Aggies set sights on Houston, tough matchups
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2013 23:02
After a ten game home stand to start the season, Texas A&M baseball will hit the road for the first time to face off against a trio of tough opponents this weekend in Houston, Texas.
Minute Maid Park will host the Astros Foundation College Classic, where the Aggies will match up with top-ranked North Carolina, No. 12 Rice and Houston.
Despite entering the weekend tournament fresh off a two-game series sweep of Northwestern State, the Aggies’ offense has failed to find a true rhythm yet. Lacking big-time hitters — as evidenced by A&M’s absence of homeruns throughout ten games — the team will have to continue to reap high caliber production from the top of their lineup to have any success in Houston.
Senior shortstop Mikey Reynolds and junior centerfielder Krey Bratsen, who typically bat first and second in the order, head into the weekend carrying nine-game hitting streaks. Reynolds and Bratsen also lead the team in batting average so far this season, posting a .436 and a .359 mark, respectively.
“I have a lot more confidence this year than I did last year,” Bratsen said. “I really need that right now. I don’t care how I do personally, as long as we keep winning.”
The Aggies will also look for strong outings from sophomore Daniel Mengden, a dual role player who has started two games on the mound and every other batting in the cleanup position as designated hitter. In the nine games he has played, Mengden is 2-0 with a 1.42 earned run average while also ranking third on the team with a .355 batting average.
“He’s a special player and he’s starting to feel comfortable,” Coach Rob Childress said. “He had a great freshman year and he’s going to have a really good sophomore year.”
The highest-profile test for A&M in Houston will be its Sunday afternoon matchup with No. 1 North Carolina. The Tar Heels are a perfect 7-0 so far this season and have outscored their opponents 70-19, while averaging ten runs a game. The Aggies manage just over four runs per game.
“We haven’t really put on the performance that we can,” sophomore catcher Mitchell Nau said. “Guys have got their confidence up and it’s going to help us as a group.”
For the Aggies to bring down the top team in the nation, they will have to contain the Tar Heels’ freshman outfielder, Skye Bolt. In North Carolina’s recent 18-5 rout of St. John’s, Bolt went 2-4 with an RBI in an 18-5 rout of St. John’s. On the season, the freshman holds a .538 batting average with five doubles and eight runs batted in.
Texas A&M will also face a tough test when they take on in-state and former Southwest Conference rival Rice Saturday night. Over the past ten years, the Owls have been highly competitive in baseball, placing a team in the College World Series five times and defeating Stanford for the NCAA Championship in 2003. The Owls enter the weekend ranked No. 12 in the nation behind a 6-2 record.
The Aggies will play their first game of the College Classic Friday night when they match up against hometown favorites, the Houston Cougars. The unranked Cougars have a 6-2 record going into the weekend and are currently on a three-game win streak.