 2 p.m. due to the chilly weather. In addition, Texas A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle left open the option of delaying Saturday’s contest and playing a Sunday doubleheader when the weather improves.

It has been a tough stretch for the Penn baseball team, and it has little to do with the game of baseball. The Quakers haven’t played a full season since 2019. Ivy League COVID-19 restrictions limited the 2021 season to 14 games, and the 2020 season was cut short after just six games because of the virus.

When you see that Penn returns eight position starters and eight pitchers, there’s an asterisk on that implied experience. Many of Penn’s projected starters are juniors and seniors. However, a junior has played a total of 22 games, less than half a typical collegiate schedule. A three-year senior starter like infielder Craig Larsen has played only 62 games and has just 260 at-bats. As a freshman, he turned some heads with a team-leading 44 RBIs in 2019. In the last two seasons, he’s knocked in a paltry nine RBIs. It’s hard to preview a team that essentially hasn’t played a conference game or a consequential game on their schedule in almost three years.

The Ivy League sportswriters think Penn will have a good team, picking the Quakers to finish third in the league this year. We do know that Penn has a couple of capable starting pitchers in the rotation. Friday night starter, senior Kevin Eaise, threw 26 innings in 2021 and posted sparkling numbers with a 2-0 record and a 2.42 ERA. Opponents hit just .189 against him. Saturday starter Joe Miller is another experienced senior. Last season, the lefty struggled with a 0-3 record and a bloated 9.00 ERA in 15 innings of work, but don’t be fooled with that limited data set. Last summer, he won the Coastal Plains League Pitcher of the Year Award, and his 2019 and 2020 stats were much better. Junior Brian Zeldin is scheduled to hit the rubber on Sunday. He was perfect in the shortened 2021 season at 2-0 with an ERA of 3.24. Expect the Quakers to be competitive on the hill, especially with a cold north wind blowing in at Olsen Field all weekend.

Penn’s 2021 team offensive numbers were pretty mediocre with a .269 batting average and a tepid .388 slugging percentage. The Quakers do have a very good hitter in the middle of the lineup with sophomore Wyatt Henseler. In just 14 games last year, Henseler drove in 17 runs with eight extra-base hits, a team-leading .538 slugging percentage, an OPS of .990 and an overall batting average of .365. Granted, those numbers came against the likes of LaSalle and Villanova, but he was clearly the best hitter Penn had to offer last season, and it wasn’t close. Tommy Courtney hit a respectable .323 and used his speed to swipe six bases and score 13 runs.

Texas A&M storylines to watch

Take everything I said in the Fordham series preview and repeat. There’s not much difference in the quality of the competition, and the directive is the same.

Go out there, play hard and play well. The results will speak for themselves.

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Werner’s status for this weekend is questionable after the third baseman missed A&M’s Tuesday night win over Lamar.

All eyes will be on Trevor Werner, who was the breakout star from the opening weekend. However, he sat out the Tuesday win over Lamar with an injury. While it's not thought to be a major setback, you’d like to see Werner get back out there and continue what he started last week with a monster series both at the plate and in the field.

While the offense had a pretty good start last weekend, the team did hit too many pop-ups and routine fly balls. With weather forecasts predicting strong north winds throughout the series, A&M hitters will need to adjust and get on top of the ball to focus on slapping line drives and hard ground balls. Every fly ball will hang up in the wind.

Both Kole Kaler and Dylan Rock struggled to fill up the stat sheet last weekend. Kaler went hitless, but he did get his first single as a Texas Aggie on Tuesday against Lamar. Rock has managed three hits in four games, but he’s been relatively quiet so far at the top of the lineup. If A&M can get the top of the lineup warmed up, that will provide more RBI opportunities for those hot bats in the middle of the order.

It will be interesting to see if Logan Britt can build on his fabulous effort on Sunday that culminated in two extra-base hits, including the nine-pitch, walk-off two-run homer. If he can show consistent run production, he'll move up the lineup card and will make a pretty powerful middle of the order even more potent. If the pieces fall into place, this Aggie offense could be pretty salty and formidable.

On the mound, the starting rotation showed well against Fordham, so Jim Schlossnagle is sticking with it. Again, we’re at the early part of the schedule where the staff is looking for consistency and repeatable performances. For Nathan Dettmer, Micah Dallas and Ryan Prager, you want them to repeat last week with hopefully a few tweaks. Prager needs to prove he can stay fresh and get the team into the sixth or seventh inning before tiring. He was good until he hit a brick wall in the fifth and couldn’t get out of the inning. Finally, we need to see a couple of relievers start to separate from the pack and emerge as trusted bullpen arms. All eyes will be on Joseph Menefee, Jacob Palisch and Chris Cortez along with a few others that didn’t get a good look in the Fordham series.

What’s at stake this weekend

Again, the stakes aren’t very high this weekend. Barring a major hiccup, the Aggies are expected to win all three games. After a nice opening week and a 4-0 start, the team simply needs to ride the wave and continue building confidence and momentum, leading into a more challenging portion of the schedule in March.

Stay consistent. Avoid the bad inning. Play good defense and get quality, consistent pitching from the pitching staff.

The Aggies need to rack up as many of these early season wins as possible because that SEC schedule looks more and more brutal every day. SEC baseball has always been the best in the country, but the conference looks as deep as ever. It will be a grind, so now is the time to stack the Ws and play good baseball.

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Series Preview: Texas A&M vs. Penn

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