Playing California teams wasn’t working out so well, so now Texas is back to facing an in-state opponent.
But not just any in-state opponent. Enemy No. 1.
For the first time since the 2014 NCAA regional, Texas will play Texas A&M, renewing a 113-year rivalry that favors the Longhorns, 242-124-5. It’ll go down Tuesday at A&M’s Blue Bell Park, where the second-ranked Aggies have yet to lose in 13 tries and are 47-7 the past two seasons. Additionally, the Aggies have won 22 straight mid-week games.
First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m. on the SEC Network.
“Our boys will get a real opportunity to deal with the environment around them that’s hostile, so it’ll be good for them,” Texas coach Augie Garrido said.
Some might argue against Garrido’s assertion that playing A&M is a good thing for his club. The Aggies (15-1) have won 10 straight since suffering their only loss at Pepperdine on Feb. 26, and are trending in a direction much opposite of Texas, which has just one win to show for the seven games it played against California and UCLA the past two weekends. The bullpen was disastrous at UCLA, failing to protect late-inning leads and taking losses on Saturday (Blake Wellmann) and Sunday (Jon Malmin).
At 7-9 overall, Texas (92 RPI) is careening toward a dangerous position in which it might need to win the Big 12 tournament for the second year in a row just to get a postseason ticket. Including Tuesday, Texas is staring at a tricky eight-game stretch that includes three games against Tulane (42 RPI), and TCU (7) separated by a Tuesday matchup with UTSA (75).
Injuries to left fielder Tyler Rand (hand) and right fielder Patrick Mathis (hamstring) have had adverse impacts on both defense and the lineup, where Texas is hitting just .264 — 77 points lower than A&M. Mathis returned to the lineup last week at designated hitter, but has yet to make his way back to the outfield. Similarly, a foot injury reduced second baseman Joe Baker to a pinch-hitter at UCLA, making for some odd looks in the field, including catcher Tres Barrera making his first appearance at third base on Saturday.
A&M, which stayed home last weekend and swept Fresno State, will start sophomore right-hander Brigham Hill (2-0, 1.56), who has walked just one batter while working a team-high 17.1 innings. Texas will counter with its usual mid-week starter, Morgan Cooper (1-0, 1.50), who was superb last Tuesday with eight strikeouts over six innings in a 12-3 win over Sam Houston State.
“As you get into this point of the season, some of the games can be mundane and this one certainly won’t be for both teams and both fan bases,” A&M coach Rob Childress said.
as you get into this point of the season some fo the games can be mundane and tomorrow night certainly wont be for both teams and both fan bases.
In the Aggies, Cooper will face a lineup that could consist of as many as seven players hitting .300 or better. The best among them is Boomer White (.419, 11 walks), J.B. Moss (.417, six doubles) and Hunter Melton (.371, four home runs, 21 RBI).
These teams played three times in the 2014 regional in Houston, with Texas taking the first meeting 8-1 before falling 3-2 in game two. With a Super Regional berth hanging in the balance, Texas took the rubber match, 4-1, behind a complete game two-hitter by Chad Hollingsworth.