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Texas A&M Baseball

Super Regional Preview: Ducks sit on Texas A&M's path back to Omaha

June 7, 2024
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Who: Oregon Ducks (40-18, 19-11 in Pac-12)
Where: Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park – Bryan-College Station, Texas
When:

Saturday: 1 p.m. CT (ESPN2)
Sunday: 6:30 p.m. CT (ESPN2)
Monday (if necessary): TBD

Pitching matchups

Saturday: LHP Ryan Prager (8-1, 2.53 ERA) vs. RHP RJ Gordon (7-5, 4.73 ERA)
Sunday: LHP Shane Sdao (5-1, 2.61 ERA) vs. LHP Grayson Grinsell (7-2, 3.82 ERA)
Monday: TBA vs. RHP Kevin Seitter (8-4, 4.52 ERA)

Scouting Oregon

The Ducks have played in a super regional twice — 2012 and 2023. Oregon has just one CWS appearance, and that came in 1954. It should be noted that Oregon disbanded its baseball program in 1981 and revived it under renowned head coach George Horton in 2009. Under current head coach Mark Wasikowski, the Ducks hosted Oral Roberts in last year’s Eugene Super Regional, but the Golden Eagles pulled off the upset and grabbed its spot in Omaha. History is not on the side of the Ducks in the midst of a 70-year Men’s College World Series drought. Granted, that streak has an asterisk for the nearly three-decade program hiatus.

As far as this 2024 Oregon team coming to College Station is concerned, they are dangerous but not dominant. The strength of this club is starting pitching, and while the season statistics aren’t sparkling, the performances on the mound over the past three weeks have been phenomenal. As I mentioned earlier, the Ducks’ pitching staff has not allowed more than four runs since May 11. Take that into consideration when you compare the pitching stats below. This is a hot staff that held the No. 14 national seed UC Santa Barbara to just one run and eight hits over 18 innings last weekend. That’s nothing to take lightly.

This is a hot staff that held the No. 13 national seed UC Santa Barbara to just one run and eight hits over 18 innings last weekend.

Wasikowski has not formally announced his pitching rotation for this weekend. Typically, Oregon starts off a three-game series with RJ Gordon with a 7-5 record and a pedestrian 4.73 ERA. However, his outing in the Santa Barbara Regional was the least impressive of the three starters. He gave up six hits and four walks in seven innings but managed to surrender just three runs in an eventual 5-4 Ducks win in extra innings against San Diego in the regional opener. If the right-hander Gordon pitches Saturday, the Aggies will have a significant advantage on the mound, and the pressure will be on A&M to win Game 1.

Projected Game 2 starter Grayson Grinsell is a left-hander, and he could provide the biggest challenge to an Aggie lineup filled with several critical left-handed bats. In the case of Braden Montgomery and Jackson Appel, the two switch hitters will swing from the right side of the plate, which is considered the weaker side for both. On the other hand, while Grinsell held the Gauchos scoreless for seven innings, he did give up three hits and four walks and wiggled out of several jams. Third starter Kevin Seitter had the most impressive start last weekend, throwing a complete game shutout and limiting UC Santa Barbara to just four hits and one walk.

Overall, despite the overall impressive results in Santa Barbara, the Ducks walked a total of 13 batters in three games. When it’s all said and done, that walk total could prove to be the difference in this series.

Offensively, there’s no question the Ducks have some dangerous power hitters in the lineup, led by Jacob Walsh and his 18 homers and 56 RBIs. Lead-off hitter Mason Neville has 16 home runs and 42 RBIs, with a similar power component to A&M’s Gavin Grahovac. Another name to keep an eye on is eight-hole hitter Carter Garate who rose to the occasion, leading the Ducks in hits (5) and RBIs (4) in last week’s regional.

Overall, Oregon won in Santa Barbara because of its pitching, not its hitting.

The offense managed only 10 runs in the regional and only 14 runs in their last five games going back to the Pac-12 Tournament. The team’s leading run producer, Walsh, managed to go 2-of-12 with one RBI in regional play. Neville had a quiet regional as well, going 2-of-11 with one run scored. The Ducks are flying into College Station with a cold offense, struggling against good pitching. Unfortunately for Oregon hitters, the Aggies are pitching as well as any team in the country right now.

I know a lot has been made about the cool weather putting a damper on Oregon’s offensive season numbers. I’m not going to completely discount that factor, but last week’s Santa Barbara regional was played under dry, sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70s, and the Ducks struggled to score. In addition, the Aggies played the first five weeks of the season with a North wind blowing in and temperatures in the 50s and 60s. I think that narrative is overblown a little bit. This offense can drive a mistake pitch or two out of the park, but A&M faced better overall offenses last weekend against Texas and Louisiana.

