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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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Last Four In: Aggies sneak into NCAA Tournament

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Photo by By Lawrence Smelser

Texas A&M was one of the ‘Last Four In’ to the NCAA Tournament.

With half the field of 64 announced Monday morning, Texas A&M still hadn’t heard its name called and the Aggies’ bubble was beginning to burst.
Then came a sigh of relief as the Houston Regional was unveiled, showing the maroon and white had made the cut as the ‘Last Four In,’ drawing a 3-seed to play former rival Baylor in the opening round.
“Pretty nerve-racking, especially since it got as late as it did, kind of sitting there scratching your head a little bit, not real sure if you’re going to get in, but we had a feeling we would,” senior shortstop Austin Homan said of when the team saw they had made it. “I feel like we deserved to be in it.”
Now that the pressure of making the NCAA Tournament has passed, A&M can shift its focus to playing more baseball and first up, the Baylor Bears.
“Obviously Baylor has had a great year under Steve Rodriguez,” A&M head coach Rob Childress said. “He’s done such a great job in such a short period of time. Big 12 Coach of the Year and certainly playing really well.”
The Aggies and Bears met once this season, in Houston as well, at the College Classic. The game did not go in A&M’s favor though, as Baylor scored five runs in the bottom of the ninth in a comeback 6-3 win with Tucker Cascadden’s walk-off grand slam sealing the victory for the green and gold.
“That’s a game we felt like we probably should have won and they made a late run, but Baylor’s a good team,” Homan recalled. “Right now we’ve got to worry about them and focus on Friday.”
Although A&M will be ready to roll down the revenge route against Baylor, Childress noted it is key the Aggies stay true to themselves and not get caught up in the intangibles.
“Regardless of who we’re playing, it’s about us,” Childress said. “If we play good baseball, we’re going to have a chance to win and if we don’t, we’ll get beat – bottom line. If we make more out of it than that, we’re going to be in trouble.”
A&M, however, must find its footing as the Aggies have dropped eight of their last 10 games, including a 12-7 loss to Missouri in the opening round of the SEC Tournament, which sent the defending champs home early.
With the NCAA Tournament ahead though, A&M can clear its mind of the past and start with a clean slate.
“Now the record doesn’t really matter, it all starts over,” sophomore catcher Cole Bedford said. “We just have to have a good day of practice and the rest of the week then go back to Houston.”
The key to getting back on track, however, may lie in some deep soul-searching.
“For us, just finding our identity again,” junior pitcher Brigham Hill said. “I feel like sometimes we may have lost it here and there throughout the year. Just going back to who we are, blue collar team that’s going to work hard, do whatever it takes to win.”
Fortunately for the Aggies, they will have had 10 days between games to re-group and after a trio of team scrimmages over the weekend, Childress was pleased with his club staying in routine.
“We kept our pitchers on their days and so their routine is set,” Childress said. “Hitters stayed sharp facing live at-bats, too.”
The one player who may have benefitted the most from the long layover is go-to reliever Kaylor Chafin, who struggled mightily in his outing against Missouri at the conference tournament.
“We’ve ridden him really hard and we are where we are because of Kaylor. Maybe this is a blessing,” Childress added. “He gets 10 days off to kind of hit the reset button and will certainly be somebody we’re going to lean on big this weekend.”
While the Aggies made an early exit in Hoover, Homan noted that the scrimmages were highly-competitive – a sign of forward progress for A&M.
“They were intense,” Homan said of the scrimmages. “Pitchers came out and pitched early. I think we actually got the best of them on Saturday, we put up some runs, but Thursday and Friday they were locked in.”
Those highly-competitive scrimmages will hopefully pay the Aggies dividends as regional-host Houston and 4-seed Iowa both enter the NCAA Tournament after winning their conference tournaments.
The Cougars feature American Co-Player of the Year Jake Schiener and American Co-Pitcher of the Year Trey Cumbie (10-1, 1.88 ERA), whom the Aggies would likely face if A&M were to play Houston in game two. The Hawkeyes boast the nation’s home run leader, Jake Adams, who has belted 27 bombs this season.
“Houston won their conference tournament, had Pitcher of the Year and will certainly be a handful at home,” Childress said. “Rick Heller at Iowa does a special job. He and I are good friends, known him for almost 20 years. He’s as good a hitting coach as there is in the country. Their three-hole hitter has 27 home runs and they’re playing with a whole lot of confidence right now rolling through the Big Ten Tournament. It ought to be a great Regional.”
With the road ahead known, the task now for Childress’ club is clear – time to go play ball, smart ball.
“We need to play with a chip on our shoulder and we need to pitch and play defense,” Childress concluded. “If we do those things, we’ve got a shot against anybody in the country.
“I expect June to be our month, five wins away from Omaha.”
The Aggies open the Houston Regional this Friday against Baylor at 2:00 p.m. at Schroeder Park. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

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