The baseball team has a wonderful opportunity this weekend with a game tonight in College Station and Saturday/Sunday in Austin. The Longhorns of the diamond can put an emphatic cap on the GTFO tour, sending the Poor Aggies off to the SEC with their little Aggie tails between their little Aggie legs with yet another Lone Star Showdown overall sports defeat. Texas has nine points out of a total of 19 for the school year, meaning a series win this weekend in either baseball or softball would clinch the last-ever LSS for the good guys. That would end the series with the Poor Aggies actually winning the thing only once, in 2007-08; they did retain the title the following year because of a 9.5-9.5 tie, and under series rules the trophy remains with the school that won it the previous year in such circumstances (like the Ryder Cup). As such, Texas actually only needs another half point to wrap it up, but it would obviously be more fun to win the thing by a wide margin. If both softball and baseball take care of business, the series score would sit at 11-4 with four points still in play.
From a strictly baseball perspective, taking the series this weekend would put the Poor Aggies in a major hole and make a Baylor-Texas-A&M 1-2-3 finish in the conference an exceedingly likely scenario. The Bears' sweep of A&M last weekend essentially solidified Baylor in the top spot barring a major meltdown; Baylor holds a 5.5 game lead on Texas with six to play (though Texas does have nine left), and even with a sweep this weekend the Longhorns would only pull within four with six left. Now, for those big-time optimists out there, Texas certainly could follow a Poor Aggie sweep by picking up at least one game next weekend when UT travels to MIzzou and Baylor plays OU, setting up a mathematical chance to tie Baylor with a sweep of the Bears in the season finale. But so much has to go right for that to happen that the most likely best-case for the Horns is a respectable second-place finish.
That starts with a series win this weekend. The Poor Aggies are what they always are: talented, well-coached, and ultimately unable to get it done when it counts. They couldn't even muster a single W in the critical weekend series against Baylor last week, and even though they come in ranked ninth we think Texas ought to take a pair of games this weekend. Maybe we're delusional, and maybe it'll be up to softball to take care of the LSS crown; but take a look at the A&M schedule. You'll see a whole lot of "College Station" in the Location column. These guys didn't play a single road game until March 23--more than a month into the season. That trip to California to play Pepperdine was the first of only three road trips so far this year; one of the others was to Lawrence, and the third was to Waco for two of their losses last weekend.
That said, we stand by the statement that this is a talented bunch of ballplayers wearing ugly colors. Reveille is led at the plate by Tyler Naquin, who hits an impressive .403 on the season and an amazing 1023 OPS (.547 SLG/.473 OBP). However, Jacob House is arguably an even more dangerous all-around hitter: his average is a solid .331, but he leads the team with five dingers to go with his nine double and (also team-leading) 36 RBI. The crown jewel of this awful patch of Texas, though, is the pitching staff. That's where Texas is going to have trouble; we feel confident the UT pitchers can keep the A&M scoring at least somewhat in check, but it will be awfully hard for Texas to get runs this weekend. Michael Wacha is arguably the best starting pitcher in the country, with his 2.48 ERA, .237 batting average against, and 5-0 record. But we think he'd lose that argument to his teammate Ross Stripling, who has very similar numbers to Wacha (2.65 ERA/.227 BAA/6-2), but has thrown 78 innings to Wacha's (also impressive) 69. That means Stripling averages almost eight innings per outing in his 10 starts, an almost unheard of level of prolificness in this day and age. Third starter Rafael Pineda is no slouch himself, sporting a 2.57 ERA and 5-1 record in his own right. All three weekend starters with ERAs under 3--hell, under 2.7--is just really good no matter how you slice it.
The good news is that if Texas can get on the board early they have a great shot at hanging on; the Poor Ags have not done much in the way of comebacks this year, holding a 4-7 record when trailing after six innings. So the gameplan from where we're sitting is to manufacture runs in the first two thirds of the game in any way possible, be sharp in the field, and hang on late behind strong bullpen performances. Simple, right? In any event, much like football, even if the Horns were to get swept this weekend we can rest easy knowing the all-time series is, and will always be, heavily slanted toward Texas: 239-121-5, to be exact. If the Ags manage to move that second number up to 124 this weekend, we don't recommend Longhorn fans lose any sleep over it. They'll still be Aggies, and you still won't be. And therefore, you win. No matter what.
Tonight is on FCS, tomorrow on FSN, and Sunday on Longhorn Network--you know, that silly little idea that wouldn't make any money so the Poor Aggies wouldn't join in with it. Hook 'em!
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Friday, April 27, 2012 - 6:30 p.m. Central
Texas: RHP Nathan Thornhill (4-3, 3.73 ERA)
Texas A&M: RHP Michael Wacha (5-0, 2.48 ERA)
Saturday, April 28, 2012 - 2:30 p.m. Central
Texas: RHP Parker French (5-1, 2.91 ERA)
Texas A&M: RHP Ross Stripling (6-2, 2.65 ERA)
Sunday, April 29, 2012 - 2 p.m. Central
Texas A&M: RHP Rafael Pineda (5-1, 2.87 ERA)