Gameday. The Aggie baseball team begins their quest for a regional crown this afternoon at HI Corbett Field in Tucson. Make no mistake, this is a ball club that possesses the talent and ability to win this regional. The Aggies proved with their play in March. They've faced tough pitching, they've faced great offenses, they've played in hostile environments and maybe more importantly they've faced adversity and come through it.
That might be the most important piece of the puzzle for this ball club. There's been a lot of talk about the club getting a "new lease on life" or a "second chance" by getting an at-large bid and to a certain degree there's a lot of truth to that.
This is a club that was a lock to make the regionals prior to the start of conference play, they were a lock to make the regionals after the first half of conference play. Then a 4-10 stretch to close the season put that in jeopardy (though as it turns out the Aggies' overall body of work was enough to make them a number two seed in the Tucson Regional).
What do the Aggies will with this opportunity? Head coach Rocky Ward noted this morning that there's a different feel about this trip to the NCAA Regionals than the first two, a little more pressure this time because this is a team that "isn't just happy to be here," but a team that's capable of advancing.
This afternoon the team takes the field against Louisville, the three-seed in the regional but a team that just as easily could have been the two-seed. They're sending their ace Justin Amlung to the mound to start the game. Amlung was named the Big East Pitcher of the Year and yesterday was named a Third Team All-American by Louisville Slugger. Aggie catcher Zac Fisher was also named to the Third Team.
Amlung comes in with good numbers, an 8-4 record, a sterling 2.36 ERA with 100 strikeouts in 103.0 innings pitched. Our contact at College Baseball Daily who has seen Amlung in person noted that Amlung isn't overpowering but he "just gets guys out." The Cardinals also have a potent offensive lineup. They've got a team batting average of .292 led by Ty Young who is batting .349 with nine doubles, three triples and six home runs. They also run very well stealing 93 bases on 116 attempts and the Aggies will no doubt be away from Justin Engel who has successfully swiped 35-of-37 this year.
The Aggies will go to the mound with ace Ryan Beck. His outings have not been great the last three or four times to the mound but when Beck is on, he is dominating with his breaking ball and he may be the best pitcher in the country with a 5-6 record. The Aggie offense has started rounding back into form over the last two weeks and it'll be important for them to keep that rolling. This game should feature plenty of runs with both offenses very capable of putting up big numbers.
Perhaps one of the biggest keys for the Aggies today and this entire weekend will be their defensive play. They've struggled a bit defensively as of late and hit has cost them, the ten run inning against Fresno State being prime example. The Aggies' three errors in the inning led to eight unearned runs and effectively sealed the Aggies' fate in that game.
One other thing to watch for is the strike zone. If it's a tight strike zone that will tend to favor the Aggie hitters who show tremendous discipline at the plate (they lead the nation in walks with 342 and leadoff man Tanner Waite is tops individually in the nation with 69).
The game is scheduled for a 5:00 p.m. (MDT) first pitch and can be seen on ESPNU and streaming online on WatchESPN (ESPN3.com). The can can also be heard on KSNM AM 570 in Las Cruces with streaming audio online via Aggie Access (subscription required).
Teddy Feinberg of the Las Cruces Sun-News shares three keys to the game.
Teddy Feinberg also writes that the time is now for the Aggie baseball team.
Teddy Feinberg features Aggie first baseman Tanner Rust.
Jim Hilley of the Las Cruces Bulletin talks about the Aggies' second chances.
KTSM NBC 9 in El Paso has a video preview.
Ryan Finley of the Arizona Daily Star shares notes from the regional.
If you've found an article that you think other Aggie fans would like to read, send it to us! Select "The Daily Aggie" from the 'Category' drop-down