No. 3 seed Mississippi (35-24) vs. No. 2 seed TCU (36-19), 1:30 p.m. ET
No. 4 seed Dayton (31-28) vs. 1 seed Texas A&M (42-16), 7:30 p.m. ET
- – -
Texas A&M didn’t fare well in its final Big 12 Conference Tournament before heading for the SEC, losing two straight after a first-round victory over Kansas.
But the Aggies’ body of work in the regular season was enough to earn their sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament invitation, a No. 1 regional seed and a host role at Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park in College Station. A&M (42-16) faces Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament winner Dayton (31-28) at 7:30 p.m. EDT Friday to cap the first day. No. 2 seed TCU (36-19) faces No. 3 Mississippi (35-24) at 1:30 p.m. to open the double-elimination event.
Aggies coach Rob Childress believes his team can use last weekend’s flameout in Oklahoma City as motivation for this weekend as it resumes work toward a second consecutive College World Series berth.
“They’ve got a dirty taste in their mouth, all of us do, of losing,” said Childress, whose team entered the Big 12 Tournament on a seven-game winning streak. “I kind of feel like a football coach right now. You’ve got to sit on (a loss) for a full week. And, I don’t like it.”
Dayton has the longest winning streak of the four participants; the Flyers have won six straight games.
The Flyers lead the nation with 162 stolen bases and have eight players in double figures. A&M is fourth with 127.
“We control the running game on the mound,” Childress said. “If we can do the things that it takes to do that – throw strikes and get the leadoff hitter, then we take all the pressure off the catcher. The catcher needs to throw out the guys he’s supposed to throw out – the bad jumps, the missed hit-and-runs.”
Michael Wacha (8-1, 2.21) is the scheduled Friday starter for the Aggies, who have a regional-best 2.86 staff ERA. Dayton is expected to counter with senior right-hander Mike Hauschild (7-2, 4.29).
“We know baseball is great in the state of Texas, period” said Flyers coach Tony Vittorio. “We know we’re playing in one of the best facilities on campus in the country in Texas A&M’s facility here. We try not to look at that stuff, play our own game and understand what got us here. We have to remember what got us here: get on base and get to the next base.”
Mississippi and TCU played to open the se4ason, with the teams splitting two games and a third one getting canceled because of weather.
Interestingly, the winning pitchers in those two games are matched against each other on Friday. Bobby Wahl (6-3, 2.26) of Mississippi allowed five hits and two runs in five innings as the Rebels won, 7-4, in the season opener Feb. 17.
TCU’s Preston Morrison (9-1, 1.73) pitched 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief in Game 2 of the series, which the Horned Frogs won, 5-3, Feb. 19.
“It is good that we have played them before,” said TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle. “It’s good for them and it’s good for us. I’m sure (Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco) would say they’re a much different team than they were the second week of February – and I know we are.”
“Jim has done a great job (at TCU),” Bianco said. “I think every year he’s been there they’ve been to the postseason. … It’s a team that’s used to going to the postseason with quite a bit of experience and guys that are used to winning. ”
Prediction: The Aggies’ pitching staff is deep, always a plus in a tournament situation. TCU has the tournament experience and tradition to take control of Texas A&M makes a misstep.
1. Texas A&M. 2. TCU. 3. Mississippi. 4. Dayton.