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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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Aggie bats versus Wildcats

Photo by Photo by Robert O’Brien

Senior CF Jordan Thompson (31) crosses home plate after hitting a home run during Texas A&M’s game against Mizzou at Olsen Field on Thursday, April 13, 2023.

After handling both the Auburn and Missouri Tigers in back-to-back weekends, the Aggies will face off against more feline ferocity as Texas A&M hits the road to Lexington, Kentucky to take on the red-hot No. 11 Kentucky Wildcats on Friday, April 21.

A&M dropped the first two SEC series against LSU and Tennessee, but has now rattled off three series wins against Ole Miss, Auburn and Missouri. In the first two weekends, the Aggies averaged only 5.3 runs per game, and was 1-6 in league play.

During the midweek game against Texas before the Ole Miss series, senior RF Brett Minnich returned to the lineup after a hand injury in the first game of the season against Seattle.

Since then, the Aggies have almost doubled their average runs, now averaging nine per game, and are 6-3 in conference play. In this stretch, A&M has also hit 22 home runs, hitting a long ball in all but two games.

Despite the offense heating up, the Aggies’ pitching staff continues to struggle as they have the majority of the season.

Junior LHP Evan Aschenbeck is currently the leader in earned run average out of the bullpen for A&M with a 3.13 ERA. Junior RHP Nathan Dettmer is the only solidified starter in the weekend rotation for the Aggies, and currently has a 6.09 ERA. No other starting pitcher has been decided for the Saturday and Sunday spot.

Freshmen LHPs Justin Lamkin and Shane Sdao, along with sophomore RHP Josh Stewart, have started in the weekend rotation in weeks prior, but none have had any relative success.

A&M will need more production from its pitching this weekend as they take on the Wildcats.

If the bats can continue to stay hot, all the pitching staff will need to do is just hang on. The offensive production from freshman OF Jace LaViolette, junior INF Hunter Haas, junior INF Jack Moss and Minnich has won the Aggies games in recent weeks, so all the pitching will need to do is just not let things get out of hand.

This may prove to be a more difficult task than weeks prior for the Aggies, however. The Wildcats rank No.15 in the country in ERA, sixth in hits allowed per nine innings and 17th in fielding percentage. If the bats go cold, there is not much to rely on from the bullpen to carry A&M to a series win against a top-15 opponent.

Good news for the Aggies, Kentucky is not a team that hits the long ball with much efficiency. The team leader for the Wildcats is senior INF Hunter Gilliam, who has hit six home runs this season. Homers hurt A&M in its series finale loss last week against Missouri, surrendering three on the game.

Bad news for the Aggies, this does not mean Kentucky has an inefficient offense. Quite the opposite actually, as although the Wildcats rank dead last in slugging percentage in the SEC, they are fourth in the league in batting average.

Led by Gilliam and sophomore INF Émilien Pitre who both hit .370 and .377, respectively, Kentucky utilizes infield hits to score runs. As a team, Kentucky averages above .300 BA, hitting .302 on the season.

The potent Wildcat offense could pose problems to the aforementioned struggling Aggie bullpen, as despite A&M’s pitching being relatively deep, a three-game series against an offense that will wear you down slowly could expose the Aggies’ depth.

This weekend begins a difficult stretch for A&M, as after going on the road against No. 11 Kentucky, the Aggies will host a solid Sam Houston team in the midweek game before going back on the road to an always hostile Baum Walker Stadium to face off against the No. 5 Arkansas Razorbacks.

First pitch for Friday’s game is set for 5:30 p.m., at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. The game can be streamed on the SEC Network+.

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