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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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The road to Omaha starts now

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Photo by Photo by Lawrence Smelser

Senior catcher Michael Barash practicing on Olsen Field. 

Texas A&M’s baseball team ended last year’s season with a nail biter — a 16-inning game three at the Super Regionals carried TCU to victory over the Aggies, who fell just one game shy from the College World Series. Months later the A&M squad again takes the mound, as baseball’s fall workout began last Monday amid anticipation that another run to Omaha could be in the works. 

“It’s very exciting, especially after the way we ended [last] season, the run we made,” senior pitcher Andrew Vinson, who recorded five saves last year, said after the first practice. “We’ve been waiting for this moment for a while, so yeah, we’re excited.”

Head coach Rob Childress, who has held the reins of the Aggie baseball program since 2006, shared that excitement but also said the team needs to keep improving. 

“We’ve got an awful lot of potential,” Childress said. “We’ve got a lot of experience back and some very talented newcomers, but the word potential means you haven’t done anything yet. The 2016 team is a team that we’re just going to try to get a little bit better every day and take advantage of the 27 days that we have together as a team this fall.”

Childress said the Aggies want to make it to the College World Series this year but are going to take it one practice and one game at a time. 

“The biggest thing for us is today,” Childress said. “If we start focusing on one game away I think that’s when a team gets itself in trouble.”

Junior outfielder Nick Banks, the team’s leading returning hitter, said the “one-day-at-a-time” mentality is one the entire team shares and knows is crucial to make it back into post-season play. 

“Right now we’re just taking it one day at a time,” Banks said. “We’re trying to set the bar every single day, and just get better every single day. Right now our main goal is just getting better as a team and getting that culture set.”

The fact that the Aggies got so close to advancing to Omaha last year only fuels the team during its fall workouts in preparation for the upcoming season, Childress said. 

“Hopefully we still have a chip on our shoulder, and that will show up through the fall,” Childress said.

Even with all of the success the Aggies experienced last year, Childress said he and his coaching staff still made a minor adjustment in their fall agenda in hopes of maximizing the talent on the roster.

“We want our guys to understand what it means to compete in the best baseball conference in the country, the SEC,” Childress said. “From day one, we’ve broken them up into two teams, from the first day of fall semester. We’ve got a team of ‘Farmers’ and a team of ‘Plowboys’ and everything they do on the field, off the field and in the community is a competition. From class attendance, to grades, to community service, effort in the weight room, effort on the field and in games that we play, everything is a challenge.”

Childress said he and the other coaches work hard to instill in the players the importance of hard work and discipline, both on and off the field. 

“The most talented team baseball-wise never wins the [College World Series] trophy,” Childress continued. “It’s the most consistent team in all that they do.”

Childress said the players also compete for spots and it is going to be tough to replace graduate Blake Allemand, who was a starting infielder in each of the past four seasons.

With Allemand’s departure, Childress said the team needs to place an increased emphasis on defense, particularly on the infield.

“Because we do have some new guys on the infield, we’ve got to really be better at handling the baseball,” Childress said. “From the standpoint of our bunt coverages and our first-and-third [situations] and not giving the other team free baserunners.”

The Aggies played their first intra-squad scrimmage Wednesday, with Andrew Hendrix and Tyler Stubblefield starting for the Farmers and Plowboys, respectively. The Farmers won the six-inning contest 7-0, with junior infielder Ryne Birk going 3-4 with a double and a home run. 

The team will continue these competitions three times per week, according to Childress, and the main goal is two-fold — trying to improve the team’s on-field fundamentals and teaching the Aggies how to compete.

“Our main goal at the beginning of the year is always to get to Omaha,” Banks said. “It’s our motivation every single year. Just getting past that hump this year, getting past the Super Regional … And hopefully [end up] being national champions in Omaha.”

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  • Junior outfielder Nick Banks is the returning leader in batting average for the Aggies. 

    Photo by Photo by Lawrence Smelser
  • Head coach Rob Childress addresses his team at the conclusion of practice on Olsen Field. 

    Photo by Photo by Lawrence Smelser
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