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Takeaways, Notes & Nuggets from Texas A&M’s 4-3 loss to Texas

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Photo by Photo by Cassie Stricker

Junior reliever Corbin Martin struck out four batters in 2.1 solid innings in Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to Texas. 

In its final tuneup before the start of SEC play, Texas A&M fell to rival Texas 4-3. Here are some of my thoughts from the game:
1. Defensive miscues came back to bite the Aggies
A lot of times in baseball you don’t even have to look at the run column to see who won the game — you can look at the error totals. The team who makes the fewest mistakes usually wins the game, and the Aggies had too many self-inflicted wounds Tuesday to beat the Longhorns for the second-straight season. After playing error-free baseball in all three games of the Brown series last weekend, it was certainly disappointing to see them make four costly errors.
It all started in the fourth. Starter John Doxakis started with three crisp innings on the mound, but then issued a leadoff walk to Texas shortstop David Hamilton and surrendered an RBI single to Kacy Clemens. Next up, Austin Todd laid down a sacrifice bunt toward Jorge Gutierrez at third base. Gutierrez fielded it cleanly but threw wide of first base, allowing Clemens to score.
Two batters later, Gutierrez made another error on a bunt as the ball slid under his glove. That spelled the end of the night for Doxakis, and Corbin Martin promptly allowed an RBI single to score Todd.
Then in the fifth, the Aggies gave the Horns another run. With no outs in the inning, Cole Bedford caught Travis Jones too far off second base and threw a strike to Austin Homan to get Jones in a rundown. They had Jones dead to rights, but Homan overthrew George Janca at third and Jones returned safely to second. Only a few pitches later, Martin attempted a pickoff to second but no one covered the base and Jones advanced to third as the ball went into center field. Then Martin threw over to first base and it went off Joel Davis’ glove to let Jones trot home. 
As it turned out, that Texas run turned out to be the difference in the game and three of the Longhorns’ four runs were unearned.
It was an odd sequence of events, to say the least, and one that cannot happen moving forward for the Aggies if they want to compete in the SEC. They didn’t play terribly, but this Aggie team needs to limit its miscues in the field if it wants to reach its fullest potential.
2. Too many missed opportunities 
The Aggies didn’t knock the cover off the ball against the Longhorns, but they took advantage of some wildness from the UT bullpen and repeatedly had men on base in the later innings.
The only problem was that they left them there.
In all, A&M stranded nine runners, went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position and could not come through with a big hit when it needed one. The Aggies had a chance for a crooked number in the fourth when they had runners on second and third with one out, but they could only scratch one across on a balk by Texas starter Nick Kennedy. 
In the seventh, Nick Choruby and Bedford worked consecutive one-out walks but couldn’t advance further. In the eighth, the Aggies scored two runs on only one hit, but worked three walks and an RBI fielder’s choice. Even in the ninth, Braden Shewmake came to the plate with the tying run on third and two outs. He grounded out to short, but it’s impossible to fault him for it because the freshman played a fantastic game.
The Horns gave the Aggies chances all night long with a whopping nine walks, but the maroon and white didn’t make them pay as much as they could have and the comeback ultimately fell just short.
3. Another strong outing from the bullpen
Martin entered the game in the fourth and gave the Aggies 2.1 solid innings of work. He has taken a few mph off his fastball in his last few appearances, and the results have been encouraging. Against the Horns, he was 92-95 with his fastball and also mixed in a filthy slider a changeup. He flashed above-average command with all three of those pitches and struck out four of the 11 batters he faced.
After Martin, the trio of Kaylor Chafin, Cason Sherrod and Landon Miner pitched the final 2.1 innings without allowing a run. The four relievers who pitched Tuesday night have all been excellent of late and, when you add in the return of Turner Larkins, head coach Rob Childress should have plenty of options to turn to when SEC play commences.
I am pretty confident that Brigham Hill will be able to pitch deep into most games in conference play, but Stephen Kolek and Mitchell Kilkenny might only be able to give the Aggies four or five innings some times out against the tougher opponents. If they have a solid bullpen behind them, that won’t be too much of a problem, especially considering most of the relievers Childress trusts most can be stretched out and asked to pitch multiple innings if necessary.
The teams that advance deep into the postseason are almost always the teams with the deepest and most talented bullpens, and the Aggies have the arms to make it a strength of the team in 2017
Notes & Nuggets

