Texas A&M Baseball to Set Sparks in 2020
COLLEGE STATION — They're still here — and they never truly left.
From the crack of the bat, they echo throughout the ballpark. As the sound of the ball buries into the mitt on a swing and miss, the sounds can be heard in the stands. From mud on the pants to dirt in on their sleeves, all the memories of the past will be enshrined in Blue Bell Park.
For Texas A&M infielder Bryce Blaum, his love of the game will be the only thing on his mind this Valentine's Day. Baseball has returned to College Station and winning the SEC Championship should be a present delivered down in Hoover, Ala. later this year.
"It's tough not to have butterflies in front of the 12th Man," Blaum said. "Even that first at-bat and after going through it for a full year, my knees and going to be shaking.
"Just go play,"
Blaum will look to pick up from last season following every player's dream at-bat. In the bottom of the ninth with base-loaded on a 3-2 count, the then-sophomore cranked a grand-slam over the left field fence in Morgantown, W.V. to pick up the come from behind 11-10 victory over West Virginia.
The Aggies would lose the following weekend in the Morgantown Regional to Duke, ending their season just short of a chance at the Super Regionals. With a 39-23-1 record, A&M departed for College Station that evening — knowing the job was incomplete.
The 2020 season is set to bring another promising campaign to Aggieland with veteran manager Rob Childress at the helm. The 15-year vet has taken A&M to the College World Series twice in the past decade (2011 & 2017). With a veteran roster, Childress will hope to continue the active streak of A&M making the NCAA tournament this summer.
And like any standout team under Childress, pitching will be the make or break reason the Aggies succeed this season.
“I think we have the best pitching staff in the country,” Blaum said.
In 2011, future big-leaguers Michael Wacha and Ross Stripling brought A&M to Omaha. In 2017, it was the likes of Brigham Hill, Stephen Kolek and Corbin Martin. Now, in 2019, the Aggies could rely on Lacy, Christian Roa and Chandler Jozwiak to be the triple threat on the diamond that keeps them in contention.
On Friday, Miami of Ohio will be the first victim of Lacy's deadly fastball. And while scouts will need time to figure out the role of the junior southpaw at the next level, Blaum offers his condolences for teams against the next great pitcher in the pros.
“He’s going to be a top pick in the (draft) and deservingly so,” Blaum said. “To have him on our team throwing 97 miles per hour from the left side? Good luck, everybody else.”
The Aggies will return six full-time starters from the 2019 season. As for hitting, even the loss of now Nebraska head coach Will Bolt shouldn't downtrodden fans.
New hitting coach Chad Caillet helped Southern Mississippi's offense become a dangerous unit for the past four seasons.
“Coach Caillet wants our guys to play incredibly fast,” Childress said. “We’re going to force the issue on the bases and force the issue with small-ball hitting and running. We’ve got to have some guys in the middle of the lineup who can challenge the fences and some guys in the front and back of the lineup who can create some offense.”
Lacy will take the mound Friday night and hopefully show fans what to look forward to in the new decade. According to scouts, his projection heading into the season could be the No.1 overall pick. A top three selection is likely the floor after his merits in 2019.
With each season, Lacy has improved on his mechanics, adding velocity to his fastball and meat to his bones. The now 215-pounder is precisely what scouts will look for in a top starter at the professional level.
“Being a Friday starter at A&M is something you have to earn,” Childress said. “We’ve been incredibly talented on the mound over the years, and nobody starts on Friday by default. Asa certainly earned that right. I know he’s going to give us the chance to win on Friday."
As couples cuddle up in the stands, the 12th Man will take the field. A year older, wiser and perhaps a bit more hungry, Childress' squad will want to write their own story in the history books. One that will echo like the stories that remain on the walls of the diamond off Olsen Blvd.
After all, it's Valentine's Day — and everyone loves a happy ending.
"You embrace those butterflies and embrace those moments," senior outfielder Cam Blake said. "You get to define that moment."