The 2009 season has featured few weeks that have truly followed the script that Aggie fans laid out, but this past week was a welcome exception. A&M dominated Rice on Tuesday, and followed that with three consecutive blowout wins over Nebraska - an 8-2 Friday win followed by a pair of 10-1 dismantlings. The wins run A&M's record to 25-12 overall, and 11-7 in the league (good for second place, just 1 game back of league leading Texas).
Those who've watched the Aggie/Husker rivalry can tell you that this Nebraska squad was much more of your Dad's Nebraska baseball team than your older brother's. Though featuring many of the same players, their talent level from '08 to '09 seems to have fallen off of the plate. After Friday's contest, Rob Childress called this Nebraska club the best hitting team, top-to-bottom, that A&M has seen all year.
The boxscores and game observations would suggest that Childress was throwing his former colleague, Mike Anderson, a bit of bone in the media. One thing is certain though...even if he was right, you'd have never known this weekend.
The past four games have been pretty close to as picture-perfect baseball as you can expect to see out of anyone playing the #1 team in the country and then a perennial league power. A&M hit incredibly well, pitched even better, and ran up the total in the win column on the back of not only great play when needed - but by not making mistakes.
Yes, Nebraska may be down, but good teams make the opposition pay for mistakes. Nebraska kicked the ball around a total of six times, and A&M turned them frequently into runs (as the game flowed, though, only one run all weekend was unearned). Some errors don't show up in the boxscore, like failing to cover second on Sunday so Brodie Greene could take an extra bag on a throw in the infield, or not paying attention to a classic Matt Deggs double squeeze play. The errors came from the Nebraska dugout too, like walking Dylan Petrich to set up a 6th inning double play ball, and the following sequence of events (Kyle Colligan stealing third on an intentional ball, then a pickoff move to first that ends up in right field) opened the floodgates. There were real errors, scoreboard errors, errors between the ears - and A&M routinely made the Huskers pay for them.
What A&M *didn't* do, however, is make mistakes of their own. A&M had no errors on the weekend, and have now gone eight straight contests without committing one (believed to be a school record). Aggie pitchers did not walk anyone on Saturday or Sunday, and the current streak of innings without issuing a base-on-balls is at 20.1. The Aggies weren't perfect with runners in scoring position, but they were significantly better than in previous weeks. Most importantly, when given the chance to bury the Huskers, they did it every time.
Childress and his staff made some relatively wholesale changes to the team this week, and they all seem to be paying dividends right now. On the pitching side, Alex Wilson was moved from Saturday starter to ultimate-firefighter, and did a tremendous job in three appearances this week (6 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 9 K, 1 BB). Ross Hales had his second career Big 12 start, scattering 5 hits in 5.2 IP with just one earned run, and Kyle Thebeau started for the first time in nearly a few dozen appearances and similarly shut the Huskers down (7 IP, 4 H, 4 K, 1 ER). Throw in another great Brooks Raley performance (1 R, 1 H in 7.1 IP with 4 K) and some situational play elsewhere (including two more game-ending outings from Nick Fleece), and a retooled pitching staff looked awfully good.
Offensively, everyone watching the team has wanted to find consistency in the line-up while also getting the right nine guys in the game. When you're struggling to find the right lineup, that's hard to do, but Childress rolled with Tuesday's line-up on Friday and Saturday, combined with just a minor change on Sunday (Joe Patterson hitting instead of Dylan Petrich), and dividends were paid. For the week, A&M hit .360 (45 for 125) with seven doubles, four home runs, 22 walks, seven stolen bases, and 35 runs scored. In fact, A&M's lowest run total of the week (seven against Rice) matched the total number of runs allowed by the pitching staff the entire week combined.