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College Station Regional: Texas A&M Preview

Following yesterday's win over Minnesota, Wake Forest now faces the daunting task of trying to knock of nationally seeded Texas A&M.

Dean Shore

Behind a dominant pitching performance from Parker Dunshee, Wake held on to beat Minnesota 5-3 in the first game of the College Station Regional on Friday. In the nightcap, Texas A&M knocked off Binghamton in a 4-2 game that was closer than many analysts and fans anticipated. The Aggies are the host of the College Station Regional and playing at home as the 4th overall national seed. Texas A&M is the top-ranked team in the country in most national polls entering the NCAAs.

The Diamond Deacs will likely send Drew Loepprich to the mound to face off against Brigham Hill from Texas A&M. While the Aggies used Kyle Simonds last night, generally considered to be their "best" starter, Hill has a minuscule1.88 ERA and an 8-1 record in 11 starts. He has also made 11 relief appearances this season. Hill leads the Aggies in strikeouts with 87 Ks in 86 innings while he has only walked 20 batters.

The Deacs will need to be patient against Hill and take pitches, something the team struggled with early on against Minnesota, but after settling in were able to get to Gophers' lefty starter Dustin Sawyer for five runs. On the mound for Wake, Loepprich will look to pick up where he left off in his last outing against Clemson in the ACC Tournament. The Tigers struggled against Loepprich who threw six innings allowing only one run on four hits while striking out six.

Wake will likely need Loepprich to get at least five or six solid innings if they want to have any chance to win this one. While the bullpen ultimately closed out the Gophers last night when Will Craig came in for the ninth inning save up 5-3, Donnie Sellers and Garrett Kelly both looked a little shaky at times and indicated the weakness of the bullpen for Wake.

On the offensive side of things, Texas A&M enters the NCAA Tournament batting .316 as a team which includes seven of the nine regular starters batting above .300. Leading the Aggies over the course of the season, despite some struggles over the last couple of weeks at the plate, was Boomer White who was named SEC Player of the Year. White batted .395 on the year and has played in all 60 games the Aggies have played this year. White also chipped in four home runs, 42 RBIs, and led the team with an impressive .471 on base percentage.

Another major threat on the TAMU roster comes from Hunter Melton who led the team with 11 home runs and 65 RBI's while batting .309 from the plate. Here's a look at the starting lineup that the Aggies have used the last four games, including the last three games of the SEC Tournament and last night's game against Binghamton (Aggies are 4-0 in these games). All stats are through the SEC Tournament and do not include last night.

J.B. Moss .332 .400 .496 5 42
Nick Banks .300 .371 .512 9 45
Boomer White .395 .471 .524 4 42
Ryne Birk .318 .375 .494 7 41
Michael Barash .321 .391 .430 9 36
Jonathan Moroney .310 .395 .479 2 17
Joel Davis .282 .365 .491 3 19
Hunter Melton .309 .379 .524 11 65
Austin Homan .360 .400 .319 1 22

Although Johnathan Moroney looks to be a weak spot int he lineup, he has only made 15 starts this year and been one of the hottest hitting Aggies over the last few weeks of the season. Quite frankly there are no good spots to get outs with this lineup and the Wake pitching staff is going to constantly be on their toes throughout the game.

Even if Wake is able to keep it close getting into the late innings, they will struggle to get runs across in the board if they need to in the bottom of the 9th as the Aggies also have one of the best closers in the nation in Mark Ecker. Ecker put up a ridiculous .43 ERA over the course of the season with 22 appearances, a 4-2 record, and six saves while only allowing four walks and 23 hits in a total of 41.2 innings. He is difficult to hit and even worse for opposing hitters, is a strike-throwing machine.

The game begins at 9 P.M. EST weather permitting. There is a chance of rain throughout the day in the College Station area and this game is the second of the day, with Minnesota and Binghamton squaring off in an elimination game beginning at 4 P.M. EST. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network and Watch ESPN. Despite Texas A&M playing at home, Wake will be the "home team" and bat second in accordance with NCAA Tournament Regional rules.

For Wake to win this one they will need to play one of the better games they've played all year. The Aggies are one of the best teams in the nation and have their eyes on Omaha and a chance at the College World Series title. If you want to be the best, you've got to beat the best and with a win yesterday Tom Walter and the Diamond Deacs are in a position to knock of Texas A&M today and put themselves in a great place to potentially move on to the Super Regionals next weekend.

With a win, the Deacs would play next on Sunday night and would play the winner of the Texas A&M vs. Binghamton/Minnesota winner. They would need to win only one of the two games against this opponent to advance to the Super Regionals. With a loss, the Deacs would play Sunday afternoon against the winner of Minnesota/Binghamton. With a win in that game, they would then advance to the Sunday night game needing to beat the Aggies twice in order to advance.

If you have any questions or comments please let us know. We will have a game thread up this afternoon and there may be some people around just talking about college baseball in general if you want to stop by. And as always, go Deacs!!