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Texas A&M Baseball

Series Preview: No. 7 Ags face uptick in competition at College Baseball Series

March 1, 2024
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Also included above is a radio segment with Ryan Brauninger, Richard Zane and Scott Clendenin from Friday morning, previewing this weekend’s Kubota College Baseball Series in Arlington. 


Who: Arizona St. (5-3, 0-0 Pac-12), Southern California (2-6, 0-0 Pac-12)
Where: Globe Life Field – Arlington, Texas
When:

Friday: Arizona State at 6 p.m. CT (FLOSports streaming)
Saturday: Southern California at 2 p.m. CT (FLOSports streaming)
Sunday: Arizona State at 11 a.m. CT (FLOSports streaming)

Pitching matchups

Friday: LHP Ryan Prager (2-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. RHP Thomas Burns (1-0, 2.89)
Saturday: RHP Tanner Jones (1-0, 0.00) vs. RHP Tyler Stromsborg (0-1, 3.60)
Sunday: LHP Justin Lamkin (1-0, 0.00) vs. RHP Tyler Meyer (0-0, 6.43)

Scouting Arizona State

The Aggies will play this weekend in the Kubota College Baseball Series along with Arizona State, Southern California and No. 3 TCU. In a strange scheduling twist for a neutral non-conference college baseball tournament, the Aggies will face the Sun Devils twice (Friday and Sunday) and the Trojans on Saturday. They will not face Jim Schlossnagle’s former team this weekend.

Zoe Kelton, TexAgs
The pitching staff’s 10 runs allowed through the first eight games are the fewest in program history.

The Aggies will see polar opposite Pac-12 opponents.

Arizona State has flashed some serious offensive punch through the first eight games of 2024 with a team batting average of .354 and a hefty slugging percentage of .609. They average 9.9 runs per contest, and ASU has reached the double-digit plateau five times already this season. 

It’s a different story on the mound, where the Sun Devils have been awful so far with a dismal team ERA of 8.37 with opponents hitting .308 against them. With that said, they do have one good pitcher, and he’ll be starting against A&M on Friday night. Thomas Burns has been the lone bright spot on the staff with a 1-0 record and a stingy 2.89 ERA. He’ll pose a challenge for the Aggie lineup. After that though, the Sun Devils will be hoping for answers in the bullpen. The ASU defense has been shaky at times with a suspect fielding percentage of .969 compared to .981 for the Aggies.

Hitting Avg. Runs/Game Slugging % On-Base % Strikeouts/Game
Texas A&M .372 11.6 .678 .500 6.4
Arizona State .354 9.9 .609 .442 8.8

 

Pitching ERA WHIP Walks/Game Opp. Avg. Strikeouts/Game Fielding
Texas A&M 0.95 0.82 2.3 .170 11.6 .981
Arizona State 8.37 1.85 5.1 .308 11.5 .969


Scouting Southern California

Whatever I said about the Sun Devils above, just reverse it for the Trojans. Southern California has been very solid on the mound in 2024 with a team ERA of 4.76 and a respectable 1.47 WHIP. Opposing batters are hitting .253, and they are striking out 11.4 batters per contest, which is quite good. By comparison, A&M pitching is punching out 11.6 batters a game. A&M will face starter Tyler Stromsborg with a notable 3.60 ERA. The Trojans aren’t elite on the mound, but they will force this A&M lineup to earn every run.

However, the offense is struggling at the moment. In fact, it’s downright awful for a Power 5 unit. USC is hitting an anemic .207 as a team and scoring just 3.5 runs per game. The Trojans started the season 0-5, and in that stretch, the offense plated a grand total of seven runs. The club’s slugging percentage of .307 is .371 points lower than A&M’s slugging figure of .678. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a statistical offensive disparity against a Power 5 opponent. Now, USC has faced better competition with the likes of BYU, Ohio State and Michigan, but that’s not necessarily elite competition. However, it’s better than McNeese, Wagner and Incarnate Word, so take the wide statistical differences with a grain of salt. I think it is safe to say A&M comes into the weekend with an advantage over the Trojans offensively.

