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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A&M heads into rematch with Vanderbilt after 2023 SEC Championship

Photo by Hannah Harrison
Texas A&M players singing the war hymn during Texas A&M’s game against UTSA on Tuesday, April 9, 2024 at Olsen Field. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)

The last time Texas A&M baseball faced off against Vanderbilt was back in the 2023 SEC Tournament Championship in Hoover, Alabama.

This weekend, No. 3 A&M carries unfinished business with No. 6 Vanderbilt after the Commodores earned bragging rights in their 10-4 victory on May 28 of last year. With the 2024 SEC Baseball Tournament beginning May 21, this series at Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park will play a pivotal role in seeding and deciding which team will potentially host an NCAA regional.

So far this season, the Aggies are second in the SEC West, holding a 29-4 record. All four losses for the Aggies have been from teams in the SEC with an 8-4 conference record. On the contrary, the Commodores are second in the SEC East with a 26-7 record and 8-4 in the conference.

A&M will be stepping onto the field winning nine of its last 10 games. At home, the Maroon and White carry a 21-1 record with the 12th Man playing a major factor in home field advantage. On the road, the Commodores have not found much success, winning only two of their six games thus far.

The Aggies are coming off of a midweek 6-5 win against UTSA on April 9. Defensively, A&M had a sloppy game where it allowed free base runners and four errors.

“Played about as brutal of baseball as you could possibly play that I ever remember an A&M team playing,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said.

After trailing early in what was arguably one of the Aggies’ worst starts to begin a game, the offense was able to create magic and get the job done thanks to senior C Jackson Appel hitting three opposite field home runs.

“We got him in that [cleanup] spot because he puts the ball in play,” Schlossnagle said. “I’m really proud of our team for staying in the fight.”

The Aggies are currently ranked eighth in the country in home runs with 64, 11th in slugging percentage at .555 and 13th in on-base percentage with a .434 clip. Junior RF Braden Montgomery leads A&M with 51 RBIs and 17 home runs, while sophomore CF Jace LaViolette is second in home runs with 14. Meanwhile, freshman 3B Gavin Grahovac is second with 39 RBIs and third in home runs with 11.

The high-powered batting of Grahovac, LaViolette, Montgomery and Appel will look to carry the offensive momentum and give Vanderbilt one of its toughest tests this season.

Vanderbilt has won seven of its last eight games. Most recently, Vanderbilt played April 9 against Middle Tennessee, winning 14-1 in seven innings. In that game, the Commodores’ offense came alive, recording 14 hits. The pitching staff had a solid performance, allowing only four hits and striking out 12 batters.

The offense for the Commodores features several threats at the plate. Their top hitters include sophomore 1B RJ Austin, senior C Alan Espinal and senior CF Calvin Hewett, who all have above a .300 average.

In last year’s neutral site matchup, the Aggies’ pitching staff struggled, giving up five runs in the bottom of the eighth. During that game, the Aggies sent eight pitchers to the mound, while the Commodores’ pitching staff used five pitchers. Pitching will be a key to winning the series as both squads had their issues in the past, but finding a way to get on base will be vital too.

On the mound, Schlossnagle is expected to hand the ball to redshirt sophomore LHP Ryan Prager to open the series. In his last outing on April 5, Prager went 6.1 innings, allowing two runs off four hits while striking out 12 against South Carolina.

The Commodores are anticipated to give the nod to junior RHP Greysen Carter. In Carter’s last outing, he worked 3.2 innings, allowing nine runs, seven of which were earned, giving up seven hits, three walks and two strikeouts against LSU.

First pitch on Friday, April 12 is set for 6 p.m. at Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park with the game streaming on SEC Network+.

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