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Texas A&M Baseball

MCWS Finals Preview: Best-of-three showdown begins Saturday night

June 22, 2024
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Who: No. 1 national seed Tennessee Volunteers (58-12, 22-8)
Where: Charles Schwab Field Omaha – Omaha, Nebraska
When:

Saturday: 6:30 p.m. CT (ESPN)
Sunday: 1 p.m. CT (ABC)
Monday (if necessary): 6 p.m. CT (ESPN)

Pitching Matchups

Saturday: LHP Ryan Prager (9-1, 2.88 ERA) vs. LHP Chris Stamos (3-0, 4.26 ERA)
Sunday: TBA vs. RHP Drew Beam (9-2, 4.30 ERA)
Monday: TBA vs. LHP Zander Sechrist (5-1, 3.22 ERA)

Scouting Tennessee

On paper, Tennessee is the best college baseball team in America. The Volunteers have been perched atop the various college baseball polls for many weeks now. They are the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. They lead the nation in home runs (178) and led the nation’s premiere baseball conference in virtually every offensive category. On the mound, Tennessee has a top-10 pitching staff with metrics that match the Aggies in every category. This is a team that was poised to win it all in 2022 as the No. 1 overall seed but was shockingly upset by Notre Dame in a super regional. Last season, the Vols made it to Omaha but were disposed of by LSU twice to fall short of the championship series. Tony Vitello and his program have something to prove. They’ve been on the doorstep of the ultimate prize in college baseball for several years but just haven’t broken through and won it all. They look to change that narrative against the Aggies.

Gary Cosby Jr./USA TODAY NETWORK
Infielder Christian Moore is slashing .385/.816/.460 in 2024

Offensively, this is a daunting Tennessee lineup. It starts at the top with All-American Christian Moore. It’s not often you see a lead-off hitter with 33 home runs and 72 RBIs, but that’s how Vitello rolls with this battering ram of an offense. It’s hard to justify pitching around him when the next three hitters in the order have a combined 62 homers and 190 RBIs. In fact, the Vols lineup will have five hitters with 19 or more home runs.

Blake Burke is in the two-hole behind Moore, hitting .378 with 19 bombs and 59 RBIs. If that wasn’t tough enough, Billy Amick in the three-spot has cranked 23 long balls and driven in 64 runs. The pressure doesn’t stop there, with Dylan Dreiling in the clean-up role coming into the national championship series with 20 home runs and 67 RBIs.

It’s relentless. This lineup breaks the spirit of good pitchers and absolutely destroys average college pitching. There’s no way around it. If A&M hopes to hoist the national championship trophy, Aggie pitchers must not get intimidated and deliver their “A” game this weekend.

Tennessee’s pitching staff may not be as dominant as its offense, but it’s still one of the best in the country. In fact, the team pitching statistics for both the Aggies and Vols are strikingly similar across the board. The two staffs almost mirror one another on paper, and they pride themselves on throwing strikes and minimizing walks. Heading into the Men’s College World Series, A&M pitching was first in the SEC in walks allowed. Tennessee was second. On the flip side, Aggie hitting collects more walks than any team in America. Something has to give.

In Game 1, Vitello will go with lefty Chris Stamos. He’s not one of Tennessee’s top arms, but the skipper utilizes the same strategy as Jim Schlossnagle did in Game 1 of the MCWS against Florida when he started Justin Lamkin and quickly moved to the veteran Chris Cortez. Tennessee’s version of Cortez is AJ Causey, who is 13-3 with a 4.21 ERA and 120 strikeouts. Expect to see him in the ballgame at the first hint of trouble. The most reliable starter on the staff is Drew Beam (9-2, 4.21 ERA), and he is likely to get the ball on Sunday. If the series goes to a third contest, left-hander Zander Sechrist (5-1, 3.22 ERA) will toe the rubber for the Vols. Tennessee has a solid closer in Nate Snead (10-2, 3.10 ERA).

If you look at the ERAs and the hit-to-innings pitched ratios, this staff is not dominant at all. Opposing teams will have opportunities to hit the ball. What makes this staff so challenging is the ability to throw strikes. They do not give up many free passes and make hitters earn their way on-base.

Hitting Avg. Runs/Game Slugging % On-Base % Strikeouts/Game
Aggies .298 8.6 .549 .418 9.1
Volunteers .311 9.2 .611 .416 8.7

 

Pitching ERA WHIP Walks/Game Opp. Avg. K/Game Fielding
Aggies 3.80 1.24 3.2 .233 10.5 .978
Volunteers 3.87 1.24 2.9 .238 9.5 .977


Texas A&M storylines to watch

There are so many storylines here. How healthy can we expect Jace LaViolette to be? Can Justin Lamkin and Josh Stewart replicate their surprising performances from earlier in Omaha? Can Chris Cortez bounce back from a shaky outing on Wednesday against Florida? Can Gavin Grahovac build on the momentum from a break-out game on Wednesday? Can Kaeden Kent stay on his torrid pace driving in multiple runs in the eight-hole?