  • I was very impressed with the way Doxakis threw the ball in this one. He has struggled with command and leaving pitches up in the zone in some of his recent outings, but he was stellar Tuesday. He pumped strikes and if he would have gotten more help from his defense he could have potentially pitched much longer than 3.1 innings. The Aggies have relied heavily on Dox so far this season, and I don’t see that changing going forward. 
  • It seems like we say it every week, but Shewmake can flat out play. He can hit, run and field, and he does everything incredibly well. He possesses a tremendously advanced approach at the plate, consistently working counts and showing an ability to hit the ball where it is pitched. He made some very impressive plays in the field at second base, and then showed off his versatility by moving over to third base late in the game. Shewmake’s 3-for-4 day raised his average to a team-high .415 and also leads the Aggies in hits and RBI. I’m excited to see him compete against some of the elite arms in the SEC.
  • One of the biggest plays of the game came in the seventh inning, when the Aggies had runners on first and second with one out. Austin Homan was up with newly inserted closer Kyle Johnston struggling to throw strikes. With the count 2-2, Johnston threw a changeup that almost bounced in the dirt. The umpire inexplicably called it strike three, which completely changed the complexion of the inning. Had it been rightly called a ball, Johnston would have been hard-pressed to throw a strike on the payoff pitch. If Homan could have worked a walk, the Aggies would have had the top of their order up with the bases loaded an one out against a wild pitcher. Maybe they would have broke it open, maybe they wouldn’t have, but you never like to see the umpire influence the game so much with a bad call.
  • Another key play came in the eighth, with runners on the corners, one out and the Aggies trailing 4-3. Nick Choruby laid down a safety squeeze bunt to first base, and Joel Davis was thrown out at home trying to score the tying run. I wasn’t a huge fan of the call, but it was a nice bunt and Davis just didn’t get a good enough jump off third. On a safety squeeze, the baserunner has to anticipate the bunt and build up some momentum going down the line, and Davis appeared flat-footed as the bunt tricked toward first. The safety squeeze might come in handy later this year, so hopefully the Aggies can execute it then.
  • The Aggies showed up in Austin with more changes to their lineup, but they head back home with more questions too. Blake Kopetsky went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in the leadoff spot and neither third baseman, Jorge Gutierrez or George Janca, were particularly impressive. Walker Pennington has endured a rough start to the season and got the day off against the Horns, but I still think he is too talented and too experienced to stay in his slump much longer. He will be back in the lineup sooner rather than later and I expect him to start hitting eventually. At the hot corner, I like Janca. He is a better fielder and I don’t think Gutierrez will hit enough against SEC pitching to make up for the gap in defensive ability. 
  • Cam Blake hasn’t gotten many at-bats recently, but he came up in a huge spot against Texas and delivered a six-pitch walk. He seems to have an innate ability to not let the moment get too big, and it was impressive to see another freshman stick to his approach even in a high-leverage situation.
  • I pointed out last week that the Aggies were struggling in two key areas: striking out too much on offense and issuing too many walks on the mound. That is never a good combination, and they were much better in both regards Tuesday. They only struck out nine time and the pitching only handed out four free passes, and maintaining that kind of balanced ratio will be critical to maintain moving forward. 
  • Finally, I’m looking forward to the start of SEC play Friday. Kentucky comes to Olsen Field and it will be exciting to see how the Aggie freshman respond to the level of competition in an environment bound to be raucous. 
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