Hitting Avg. Runs/Game Slugging % On-Base % Strikeouts/Game
Texas A&M .372 11.6 .678 .500 6.4
Southern Cal

.207

3.5 .307 .306 9.5

 

Pitching ERA WHIP Walks/Game Opp. Avg. Strikeouts/Game Fielding
Texas A&M 0.95 0.82 2.3 .170 11.6 .981
Southern Cal

4.76

1.47 4.4 .253 11.4 .964


Texas A&M storylines to watch

The Aggies couldn’t have asked for a better start to the 2024 campaign at 8-0. They’ve done it in dominant style, outscoring opponents by a combined 93-10 total. A&M has scored double digits in five games and is averaging 11.6 runs per contest. The Maroon & White rank third in the nation in slugging percentage (.678), third in the country in on-base percentage (.500) and the squad’s 18 home runs is the most in school history after eight games.

The biggest storyline of the weekend is how these numbers at Olsen Field will translate to a pitcher-friendly ballpark at Globe Life Field against Power 5 competition.

On the other side of the ledger, the pitching staff is throwing at an elite level through the season’s first two weeks. The staff leads in the nation in team ERA (0.95), and this weekend’s starting rotation is a combined 4-0 with a 0.00 ERA. A&M pitching is second in the country in strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.17), and they are second in WHIP (0.88).

Of course, those staggering numbers have all come in the friendly confines of Blue Bell Park, and the quality of competition hasn’t been the best to start the year. The biggest storyline of the weekend is how these numbers at Olsen Field will translate to a pitcher-friendly ballpark at Globe Life Field against Power 5 competition. Now, both Arizona State and particularly USC have struggled early in several areas, but there is a big difference facing McNeese State and Wagner vs. 12-time national champion Southern California and five-time national champion Arizona State.

More specifically, it will be interesting to see how this line-up will perform going up against a crafty USC pitching staff, and an explosive ASU offensive lineup.

Individually, the offensive lineup has been pretty constant through the first two weeks, and for now, there seem to be just a couple of positions still in flux and up for grabs. Sophomore Kaeden Kent and senior captain Ryan Targac have platooned at second base, although Kent’s defensive range and solid offense (.313) seem to have given him the inside track as he’s started the last five games at the middle infield spot.

Targac did get a start at first base last weekend, so the staff is trying to get his power potential on the lineup card somehow. Developments this weekend will go a long way to answer who plays where going forward. The battle behind the plate at catcher has been interesting. Graduate transfer Jackson Appel (.333, five assists) has played well and appears to be the primary backstop at the moment. However, the catcher position will always be a platoon position given the wear and tear behind the plate, and both Max Kaufer and Hank Bard have been productive at the plate. Bard had the big grand slam last week and is hitting .400 with a slugging percentage of 1.000 in five plate appearances. With the quick turn-around on Sunday, expect to see one of the pair get a start this weekend.

In the pitching department, this team has a ton of quality arms. At the moment, there seems to be more talent than roles on the staff. These next two weeks will be very important for middle relievers and potential closers to shine and earn a spot in the pecking order when SEC play rolls around in a few weeks. The starting pitching has literally been perfect, but it will be interesting to see how Ryan Prager and Justin Lamkin perform against the very dangerous and productive Arizona State batting order. This will be their biggest challenge of the season to date.

What’s at stake this weekend

Hey, just keep rolling. There’s not a lot at stake in terms of wins and losses. It would be great to sweep the weekend series against the Trojans and Sun Devils, and A&M are favorites to do just that.

However, this is baseball, and individual game results in the first weekend in March are not critical. What is important is the consistency and caliber of play. The pitching staff under new pitching coach Max Weiner has performed an incredible turn-around so far. The goal is to keep throwing strikes and controlling the zone. With this explosive offense powered by future first-round picks and All-Americans Jace LaViolette and Braden Montgomery, run support will not be a problem. The pitching staff just needs to be consistent, throw strikes and avoid giving up the big inning.

Just play good, solid baseball.

A three-game sweep to stay undefeated would be great, but it won’t be the end of the world if they don’t win every game. This is baseball. Good teams will occasionally lose, especially this time of year when teams are still playing an expanded roster and figuring out everybody’s role on the team.

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Series Preview: No. 7 Ags face uptick in competition at College Baseball Series

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