Asa Lacy is a free man again.
After serving a four-game suspension for arguing pitches with an umpire against Alabama on May 11, Lacy is back and will take the mound in No. 13 Texas A&M’s SEC Tournament opener against Florida Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. in Hoover, Alabama.
“Couldn’t have asked for a better recipe for us to win the series against Arkansas without Asa Lacy and have him fresh and ready to go in game one,” A&M head coach Rob Childress said.
Over the weekend, Lacy was limited to propping his feet up on a table in the locker room and watching A&M take down No. 5 Arkansas. He wasn’t allowed to be in the dugout, even pre-game, nor sit in the stands. So he spent his suspension in true time-out fashion — watching alone.
“It got pretty boring,” Lacy said. “I ran down in the steps and gave a couple of yells when we started [Friday’s] game off with a couple of home runs, but other than that, that’s all I could do.”
With A&M taking the series over the Razorbacks though, Lacy’s suspension might’ve turned out to be a blessing in disguise. He’ll be extra rested and the Aggies will be able to throw their weekend No. 2.
“I would say it’s very fortunate the way it worked out,” Lacy said.
That’s a key advantage for the Aggies, too. While they try to nail down a regional host bid this week, their game one opponent, Florida, is fighting to ensure it makes the NCAA Tournament all together.
“They’re fighting for their lives, so it’s going to be a dogfight,” shortstop Braden Shewmake said of the Gators. “They’re going to be ready to go, but the good news is we’ve got one of our best on the mound. I don’t know who they’re going to be throwing, but we’ve got Asa [Lacy].”
The Gators aren't going to let the Aggies have an extreme pitching advantage though. Florida will start its ace, Tommy Mace, on four days rest. Mace might also be on a lower pitch-count after he threw 105 pitches in 6.2 innings of work in the Gators' win over Missouri last Thursday.
Overall, Florida comes into the contest 33-23 overall, finishing 13-17 in SEC play after going on the road and sweeping Missouri on the final weekend of the regular season.
A&M has the Gators’ number in Hoover though. The Aggies are 2-0 against Florida in the SEC tournament, defeating the Gators in the opening round in 2013, and again in 2016 to claim the SEC tournament title.
It’s also the second-straight season the Aggies will play bright and early, but it’s a start time A&M head coach Rob Childress likes.
“I love the early start for our team,” Childress said. “You can get up, get moving, go play at 9:30 [a.m.] and you’re done by lunch time and you’ve got the rest of the day to prepare for the next day … When you play the 9:30 game, it’s usually the team that wants to be there the most that usually plays well right out the gates.”
Should the Aggies win, they’d play again at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday against No. 3-seed Georgia. Getting past round one would also make for a good precursor for the NCAA tournament.
“You win on Tuesday and then you get into that double-elimination tournament,” Childress said. “The four-team bracket you’re in for the rest of the week leading up to Sunday is going to be better than any regional any team will be in the following week.”
Childress said the SEC tournament has an Omaha-type feel to it. Still, the Aggies are locked in on the Gators and not what could be in store the rest of the week.
“We’re excited to get down to Hoover, get started down there,” Shewmake said. “We know we’ve got a big test with Florida game one. We’re trying not to look forward at who we have after that.”
Furthermore, Shewmake wasn’t pleased with the Game of Thrones series finale, but is satisfied with the progress A&M’s bats made at the plate last weekend against Arkansas.
The Aggies countered one of the nation’s most dynamic offenses well. A&M rallied after losing game one, outscoring the Razorbacks 12-3 in the final two games, scoring six runs in each game. The Aggies are now 22-0 this year when scoring six or more runs.
“I think we’re starting to swing the bats better,” Shewmake said. “We’re getting more confidence at the plate. Some people are starting to figure some little things out and I think it showed and we’re going to continue to try and roll that through the tournament.”
A&M and Florida are set for a 9:30 a.m. first pitch from Hoover, Alabama, just south of Birmingham. The game will be aired on SEC Network.