Hitting Avg. Runs/Game Slugging % On-Base % Strikeouts/Game
Texas A&M .299 8.7 .559 .418 9.2
Oregon .280 7.0 .486 .380 8.8

 

Pitching ERA WHIP Walks/Game Opp. Avg. K/Game Fielding
Texas A&M 3.85 1.24 3.2 .233 10.4 .979
Oregon 4.62 1.39 4.5 .240 9.3 .977


Texas A&M storylines to watch

I know the headlines from last week’s regional round focused on the superb pitching performances of Ryan Prager and Evan Aschenbeck, and rightfully so. Both of those guys are money and have been all season long for the Aggies. However, I thought the big news to come out of the Bryan-College Station Regional was the elite pitching of Shane Sdao and Chris Cortez.

Has anybody taken a look at Sdao’s season stat line recently? At 5-1 with a 2.61 ERA, he’s right up there statistically with the likes of Prager and other top SEC pitchers. On the biggest stage in the regional championship game, the southpaw gave up just one run on six hits and, more importantly, no walks in 5.1 innings of work.

Kelii Horvath, TexAgs
Evan Aschenbeck has been named one of 10 finalists for the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award.

Cortez took the ball from Sdao and was masterful. We can talk about his stingy pitching line of no hits, no runs and six strikeouts over 2.2 innings, but it was the manner in which he completely dominated a solid Ragin’ Cajun lineup that caught my eye. Cortez always had the 98-100 mph fastball in his arsenal, but he historically struggled with control of his secondary off-speed pitches, which led to walks and hitters sitting on the heater and driving the ball.

That wasn’t the case on Sunday.

The junior from Las Vegas was throwing filthy sliders close enough to the zone to force Louisiana hitters to chase. He stayed ahead in the count and kept the batters guessing. When that happens, the junior flamethrower is virtually unhittable. This has been coming for the past several weeks as Cortez has slowly improved his ability to locate his off-speed pitches and dictate the action at the plate. I mention this because he could be the key to the super regionals and also the Men’s College World Series if A&M advances.

With four elite pitchers in peak form, this Aggie team transforms from an explosive offensive team looking to cobble together enough quality innings on the mound to squeeze out a win, to being a dominant team in all aspects of the game and becoming a favorite to compete for a national title in Omaha. The emergence of Sdao and Cortez is THAT profound, so if the duo can replicate last week’s performances, that bodes well for not only this weekend but probably the following week in Omaha as well.

The storyline on offense is pretty simple. If Grahovac, Jace LaViolette and Montgomery have a good weekend and hit a few long balls in the process, it will be extremely difficult for Oregon to escape College Station with two wins and a berth in the MCWS. Add in guys like Caden Sorrell, who had a couple of big flies last weekend, along with Ted Burton, Jackson Appel and Ali Camarillo, who are starting to heat up at the plate, and the Aggie offense has the potential to get on a roll.

With that said, this game could hinge on base-on-balls. Oregon’s pitching staff is stingy and has been on fire the past two to three weeks, but it’s still a group that is susceptible to the walk. Just look at the numbers. The Ducks staff has surrendered 69 more walks (261-192) than the Aggies. On the flip side, A&M batters have walked 130 times more than Oregon this season (378-248). That’s a huge advantage for A&M if the hitters can remain patient, draw five to six walks per game and hold the Ducks to two to three free passes. If Oregon consistently puts runners on base, sooner or later, a Maroon power bat is going to launch a home run over the fence that will produce two to three runs with one swing. In the regional final, eight of A&M’s nine runs scored via the long ball. That’s the formula for success, and it works a lot better when opposing pitchers are filling up the bases ahead of a monster shot. It will be a great sign if the Aggies are winning the battle of the free bases.

What’s at stake this weekend

Everything.

Months of offseason preparation, fall workouts, February preseason practice and 60 games played this spring all come down to one best-of-three series to determine whether the Aggies or Ducks punch their ticket to Omaha.

There will be drama on every pitch and every swing. It could be the last swing to end the season, or it could be a swing that fulfills a dream of playing in the Men’s College World Series.

For A&M, this has been one of the most successful seasons in recent memory. The Aggies went undefeated in non-conference play, won 19 games in the toughest league in college baseball and have been ranked in the top five for most of the season. However, nobody will remember the in-season accomplishments if the team can’t finish the deal and punch through to Omaha. Under Jim Schlossnagle, A&M baseball is no longer satisfied with a trip to the super regionals or a trip to Omaha once a decade.

When it’s all said and done, this team’s ultimate success will hinge on what happens this weekend.

Aggie baseball seasons are now defined by getting to the Men’s College World Series. In that context, everything is at stake this weekend.

This is it…Omaha or bust.

Discussion from...

Super Regional Preview: Ducks sit on Texas A&M's path back to Omaha

4,680 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 1 mo ago by TAM85
greg.w.h
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AG
Great take, Hop. I have to read it again in fact because the content is rich and deep. Thanks!
TAM85
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Good article, thanks for the info. Do you know what conference the umpires will be from?
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