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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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Dominating the zone

Aggie pitching continues strong start, holding Seahawks to 2 runs
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  • A view of Olsen Field before Texas A&M’s game against Wagner on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (Kyle Heise/The Battalion)

  • Texas A&M LHP Ryan Prager (18) pitches during Texas A&M’s game against Wagner on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (Adriano Espinosa/The Battalion)

    Photo by Adriano Espinosa
  • Texas A&M LHP Ryan Prager (18) pitches during Texas A&M’s game against Wagner on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (Kyle Heise/The Battalion)

  • A nighttime view of Olsen Field during Texas A&M’s game against Wagner on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (Kyle Heise/The Battalion)

  • Texas A&M LHP Ryan Prager (18) pitches during Texas A&M’s game against Wagner on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (Kyle Heise/The Battalion)

  • A nighttime view of Olsen Field during Texas A&M’s game against Wagner on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (Kyle Heise/The Battalion)

  • Texas A&M RHP Brad Rudis (32) pitches during Texas A&M’s game against Wagner on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (Kyle Heise/The Battalion)

  • Head coach Jim Schlossnagle pitches before Texas A&M’s game against Wagner on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (Adriano Espinosa/The Battalion)

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  • Texas A&M LHP Austin Vargas (49) stands for the national anthem before Texas A&M’s game against Wagner on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (Adriano Espinosa/The Battalion)

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  • Texas A&M OF/RHP Braden Montgomery (6) during Texas A&M’s game against Wagner on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (Adriano Espinosa/The Battalion)

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  • Texas A&M OF Hayden Schott (5) dives during Texas A&M’s game against Wagner on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (Adriano Espinosa/The Battalion)

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  • A fan dressed as a banana blasts bubbles during Texas A&M’s game against Wagner on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (Adriano Espinosa/The Battalion)

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  • An Aggie fan chants during Texas A&M’s game against Wagner on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, at Blue Bell Park. (Adriano Espinosa/The Battalion)

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On Feb. 24, 2023, five games through the season, Texas A&M baseball sat at 2-3 and had surrendered 24 runs total.

Through as many games this year, the Aggies are 5-0 and have only given up 6 runs after taking the season opener against Wagner, 17-2.

In the offseason, after the departure of pitching coach Nate Yeskie to LSU, the Aggies turned to young blood in 28-year-old Max Weiner. So far this season, the move has paid dividends.

As a pitching coordinator with the Mariners, Weiner brought his “Dominate the Zone” mentality to the organization that bolstered eight top-100 prospects.

Seattle led the league in the “Dominate the Zone” metric, which measures how many strikes are thrown in 0-0 and 1-1 counts. This is all intended to get pitchers ahead in the count, minimizing walks and maximizing strikeouts.

Weiner also oversaw the development of former Aggie pitcher Bryce Miller, who under his coaching, became the second player in MLB history since 1901 to go at least six innings pitched with four hits or less in each of his first four starts.

Now A&M, who has struggled pitching the last two seasons, has become one of the most productive pitching staffs in the country.

The Aggies are No. 2 in the country in strikeout-to-walk ratio, and after the 13-2 ratio tonight, that ranking may rise to the top in the country. The Maroon and White are also tied for 20th in the country in strikeouts, and it all starts with the Friday night starter, sophomore LHP Ryan Prager.

Prager, who missed last season due to Tommy John surgery, pitched 59.1 innings as a freshman but racked up a 5.16 earned-run average with an 8-10 record.

“It felt good,” Prager said. “Another Friday night, great crowd, great atmosphere. Like I said last week, just trying to stay grateful for every opportunity to be out there and get to be with our guys and, overall, we had a great time.”

In the season opener against McNeese State, the Dallas native had the best outing of his career, going five innings with nine strikeouts, only giving up a hit. Against the Seahawks, Prager not only continued his dominant start to the season, but exhibited an ability to get out of a jam.

It seemed like the honeymoon period for the southpaw, as to start the game, junior Seahawk OF Albert Serrano ripped a double into right field, putting a runner in scoring position early for Wagner.

Prager responded by striking out senior 2B Chris Conniff, forcing a groundout from senior DH Xavier Ulrich and punching out senior LF Luka Torres to finish the inning unscathed.

“I think there was only one, two guys who got on base last week,” Prager said. “Just to get through [pitching with runners on base], especially early in the year, getting back into the swing of things, understanding what it’s like to throw with guys on, getting out of jams. Every little experience before we get into conference play is super valuable.”

For the rest of his time on the mound, Prager never faced more than four batters, striking 10 in 6.2 innings of work, both career highs.

However, the southpaw didn’t have to pitch with much pressure, as A&M jumped on the Seahawks early and did not let up all night.

“It’s always easier to pitch when we’re scoring a ton of runs,” Prager said. “It just continues to hammer to our point of dominate the zone. It gives you a position to just go attack.”

The Maroon and White came into the night No. 8 in the country in home runs with 11, and after Game 1 against Wagner, they can tack on two more to their total.

After the All-American duo of sophomore LF Jace LaViolette and junior CF Braden Montgomery scored in the first inning off of a single and triple to the right-field corner, freshman LF Gavin Grahovac broke the scoring open in the second.

Following a walk from senior DH Ted Burton and a single from junior SS Ali Camarillo, Grahovac, who struck out in his first at-bat, uncorked a three-run shot right into Section 12 for the freshman’s first home run of his Aggie career.

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After racking up three more runs in the fourth and sixth inning, the Aggies broke the game open in the seventh inning, capped off by A&M’s second home run of the game and the grandest of the year.

The Maroon and White drew seven walks in a row after senior C Jackson Appel singled to get on base to start the seventh frame, tacking on five runs.

Then, with the bases loaded and two outs, senior PH Hank Bard blasted a ball 415 feet beyond the right-field fence, the Aggies first grand slam of the season and the 17th and final run of the night for A&M.

The 17 runs for A&M tonight are the most scored since the 23-run win over Houston Christian last season.

The Aggies will be back in action against the Seahawks tomorrow at 1 p.m. at Olsen Field.

 

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About the Contributor
Hunter Mitchell, Associate Sports Editor
Hunter Mitchell is a sport management senior minoring in journalism. Hunter has covered football, men's and women's basketball, baseball, volleyball, softball, hockey, cross country, track and field, along with swim and dive. Hunter's favorite sport is college basketball, and he is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writer's Association. Hunter also hosts weekly episodes of the Home Turf sports podcast.
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