All of those questions will be answered in some form or fashion this weekend, but ultimately, this series boils down to two things for me:

Jamie Maury
Left-hander Ryan Prager carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning on Monday night. He will start against the Vols for the second time this season on Saturday.

Can A&M’s ace pitcher Ryan Prager come out and establish some dominance over this explosive Tennessee offense? If so, the Aggies will be in this championship from beginning to end. If Prager can set the tone and keep the Vols in check for six innings, A&M has the elite arms in the bullpen to finish the job on Saturday. If the Aggies can grab a win on Saturday and get Tennessee pressing and thinking about past postseason failures, I definitely like A&M’s chances to be the last team standing in Omaha with a title trophy.

The other big issue is walks.

The Aggies have done a great job all season of being patient at the plate and drawing free passes. This team feasted on 17 walks in the first three games in Omaha and turned those walks into runs.

A&M can’t expect that kind of help this weekend.

The Maroon & White will need to earn some runs without much help because they won’t get much. A&M’s run production over the course of the season has come from free passes and home runs. This week, Schlossnagle’s team has gotten the walks, but they’ve left the yard just once in Omaha.

For A&M to win this series, they have to win the battle of the free pass. That means eliminating walks, and hopefully catching a Tennessee pitcher on an off-day and grabbing a few more base-on-balls than expected.

Also, knowing the Vols pitchers will be throwing strikes, Aggie hitters must deliver with some power shots. Guys like Grahovac, LaViolette, Caden Sorrell and Jackson Appel need to leave the yard or hit some gappers with runners on to produce runs. The recipe of taking multiple walks that worked successfully against Florida and Kentucky likely won’t work against Tennessee.

What’s at stake this weekend

This is a big series for next season. If the Aggies win this weekend, the program is in a prime position to raid the transfer portal and come back even stronger and better than 2024.

Jamie Maury
In two starts in Omaha, Justin Lamkin has spun eight scoreless innings and racked up 15 strikeouts.

With LaViolette, Grahovac and Lamkin, among others, projected to return in 2025...To hell with that!

The Fightin’ Texas Aggies are playing for a national championship!

We’re playing for it all, something that has eluded our fine institution in the “big three” sports for 85 years. The 1939 football team has been carrying the mantle for almost two generations now. My 87-year-old mother (who is a passionate baseball fan and will be watching every pitch this weekend) was a toddler when Jarrin’ John Kimbrough bulldozed the Aggies to a national title. It’s time to relieve that team of this burden. They’ve been carrying the torch for far too long.

It’s one thing to be ranked No. 1 during the season. That has happened several times around here. The vaunted 1989 team was the top dog of college baseball for most of the regular season until they ran into Ben McDonald and the LSU Tigers at the end of the season. The 1993 squad with All-American flamethrower Jeff Granger was perched atop college baseball and was the No. 1 overall seed in Omaha until Todd Walker and the Tigers ended A&M’s season two games short of a national championship. The 1998 and 1999 teams with Ryan Rupe and Casey Fossum made brief appearances at the top of some regular season polls along the way, as did the 1978 team with Mark Ross and Mark Thurmond.

This 2024 team found its way to the pole position of the college baseball polls in the regular season, which included a perfect run through the non-conference slate. This squad has an unblemished 8-0 record in this NCAA Tournament and stands just two wins away from that coveted national championship trophy. That’s an incredible accomplishment and one we will always look back upon fondly, regardless of this weekend’s outcome. The accomplishments of this team and this staff will provide many opportunities to land elite talent in the transfer portal, regardless of this weekend’s outcome.

A&M is poised to compete for many national championships going forward, regardless of this weekend’s outcome.

But it would be so sweet to take the national championship this weekend, and the future be damned. We’re playing for a natty, Ags! Let’s do this!

The drought ends now... BTHO tennessee!

Discussion from...

MCWS Finals Preview: Best-of-three showdown begins Saturday night

7,676 Views | 6 Replies | Last: 21 days ago by you moran
Argentina Aggie
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Let's go win this Baseball National Championship, Aggies!
rosstradamas70
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AG
BTHO UT!!
ross skillman 70
Big Al 1992
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AG
Great article Hop! LFG!!!!!!!!
96ch53
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ChemEng94
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AG
We brought the A game tonight. One more!
you moran
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AG
ChemEng94 said:

We brought the A game tonight. One more!


1 more!!!
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