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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 freshmen hit the ground running

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Photo by Morgan Engel

Freshman catcher Hunter Coleman is hitting .444 in the Aggies’ first four games.

Oftentimes it takes freshmen a little bit of time to adjust to college baseball. After all, they were high schoolers just a year earlier. The routine of college is different, the competition is stiffer and early struggles are seen as simply a cost of doing business.
That, however, is not the case for the current crop of Texas A&M fish. In the first four games, the first-year players have stolen the show from their older teammates. Of the eight Aggies hitting over .300 to this point, six are freshman. Jorge Gutierrez has been outstanding, hitting an otherworldly .714 with three home runs while second baseman Braden Shewmake, last week’s SEC Freshman of the Week, is hitting at a .421 clip with eight RBI and five runs scored.
“It was cool seeing all the hard work pay off,” said freshman catcher Hunter Coleman, who is hitting .444. “We know that this year a lot of young guys have to play big roles and I think we stepped up.”
And while some fans might be shocked at the freshmen’s instant success, the players are not. They expect it. Part of those expectations stem from the fact that they have been working for this moment since they got to campus in early June of last year, as well as the coaches making it clear that the freshmen would get a chance to play if they earned it.
“We had a pretty good feeling going into the year,” said freshman outfielder Cam Blake. “We lost a ton of great players [from last year] and the coaches told us from day one that every single freshman we have is going to have an opportunity and it’s going to be who makes the most of that opportunity. We worked the whole fall knowing that we had a chance and the older guys really helped us out. We knew and we were ready for it.”
Blake split designated hitter duties with fellow freshman Logan Foster over the weekend. Both played extremely well, but Gutierrez’s brilliance earned him the start at DH in Tuesday’s midweek game against Stephen F. Austin.
All the production out of the freshman class — expected or not — has created a logjam at some positions that the coaching staff is going to have to sort out. There are only nine spots in the lineup to fill, and the Aggies have significantly more position players who have proven capable of filling those spots.
“There’s a bunch of guys that can all play DH and they can all swing the bat really well,” Shewmake said. “That’s what’s tough — it’s a good, tough decision for the coaches to make knowing that they’re going to put someone in there that’s going to be able to swing the bat. Great problem to have.”
Said Blake: “That’s the thing about our team, there’s battles at almost every position and it’s just when you get the opportunity, who’s going to get the job done?”
If any team can handle a “problem” like this, it’s A&M. The players have all known each other for a long time, they have great chemistry and they truly want the team to succeed in whatever way possible.
A perfect example of this attitude is the relationship between Blake and Foster. Blake started the Aggies’ season opener against Bowling Green at DH, but Foster pinch hit for him late in the game and the two have traded playing time since then. While they will continue to compete for at-bats, they each want the other to succeed as well.
“We’ll compete with each other the whole time,” Blake said. “I love the kid and he loves me. When he does good I’m really happy for him and when I do good he’s happy for me. There’s absolutely competition, but there’s no bad blood in there — we love it.”
While the entire freshman class has thrived, Gutierrez has stolen the show. The freshman switch-hitter from Sugar Land hit home runs in each of his first two college at-bats, then slugged a game-tying homer against SFA that ultimately sent the game into extra innings.
“He was not human this weekend — he’s unreal,” Shewmake said of Gutierrez. “He’s always been able to swing it. I knew he was going to be good coming in.”
As the season progresses, the competition is going to get tougher, the pitching is going to get better and the freshmen might run into some slumps. Or they might not. Blake and Coleman said it will be important for them to have short memories — if they have a bad weekend, forget about it and focus on the next one.
Shewmake is confident the freshmen can continue to play at a high level.
“I really do. We have a bunch of hard workers who are never content with where we’re at,” Shewmake said. “Our thing is ‘Win the Day’ and as a freshman class our mindset is that if we’re not getting better we’re getting worse. So we have to get better every day and I don’t think there’s too many classes that are going to be able to pass us if we do that.”
The Aggies will return to the diamond this weekend with a three-game series against Pepperdine at Blue Bell Park. Friday’s matchup will open the series, with first pitch scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

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  • Freshman second baseman Braden Shewmake scored the winning run in the Aggies’ extra-inning victory over Stephen F. Austin.

    Photo by: Morgan Engel
  • Freshman utility player Jorge Gutierrez boasts an incredible 2.286 slugging percentage through his first four collegiate games.

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