The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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3 Takeaways from Saturday’s Texas A&M-Brown contest

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Photo by Photo by: C. Morgan Engel

Sophomore pitcher Stephen Kolek pitched 8 innings Sunday against Auburn, allowing five hits and one run. 

Texas A&M had its Saturday afternoon game suspended due to rain with the score tied 2-2, but the Aggies played enough baseball for me to come away with a few takeaways. 
1. Great start by Stephen Kolek
Kolek only gave up one run in his last start against TCU, but the Horned Frogs elevated his pitch count from the onset and head coach Rob Childress had to go to the bullpen in the fifth inning. Saturday against Brown, Kolek was much more efficient and was effective as well. He hit some roadblocks along the way – particularly in the middle innings – but he really only made two major mistakes in this outing and certainly pitched well enough to get a win.
The first mistake came in the fourth inning. Pitching with a 2-0 lead, Kolek hung a slider to Josh Huntley, and the Brown catcher made him pay by sneaking a home run just inside the left field foul pole. Then in the fifth, trying to protect a 2-1 lead, Kolek tried to jam Sam Grigo with an inside fastball but let it drift over the middle of the plate and Grigo blasted an RBI double over Nick Choruby’s head in center field.
“I was just trying to fill up the strike zone as much as I could and let my defense work,” Kolek said. “Today I was focused on getting deep into the game, just being able to pitch late in the game, and see how far I could take us. It felt good to actually do that.”
Kolek responded nicely, however, retiring six of the last seven batters he faced to finish the seventh inning. The sophomore righty threw a career-high 105 pitches in the outing and, in all, gave up eight hits and two runs while striking out three and walking one.
“All in all, I thought he was fabulous,” Childress said of Kolek. “He gave us seven complete innings and gave his team a chance to win.”
He was ultimately saddled with a no-decision when his offense was unable to score any more runs before the game was suspended, but the outing has to give A&M a lot of confidence in its No. 2 starter with the start of SEC play set to start next weekend.
2. Offense struck early, then went to sleep
Similarly to Friday night’s 6-4 win, the Aggies pushed runs across early but then could not muster any production as the game wore on. 
On Saturday, the Aggies scored two runs in the first and then did not score at all until the suspension was announced. Logan Foster drew a one-out walk in the first and advanced to second on a single by Braden Shewmake. After Joel Davis was hit by a pitch, Brown starter Reid Anderson balked and Foster trotted home with the first run of the afternoon. Cole Bedford followed with an RBI groundout to second to score Shewmake.
The Aggies threatened again in the third when Foster and Shewmake hit consecutive singles to put runners on first and second with one out. Next up, Davis hit a line shot up the middle that was hit hard enough to be a hit but it was right at the second baseman. Brian Ginsberg caught it and stepped on second for an inning-ending double play. 
They were outhit 8-5 by the Bears and did not threaten much after that until the seventh, when they let a prime opportunity slip away. Anderson let a fastball get away from him and hit Blake Kopetsky in the helmet to start the frame, then Walker Pennington worked a full count walk. With runners on first and second and no outs, Austin Homan failed three times to get a sacrifice bunt down and struck out.
Brown immediately brought in JJ Sliepka out of the bullpen to relieve Anderson, and on the first pitch he threw, the Aggies attempted a double steal. Kopetsy was thrown out at third, however, and then George Janca struck out moments later to end the threat.
“We felt like we would take a chance there, especially with a runner at second base,” Childress said. “The catcher got a pitch to handle and threw a strike, after we couldn’t get the bunt down.”
 The gamble did not work out for the Aggies and that string of events seemed to really let Brown off the hook in a situation where A&M could have taken a convincing lead. This team has struggled with baserunning mistakes at times this season, but at least they are staying aggressive and trying to push the envelope offensively. 
3. Another audition for the A&M bullpen coming up
Corbin Martin relieved Kolek to start the eighth and retired the Bears in order courtesy of a flyout, groundout and strikeout. That makes five consecutive scoreless innings for Martin and, as the most talented arm in the bullpen and possibly on the entire team, maybe Martin is on the verge of figuring it out and enjoying legitimate success as an Aggie for the first time in his career.
When the game picks back up it will be a tie game in the ninth. Unless the offense picks up, we could be in store for some extra innings if neither team can score. That would give the Aggies more chances to figure out their reliever troubles. In addition to Martin, Kaylor Chafin, Cason Sherrod and Landon Miner all pitched superbly to preserve Friday’s win.
“[After the Houston trip] we kind of all met as a staff and got a lot of things put together,” said Chafin, who sports a 2.60 ERA in seven appearances this season. “We realized we just need to attack the zone and trust our stuff.”
Only Childress knows how he will handle his staff on Sunday, but it would be nice to see guys like Jason Ruffcorn, John Doxakis and Kyle Richardson get some work and get their confidence back after some rough outings lately.
With Texas looming on Tuesday and the start of SEC play less than a week away, setting a bullpen and having confidence in a core group of relievers to get outs in high-leverage situations would be quite a luxury for the Aggies moving forward.
The Aggies and Bears will resume play Sunday at 11 a.m., with the series finale scheduled to begin 30 minutes after the conclusion of the suspended game.

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