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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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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Aggies to lean on young talent as season begins

Photo by Tanner Garza
Head coach Ray Childress and his team prepare for practice Thursday before Friday’s Opening Day.
 
Photo by Tanner Garza Head coach Ray Childress and his team prepare for practice Thursday before Friday’s Opening Day.  

For the first time since falling to the Texas Longhorns in the 2014 NCAA Houston Regional last June, the Texas A&M baseball team will lace up their cleats, don maroon and white and step out under the lights of Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park. Baseball is back.
The 2015 A&M squad hopes to build on the success of last year’s team, which finished 36-26 and earned second place at the NCAA Houston Regional. It was the eighth year in a row that head coach Rob Childress’ team made the postseason — the 30th time in school history.
The Aggies will turn to their talented underclassmen to replace the leadership they lost to graduation and the MLB Draft, namely juniors Daniel Mengden, Corey Ray and Cole Lankford.
All told, A&M lost a total of seven players from last year’s team — including five to the MLB Draft — but they are loaded with young talent. Childress will turn to sophomores Nick Banks, Ryne Birk and Ronnie Gideon to lead the offense, along with seniors Blake Allemand, Patrick McLendon and Logan Nottebrok.
“We have a lot of depth, both hitting and pitching,” Banks said. “Everyone that’s watching looks for a team with a lot of power and strengths on the mound and at the plate. Our expectation every year is to host a regional and host the supers so we can get to our one goal and that’s win in Omaha.”
A&M returns four of its top six in on-base percentage from last year in Allemand (.397), Birk (.391), Banks (.386) and McLendon (.367). While those guys get on base, Nottebrok and his team-leading eight home runs from a year ago will look to drive them in, along with another right-handed power threat in Gideon.
After a freshman season marked by multiple awards, Banks was named a Preseason All-American by baseball websites D1Baseball and Perfect Game.
Although they lost Mengden, the Aggies looked primed to reload with the lively arms of junior Grayson Long and sophomore Tyler Stubblefield, both of whom started the majority of the Saturday and Sunday games last season. However, Stubblefield tore his ACL in the offseason and will be out for an extended period of time.
“Well I’m disappointed for [Stubblefield],” Childress said. “He prepared so hard to have a great sophomore year and, who’s to say he doesn’t, you know, if we get him back in the last month and he has a strong finish. With that being said, next man up. It’s a new opportunity for another guy and we got depth on the staff, and with his injury comes opportunity for the next man and that’s the way I look at it. No excuses.”
Childress will look to junior southpaw Matt Kent and Jason Freeman — the lone senior pitcher — to pick up the slack along with a bevy of untested pitchers such as Lee May Gonzalez, Mark Ecker and Ryan Hendrix and freshmen Turner Larkins, Brigham Hill and Casen Gerrard, he said.
“I think the season is going to be great,” Long said. “We’ve got a lot of new guys, but we have a lot of the same guys we had last year, and the chemistry from last year to this year is crazy how much more of a team we play as. Even off the field away from the field we are always hanging out together and I really think that’s going to help us in our success this year.”
The Aggies finished last year with a record of 14-16 in conference play in a season that saw the SEC send 10 teams to the NCAA Tournament.
After ending last season ranked No. 25, A&M will begin the 2015 campaign at No. 17.
“Our goals don’t change,” Childress said. “Our goal is to finish at the top of the SEC and earn an opportunity to host in the postseason and compete to get to Omaha and to be the last team standing. Our goals won’t ever change for as long as I’m here.”
A&M opens its season with a 13-game homestand, beginning Friday night at 6:35 p.m. for the first of a three-game series with Holy Cross.
“There’s nothing like Opening Day,” Banks said. “You can tell. Everyone gets a little early to the park and are more energetic. It adds a little giddy to them. I think for everyone, they’re starting to soak it in that it’s finally here.”

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