Texas A&M, others pick up solid wins
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas – When Texas A&M lost starting pitchers Brooks Raley and Alex Wilson to the MLB draft last summer, it was no secret the Aggies thought they might be headed back to the drawing board this season.
Then, talented left-handed pitcher Ross Hales, who had a great freshman campaign, had an arm injury that A&M knew would sideline him for a couple of months this season.
Hales is expected to return in the next few weeks from that injury, much sooner than the Aggies previously expected him to. But unless something changes in the near future, it’s obvious the Aggies are just fine without him.
With Hales, though, their pitching staff is even more dangerous.
The Aggies, through 14 contests, have a 1.80 ERA. They also have nine pitchers that boast earned run averages below one.
Even coach Rob Childress didn’t exactly see this coming.
“It definitely has surprised me that we have gotten off to a great start and we’ve grabbed on to some roles,” Childress said. “We’re four weeks into the season and haven’t changed the weekend rotation. It is the first time in a long time we haven’t had to do that.
It’s because our starting pitchers and relievers have gone out there and thrown strikes and taken care of business.”
On Friday against a solid Washington State offensive lineup, the Aggies showcased junior right-handed pitcher Barret Loux and heralded newcomer John Stilson and finished the contest with 18 strikeouts in a 4-3 victory.
Loux nearly notched a career high in strikeouts 11 in 5 1/3 innings. He allowed just two runs and five hits against the Cougars.
“They made him throw strike one and he had 47 pitches through two innings. But I felt like he was pretty good his last few innings out there,” Childress said. “He was able to throw his breaking ball and he just seems to get better each time out there. He has learned to go out and pitch, not just throw.”
Stilson, meanwhile, once again did his thing against the Cougars. He approached the Cougars with a fastball that ran 94-98 mph. He also had a slider that ran 82 mph and a curveball that came in around 79 mph.
Though he allowed his first run of the season against the Cougars, he finished the contest with five strikeouts in just 2 1/3 innings.
There is still much season to be played, but Loux and Stilson are a snapshot of what the Aggies have to offer on the mound. They also are big reasons why the Aggies might be much better than expected this season.
What seemed to be a trouble spot is no longer the case.
Pitching is a strength for the Aggies.
Virginia (11-2) – Perhaps it’s time to start calling Virginia ace pitcher Danny Hultzen the fireman. Florida State entered Friday’s contest against the Cavaliers red-hot at the plate, but Hultzen cooled their bats by striking out six batters and allowing just two hits in six shutout innings. Relievers Tyler Wilson and Kevin Arico also threw well for the Cavaliers in an impressive 5-0 victory. What a statement win for the Cavaliers.
The Citadel (9-3) – We picked the Bulldogs to finish the season with the Southern Conference regular season title. We also said it was because of their pitching. Well, ace pitcher Asher Wojciechowski made a huge statement on Friday night with an absolute gem in a 4-0 victory over Western Carolina. Wojciechowski struck out 14 batters and allowed just six hits in eight shutout innings. The Citadel may not have a great offense, but its pitching staff is solid.
North Carolina (12-2) – After weeks of having to answer questions about their offense, the Tar Heels made a bold statement Friday night with an amazing showing against Duke. The Heels defeated the Blue Devils 21-9 with 21 hits. Also impressive is the fact Brian Goodwin, Levi Michael and Tommy Coyle combined for 13 RBIs in the triumph. We will see how the UNC offense does the rest of the weekend, but Friday’s showing definitely was a step in the right direction.
Kansas (10-3) – The Jayhawks didn’t have stud third baseman Tony Thompson against LSU on Friday night, but that didn’t matter in an 11-9 win over the Tigers. The surprising KU offense touched up LSU starting pitcher Joey Bourgeois for six runs in just 1 2/3 innings of work. Brian Heere had a solid night at the plate. With the win, the Jayhawks are one more win away this weekend from showing everyone why they began the season in the Rivals.com Top 25.
Houston (6-5) – After finishing last weekend’s Houston College Classic with a perfect 3-0 record, we wondered how the Cougars would fare in another huge series at Cal Poly this weekend. Well, the Cougars still have to take care of business the rest of the weekend. But the offense once again rose to the occasion with a 13-8 victory over the Mustangs in the series opener. The Cougars received yet another solid offensive performance from designated hitter M.P. Cokinos. With another win this weekend, UH all of a sudden wouldn’t be looking too bad.
Louisville (13-0) – You know you’re a good team when Ole Miss pitcher Drew Pomeranz strikes out 12 batters in 6 1/3 innings and you still beat the Rebels 6-1. The Cardinals used an outstanding pitching performance by starting pitcher Thomas Royse and a five-run 12th inning to get by on the road against the Rebels. UL is another win away this weekend from notching a marquee series win for its postseason resume.
Coastal Carolina (12-2) – The Chanticleers are still in fine shape, but suffered a tough loss to Illinois on Friday night. Coastal starting pitcher Cody Wheeler five runs on nine hits in six innings, while the bullpen failed to take care of business in an 11-10 setback. Coastal must find a way to take care of business the rest of the weekend.
East Carolina (7-6) – The Pirates can’t wait to get back to the East Coast after this weekend. ECU hit the road this week hoping to capture a few wins. Instead, the Pirates must head back to the drawing board. In addition to a loss to Cal State Northridge earlier this week, the Pirates have dropped the first two games of their series against Pepperdine. ECU has gone from a team with an impressive record to one hoping to stay above .500 after the weekend.
St. John’s (7-4) – The Johnnies started the season with an amazing 7-0 record, but have since lost four-straight games. They dropped a road series at East Tennessee State last weekend. They also opened the Liberty series this weekend with a 9-1 setback in the opener. The Johnnies need to turn things around the rest of the weekend to stay in good graces on the national stage.
Rice (8-7) – Just when we thought the Owls had turned the corner, more questions begin to arise. Rice starting pitcher Jared Rogers allowed four runs in just 3 1/3 innings as the Owls dropped a 6-4 decision to California on Friday night. The Owls also dropped the series opener to the Golden Bears on Thursday. Rice has two chances the rest of the weekend to finish the weekend with a 2-2 record. Still, not exactly an impressive showing against the Bears thus far.
Miami (Fla.) (8-4) – After dropping a home series to Florida last weekend, the Hurricanes were determined to bounce back this weekend beginning with the series opener against Boston College. That didn’t happen, though, as BC starting pitcher Pat Dean threw an absolute gem in a 3-0 triumph over the Hurricanes. Much of Miami’s luster could be lost if it loses another game to Boston College the rest of the weekend. Two home series losses in a row would not be good for the Canes’ national perception.
Long Beach State (5-7) – We had a feeling the Dirtbags would be much improved. But perhaps that feeling was wrong. LBSU suffered a setback last weekend with a home series loss to Washington. It also took a step back Friday night with an 8-0 home loss to Wichita State. The Dirtbags may come back to win the final two games of this series, but there’s no question this team has a plethora of questions to answer. At this juncture, an NCAA regional bid at the end of the season would be a surprise.