COLLEGE STATION, Texas. – Rob Childress and the Texas A&M Aggies have seen the Southeastern Conference at its best, leading them in 2014 to the schools second consecutive appearance in the SEC Tournament. But he has also had a front-row seat to their school-record eight consecutive NCAA Championships, two regular-season conference titles, three conference tournament titles, as well as their 2011 College World Series appearance.
After Texas A&M beat Rice in a 4-3 comeback win on Tuesday, Childress was asked by College Baseball Central why his team is doing so well in 2015, ranked No. 2 with a 31-2 record 9-2 in the SEC. He gave high praise to the university and players.
“Our guys understand the only ranking that matters is the last one,” Childress said. “With it being our third year there is starting to become a sense of comfort. We know who we’re playing, and we have been to a lot of the venues, they’ve been here, and the newness has kind of worn off and I think that’s been a good thing. You look at the facilities and it just screams commitment.”
With Tuesday’s game against Rice, the Aggies embarked on a critical nine-game homestand that includes a three-game series against Mississippi State (21-14, 5-7 SEC) this coming weekend, and then a midweek matchup versus Abilene Christian (8-21, 6-7 Southland), followed by a three-game set against Arkansas (17-15, 5-7 SEC) and close out the stand when UT Arlington (14-17, 5-7 Sun-Belt) visits on April 21.
It’s important that Texas A&M does well over this stretch because they play 10 of their last 14 games on the road that include visits to LSU, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Ole Miss. None of which are a walk through the park.
“It’s the ultimate challenge in our sport,” Childress told CBC. “Going across the country playing in the SEC. Every team is committed to winning, you’ve got great head coaches, great assistants that are out recruiting great players, everybody’s good. It’s kind of like eating an elephant, the only thing you can do is one bite at a time. You just got to keep your head down and your kids pointed forward, and not let them be concerned about yesterday, it’s all about today.”
TAMU has some incredible talent on the squad, starting with sophomore outfielder Nick Banks. Banks is batting .431, which is first in the SEC and fourth in the nation. He has stolen five bases in six attempts and has tallied six doubles, two triples, and three home runs while getting on board base 64 times in 31 games.
“Nick just has a great combination of strength and speed,” Childress said. “He’s a guy that when he’s not going real good he can hit the ball in the six-hole and beat it out because he can run. He’s just got a really good approach, very level headed and because he can run so well his low times don’t last very long.”
Senior catcher Mitchell Nau, who against Rice led all offensive players, going 3-for-3 with one walk, one double and one RBI, is hitting .365 (42-for-115) with 29 RBI, 28 runs, eight doubles and three home runs.
“He’s a senior and he’s playing like a senior,” Childress told College Baseball Central. “Mitchell has always kind of been in and out of the lineup for us during his career. He went out this summer really on a mission and transformed his body. He’s been a great leader for us, kind of our emotional leader.”
And let’s not forget senior infielder Blake Allemand, he is hitting a robust .328 (38-for-116) and has drawn 19 base-on-balls with a .417 OBP. Allemand has three home runs and has crossed the plate to score 30 runs in 32 contests while stealing four bases in as many attempts.
On the mound, the Aggies have seen junior right-hander Grayson Long post a 6-0 record by way of a 2.45 ERA. He has started eight games has fanned 56 batters in 44.0 innings of work while receiving two SEC pitcher of the week honors in 2015.
“We are really proud of him,” Childress said of Grayson. “He’s really grown up and matured not only as a pitcher but as a young man. He is very diligent in his preparation week in week out and he gives us a chance every Friday when he takes the ball. He’s been consistent in the things that he’s done, and over the course of his three years here at Texas A&M he’s come a long way.”
Texas A&M is ruling the SEC and national categories with an iron fist. They are batting .319 as a team (2nd SEC, 4th nationally), and their team ERA of 2.11 is first in the SEC and second in the nation. They are first in the SEC in home runs (38), first in the SEC in RBI (236), thirteenth in the nation in hits (341), and fifth nationally in on-base-percentage (.415).
The domination doesn’t stop there however; TAMU is ranked in the nation, eighth in runs (248), sixth in slugging percentage (.483), seventh in strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.48), eighteenth in WHIP (1.15), and twenty-second in strikeouts per nine innings (8.9).
“We’ve got very talented pitchers and from a defensive standpoint I feel like we are improving as we go,” Childress said. “Our only goal as a staff going into any season is to lead the league in fewest amount of walks per nine innings, and let all the other stats that people talk about take care of themselves. Our guys do a great job of attacking the strike zone and making the other team earn everything that they get.”