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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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Texas A&M outfielder Jace Laviolette (17) robs a home run from Florida infielder Cade Kurland (4) in the top of the ninth inning during Texas A&M’s game against Florida at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Sunday, June 15, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
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Aggies head to Houston for prestigious Shriner’s Hospital of Children College Classic

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Photo by Photo by: C. Morgan Engel

Freshman second baseman Braden Shewmake is hitting .397 with a team-high 23 RBI so far this season.

No. 15 Texas A&M has jumped out to a fast start in 2017, but the Aggies (8-1) will get their first real test of the season when they travel to Houston to play in the Shriner’s Hospital for Children College Classic. The three-day, six-team tournament features two of the top five teams in the nation and five top-15 teams, according to D1Baseball.com.
It will be a great test for the Aggies’ young lineup, as they will match up with Big 12 powerhouses Texas Tech and TCU, both of whom played in the College World Series last year, on Friday and Saturday and then will play undefeated Baylor, a program that has been down recently but looks like a new team under second-year coach Steve Rodriguez.
“It’ll be better than any regional any of the teams will play in,” A&M head coach Rob Childress said. “It’s going to be a great benchmark for all six teams there as to where they are and what they need to do to get better over the next two or three weeks leading to conference play.”
No. 4 LSU and No. 11 Ole Miss will join the Aggies as the representatives from the SEC. All six teams in the tournament are a combined 48-5 at this point in the season.
The Aggies enter the prestigious tournament attempting to get themselves ready for SEC play. Their lineup has struggled at times this season to score runs — especially when they faced good pitching in the first two games of the Pepperdine series — and it will be interesting to see how they fare against Texas Tech’s ace Davis Martin and TCU’s highly touted freshman Nick Lodolo. All games will be played at Minute Maid Park, the same stadium the Houston Astros call home.
“There’s a lot of great ball clubs down there and we’re going to get tested,” Davis said. “It’s going to be a fun atmosphere — a lot of these younger guy aren’t really going to know what that atmosphere is like. It’s going to be a lot of fun, a lot of good baseball.”
Braden Shewmake has arguably been A&M’s best position player so far in 2017, and the freshman from Wylie has been particularly hot of late. The Aggies’ second baseman is 8-for-his-last-13 at the plate with three doubles and a home run, and Shewmake will look continue to his hitting streak against the Red Raiders.
After Shewmake in the batting order, the Aggies are still waiting for Walker Pennington to start hitting in the cleanup spot. The senior outfielder’s average is barely over the Mendoza Line at .206, but he has been putting together competitive at-bats recently and chances are good he will come around sooner rather than later. Joel Davis started off the season cold as well, but broke through in a big way in the Aggies’ 12-5 midweek win over Incarnate Word on Wednesday. Davis nearly hit for the cycle, going 4-for-4 with a home run, two triples and five RBI.
“He’s too good a player not to [break out eventually],” Childress said of his first baseman. “He had a great night for us and couldn’t get going at a better time going into this weekend.”
The Aggies will need continued production out of Davis as well as seniors Nick Choruby and Blake Kopetsky moving forward.
On the mound, the Aggies will give the ball to Brigham Hill Friday against the Red Raiders. Hill has not allowed a run in his two starts this season, striking out 20 in 13.2 innings pitched while issuing only three free passes.
Sophomore Stephen Kolek has not been quite as dominant as Hill thus far but has been plenty effective nonetheless. Kolek has pitched to a 1.64 ERA in his two Saturday starts and is projected to start Saturday’s primetime matchup against the No. 1 Horned Frogs.
Kolek has been attacking opposing hitters with his two-seam fastball low in the zone — racking up plenty of groundouts along the way — and he said continuing to throw strikes is important to his future success, especially against a loaded lineup like TCU.
“Just commanding everything — being able to pound the zone with any of my pitches is really going to be big for me,” Kolek said.
Baylor, meanwhile, comes to Houston with the least amount of fanfare but is also the only unblemished team in the field. The Bears boast a lineup that has six starters hitting above .300 and a pitching staff littered with low ERAs. They have yet to play a team from a power conference, though, and A&M starter Mitchell Kilkenny will do his best to shut down the Bears on Sunday.
The Aggies play Texas Tech on Friday at 3:30 p.m. on Fox Sports Net, TCU at 7 p.m. Saturday on FS2 and close out the weekend series Sunday against Baylor at 5 p.m on Fox Sports Net.  

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