With only 13 remaining regular season games and a 5-13 conference record, Texas A&M baseball is feeling the pressure of needing to string wins together if the team wants a shot at the postseason. A&M is currently ranked sixth in the SEC West, but this series against Mississippi State is crucial as the Aggies face No. 15 Ole Miss, LSU and Auburn in their remaining conference series.
Ole Miss is third in the SEC West while LSU and Auburn are fourth and sixth, respectively. Being able to come away from Starkville with at least two wins before facing another ranked opponent and then playing schools with a combined record of 9-27 would be huge for the Aggies’ momentum. It would be a great jumpstart into the last month of the season, especially since after this weekend’s road series the Aggies play six of their last 10 in College Station.
The Bulldogs, 29-10 overall and 11-7 against conference opponents, enter this weekend after travelling to Nashville to face Vanderbilt. They ended up losing the series but won 11 of their last 12 prior, including a series win against Ole Miss, sweeps of Kentucky and Auburn and non-conference blowout wins against Arkansas State, UAB and Southern.
A&M’s leadoff man Ray Alejo said it isn’t necessarily daunting or annoying to keep having to play top-15 teams in the country because choosing to play in the SEC means you embrace the competition rather than hiding from it.
“Playing against the best teams in the country — that’s when it becomes fun, and that’s why I came to Texas A&M,” Alejo said, “To compete against the best in the nation every weekend.”
Coach Rob Childress said every series from now on is absolutely a must-win, and the Aggies will fight and claw their way to wins if they have to.
“[The remaining three series] are all absolutely must-win; we have to go and play well,” Childress said. “Even if we don’t play well, we’ve got to find a way to win ugly — no matter what it takes — make a big play, get a big hit, a big pitch.”
Alejo also said every game left is of the utmost importance and closing games out in the late innings will be key for a shot at the postseason.
“Every game is a must win,” Alejo said. “We need to attack every game and win every inning, and I think, especially late in games, learn to close the game out on the mound and on offense and defense.”
Sophomore pitcher Mason Ornelas said he’s felt the pressure of winning since opening day, and the team will treat each day like it’s the most important of the season.
“I feel like every series since opening day has been must win,” Ornelas said. “We’re looking forward to Friday and taking care of business then and then look forward to Saturday.”
Childress said a big thing that will assist the team in trying to get a couple wins in Starkville is cleaning up mistakes made in the middle innings that rear their head on the scoreboard after the final out.
“We’ve got to continue to put ourselves in the middle of the fight every game,” Childress said. “We have to eliminate the mistakes that end up compounding, so to speak. When we do make a mistake — and those are going to happen — we have got to be able to overcome those.”
The Aggies and the Bulldogs start their series Friday, April 30, at 6:30 p.m. on SEC Network+ from Dudy Noble Field in Starkville, Miss. Games 2 and 3 will both start at 2 p.m. with Game 3 scheduled to broadcast on SEC Network.