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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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Takeaways, Notes & Nuggets from Texas A&M’ series win over LSU

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Photo by Photo by Cassie Stricker

Corbin Martin picked up his fourth win of the season Saturday, pitching a career-high eight innings in the process. 

With a ninth-inning rally on Saturday that saw the Aggies score four runs off of LSU closer Caleb Gilbert, Texas A&M clinched its first SEC series win of the season. Here are some takeaways and notes from baseball analyst Heath Clary:
1. Corbin Martin finding his groove…for good?
A guy that has always been known for having great stuff but not being able to put everything together, Corbin Martin was marvelous in the rubber match Saturday against LSU. He scattered four hits over a career-high eight innings, allowing three runs and striking out five. Two of the runs came in the fourth inning on a two-run homer by Kramer Robertson, and it wasn’t even a bad pitch. Martin hit his spot with a fastball up and out of the zone, but Robertson did an admirable job of hitting the letter-high pitch into the seats. In those situations, all you can do is tip your cap to the hitter and move on, and that’s exactly what Martin did.
He allowed another run in the fifth, but then proceeded to retire 11 of the final 12 batters he faced to keep the Aggies’ deficit at 3-0. In the past, he has fallen victim to the big inning — he has allowed a walk or a hit to snowball into a crooked number — and erratic control. He did neither on Saturday.
He also showed an incredible amount of efficiency, which is a welcome sign for Martin after he needed a whopping 111 pitches to get through four innings last weekend against Vanderbilt. Against the Tigers, Martin’s pitch count didn’t even reach the century mark and he only walked two batters. He had all of his pitches working, his fastball sat in the low 90s and he was able to navigate through a potent LSU lineup. The junior righty from Cypress has always flashed the talent to be able to dominate SEC hitters, and for the past month or so we are finally seeing him do it consistently. Having him maintain this level of effectiveness will be huge for the Aggies moving forward.
2. Walker Pennington showing some serious life
Pennington entered the season hitting in the cleanup spot for the Aggies and he was expected to do big things in his senior season. He just hadn’t been able to get going at the plate, though, and his average has scuffled at or below the Mendoza Line for the majority of the season.
Maybe this weekend was what he needed to snap out of his slump and start producing at a high level.
Pennington started Friday’s game in the nine-hole, and launched a three-run home run in the seventh to shrink the Tigers’ lead to 4-2. Then on Saturday, Pennington came through in the clutch with a mammoth three-run dinger to left that gave the Aggies a 4-3 lead they would not relinquish. It was a huge home run for the team as it put the finishing touches on a series win over a top-10 opponent, but maybe it can serve as the impetus for a Pennington hot streak. He is an uber-talented hitter with a beautiful swing, and when he is right at the plate he can be a difference-maker for the Aggies.
He did not start the Saturday game and his homer came in his lone at-bat of the afternoon, but I would expect him to once again become the everyday left fielder and maybe get moved up a few spots in the batting order as well.
3. Mitchell Kilkenny looks like the new closer
Head coach Rob Childress continues to adjust his bullpen rotation, and former Sunday starter Mitchell Kilkenny looked solid in his first meaningful innings as the Aggies’ new closer. He threw scoreless ninth innings in both of A&M’s wins over LSU without even a hint of trouble, and having a reliable reliever in the back-end of the bullpen is critical for the Aggies. They have struggled to protect leads this season and, while a lock-down closer is only one slot, it is an excellent place to start. Kaylor Chafin did not get an opportunity to pitch in the LSU weekend — he warmed up Saturday but Martin ended up settling down and lasting eight innings — but it is clear Childress trusts him in almost any situation.
Landon Miner was called out of the ‘pen to relieve Stephen Kolek in the sixth inning of Friday’s loss, and he was uncharacteristically shaky. He gave up two runs in two-thirds of an inning, and then Cason Sherrod gave up one run in 1.1 innings.
I like the way the bullpen looks right now: Kilkenny looks comfortable as the closer, Miner and Sherrod are capable setup men and Chafin is a versatile lefty that can get left-handed hitters out and pitch multiple innings at a time. With the way the starters have been throwing the ball, that nucleus of relievers should get the majority of the work as SEC play progresses.
Notes & Nuggets

  • Brigham Hill returned to his usual self in the series opener. After experiencing some rough spots in his last three starts, Hill was downright superb Thursday. He threw eight scoreless innings, did not allow a single baserunner to get past first base on the night and pitched the Aggies to a victory. It was just the kind of start the Aggies needed to begin the series and I expect it to be the kind of start that Hill needed to get back on track. 
  • Nick Choruby really impressed me this weekend. He hit a crucial two-run homer off Alex Lange in the first game to break a 0-0 tie, and then recorded two hits in each of the next two games. He continues to get on base at a tremendous clip and has as many walks (26) as strikeouts at this point in the season. His patient eye blended with his speed make him a solid leadoff hitter, and he made several great defensive plays in center field as well.
  • Stephen Kolek gave up four runs in 5.2 innings on Friday, making it back-to-back rough starts for the sophomore right-hander. I still like him in the weekend rotation because of his strike-throwing ability and willingness to pound the zone, but if Turner Larkins gets back to 100% I’d like to see Childress slide him in as the third starter and move Kolek to the bullpen. Kolek thrived in a relief role last year, and Larkins has a higher ceiling as a starter. A weekend rotation of Hill, Martin and Larkins would be exceptional — a nice blend of power, finesse and experience. 
  • After struggling a bit defensively in last weekend’s series against Vanderbilt, the Aggies were much better in that regard against the Tigers. Austin Homan has not contributed a whole lot with the bat this season, but he has been exemplary at shortstop. A&M committed only one error on the weekend — LSU had three in Game 1 alone — and the team who makes the fewest errors will oftentimes win the ballgame.
  • This series win was absolutely massive for the Aggies. They were in jeopardy of losing their third-straight conference series, but instead they come back and take two-of-three from a top-10 team. This win will only give the Aggies more confidence moving forward. I look for them to keep it going against a tough midweek opponent in Dallas Baptist and then host No. 17 Auburn in another SEC series. 
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