Shortstop Braden Shewmake is a three-year starter for Texas A&M, but he had to do something Tuesday he hadn’t since his senior year of high school — bat leadoff.
The major lineup shift worked with Shewmake, who typically bats third, going 4-for-4 and had three RBIs in the Aggies’ 15-5 run-rule win over Sam Houston State on Tuesday.
Now, that lineup might stick, for the immediate future at least, as No. 14 A&M hosts No. 6 Mississippi State this weekend in a pivotal home conference series.
“Well, 15 runs on 14 hits, I’ve got to feel like we’ve got to let that ride for a while,” A&M head coach Rob Childress said. “Guys were very prepared, very focused and very determined to get that taste out of our mouth from the [Ole Miss] weekend.”
Shewmake said he was first approached by coaches about the move on Monday. An hour before the team left for Huntsville, he got a text from hitting coach Will Bolt saying he was batting leadoff. Shewmake dialed up a summer ball teammate — UNLV's Bryson Stott — for advice.
Stott told Shewmake to swing for the fences on the first pitch. Shewmake did, and lined it up the middle for a single to begin his big night at the plate.
“It was different, but I think approach-wise, it kind of helped me out,” Shewmake said. “I can’t just try and hit the ball, doubles and home runs, all the time. I’ve got to try and start up an offense, get on base, and be a spark-plug."
And it might not be the last time for him.
“We’ll probably see that one again,” Shewmake said.
As the Aggies hope their re-vamped batting order can continue it’s hot start, A&M hopes it can cool one of the SEC’s greatest hitters of all-time — Mississippi State’s Jake Mangum.
Mangum broke the SEC career hits record (355) last weekend in the Bulldogs’ three-game sweep of Georgia.
“When you think about the history of SEC baseball and Mississippi State has the career hits leader, that’s a special player," Childress said of Mangum. "Feels like he’s been there for seven years and I love watching that guy 53 games out of the year, and three games a year I sure hate everything about him. He plays the game the right way. He’s their heartbeat and makes everybody around him better on his team.”
Mangum leads the Bulldogs in batting (.394) as Mississippi State is second in the SEC as a team in batting (.318). Mississippi State has six everyday starters batting over .300 and leads the SEC in runs scored (385) and hits (510).
“It’s a powerful lineup,” A&M pitcher John Doxakis said. “You go and look at their stats and it’s honestly kind of scary. Makes you nervous, but that’s everyone in the SEC. Everyone’s got a powerful lineup and we’ve just got to play our game, throw strikes and get ahead in the count.”
A&M is playing catch up in the league standings against one of its hottest teams, too. After the Aggies were swept by Ole Miss last weekend, they sit 3.5 games back from leaders Arkansas and Vanderbilt.
A&M put on some miles in April, playing 12 of its 17 games on the road, finishing the month 8-9. But now the Aggies play six of their final nine regular season games at home as the school year concludes and baseball becomes life.
“There were some shoulda, coulda, woulda’s in that month, but we stole a couple along the way, too,” Childress said. “Made it through April and we need to get things rolling in the right direction in May.”
A&M and Mississippi State begin a three-game series Thursday night at 6 p.m. on SEC Network. Friday’s game will be on SEC Network Plus beginning at 6:30 p.m. and the series will conclude Saturday at 2 p.m. on SEC Network.