Series Preview: at No. 12 Tennessee

WTAW 1620 94.5 Aggie Baseball Featured

Credit to Ben Rikard | Assistant Director, Athletics Communications

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The No. 21 Texas A&M Aggies will face their first true road test of the year over the weekend beginning Friday when they open a three-game series against the defending SEC champion and 12th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers.

The Aggies are making their first visit to Rocky Top since 2018 and will be looking to take their first series from the Vols since winning two of three games at Blue Bell Park in 2017.

TV/STREAMING: All three games of the weekend can be watched on the ESPN family of networks and the Watch ESPN app… Friday and Sunday will each be streamed on SEC Network+ with Andy Brock and Cody Hawn handling the call… Saturday’s game will be aired on ESPN2 with Derek Jones and Chris Burke on the call.

RADIO: The game can be heard locally on WTAW 1620 AM and 94.5 FM locally… Andrew Monaco will be on the call for the series… the pregame show begins 15 minutes prior to first pitch.

SOCIAL: Fans can get in-game updates on social media by following @AggieBaseball on Twitter.

– The Aggies are 10-6 all-time against Tennessee, including 6-3 in Knoxville
– The Aggies and Vols have not met since 2021 when Tennessee took two of three games at Blue Bell Park
– The Aggies won eight of the first nine meetings in the all-time series, which began in 2005 when A&M won 10-1 at the Minute Maid College Classic in Houston

Since joining the SEC for the 2013 season the Aggies are 4-3 in series against a defending SEC champion, neither having swept nor been swept by the reigning champ. In total, Texas A&M is 11-10 in games vs the defending SEC champion, most recently taking two of three games in 2022 from Arkansas, the 2021 SEC champ.

The Aggies have gone with the same weekend rotation of Dettmer/Wansing/Cortez for each of the first five weekends of 2023 but will change things up on Sunday when freshman lefty Justin Lamkin gets the ball for his first SEC start.

To this point Lamkin has passed every test put in front of him, allowing just three runs in 20.1 innings with a .179 opponent batting average. He’s made two starts this year on Tuesdays vs Rice and Houston but shined on Sunday vs No. 1 LSU when he set the Aggies up for a comeback win against the Tigers, holding the LSU lineup scoreless with 5 strikeouts through 4.1 innings before issuing a leadoff walk in the eighth that led to a run after his departure.

In addition to moving Lamkin to the rotation, Cortez will shift to the bullpen where he gives A&M an immediate impact right-handed relief arm. He filled that role as a freshman in 2022, making 24 relief appearances and earning SEC All-Freshman honors.

Junior Trevor Werner was a preseason second team All-SEC choice but had missed seven straight games before a pinch hit appearance late in the game Sunday vs LSU. Werner then got the start at DH on Tuesday vs Rice and is expected to be penciled in again this weekend at Tennessee. In his return vs the Owls he responded with two hits and two runs scored, including a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth that provided key insurance runs in the Aggies’ win over the Owls.

Whether at Blue Bell Park or Minute Maid Park, Sundays have been a success for the Aggies so far in 2023. Texas A&M is 5-0 in weekend finales for the first time since 2016 and has outscored its opponents 41-21 in those games.

There were a number of heroes from Sunday’s win over No. 1 LSU, including junior Stanley Tucker. The transfer from New Mexico JC entered midway through Sunday’s game and three plate appearances, going 2-for-2 with a pair of singles and a walk. That included a go-head, two-run single in the bottom of the ninth off Tiger closer Christian Little that surged the Aggies ahead 7-6. The Aggies are 7-0 in games in which Tucker has played in 2023.

When Aggie head coach Jim Schlossnagle looks across the field to the other dugout at Lindsey Nelson Stadium this weekend he is going to see multiple coaches who he once shared the same uniform with in his previous stop at TCU. That includes Volunteer head coach Tony Vitello who was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator on Schlossnagle’s Horned Frog staff from 2011-13 before moving on to Arkansas. Another connection is that of current Tennesee Associate Head Coach/Recruiting Coordinator Josh Elander who was the TCU catcher from 2010-12, earning all-America honors before being drafted in the sixth round of the 2012 MLB Draft. Elander was with Schlossnagle for a pair of trips to Omaha, in 2010 as a player and again in 2016 as a student assistant coach.

Aggie shortstop Hunter Haas has been stellar for Texas A&M through 21 games this year and enters the weekend having hit safely in each of his last eight games, the longest active streak on the roster. He is hitting .486 (18-for-37) during that stretch with an inside-the-park homer last week at Houston and four doubles.

The former Arizona State infielder has been everything you could ask for of a top-of-the-order hitter and has reached base in 20 of 21 games this year. He currently leads the team and ranks in the top 10 of the SEC with a .413 average and .520 on-base percentage.

Former Arizona State roommates, Hunter Haas and Jack moss are now manning the top of the Aggie order with Haas hitting in front of Moss in each game this year. Not only is Haas on fire with an eight-game hit streak, but Moss has raised his average from .264 when the Aggies last faced Rice on March 8 to .333 entering the weekend after a three-hit game in Tuesday’s win over Rice. He has five multi-hit games in his last seven games and reached base three times in each of his last three games.

Not that there’s an easy stretch of an SEC season, but the Aggies’ start to 2023 is right there with other tough roads to open a league slate. A&M hosted the No. 1 LSU Tigers last week and this weekend travel to defending SEC champion Tennessee before facing the defending national champ, Ole Miss, a week later. Should the Vols and Rebels stay in the top 25 each of the next two weeks, it will be the third straight season the Aggies have had a stretch of three straight SEC series vs ranked opponents.

The Aggies are 2-2 against ranked opponents entering the series vs the Vols with wins over No. 24 Texas Tech and No. 1 LSU, while also losing twice to the Tigers. Texas A&M has 18 games remaining on its schedule against teams currently ranked in the national top 25. They are 18-8 against ranked opponents in 2 seasons under Jim Schlossnagle.

It’s rare to see a non-conference opponent more than three times without a weekend series college baseball, but that’s exactly what has happened with the Aggies and Rice this year. The Owls were on the slate twice in the year’s original schedule but were added a third time when the weekend slate was altered for the Shriners Children’s College Classic at Minute Maid Park just prior to the start of the year. The 288 meetings between Rice and A&M arethe third most played rivalry in Aggie history behind Texas and Baylor, but 2023 is the first time since a Southwest Conference series in 1993 that A&M has managed to defeat Rice three times in a single season, completing the feat with Tuesday’s win.