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Bracket Breakdown: College Station

By Jake McKeever

It's the regional everyone saw coming a mile away, and the most "regional" regional. Texas A&M will play Grambling State to open play, with UL and Texas kicking off the night game.

1 seed: Texas A&M

Texas A&M will roll into the tournament as one of the most balanced teams in the country. While they slipped a little down the stretch, those were away from the friendly confines of Blue Bell Park, something the Aggies would not leave until the College World Series. 

While Texas A&M went to Omaha in 2022, they took a massive step back in 2023, finishing around .500 in SEC play. The issues were well documented, pitching, in particular, walks, was what held this team back.

Well, the Aggies addressed those issues in a big way this off season, bringing over Max Wiener from the MLB ranks. His guidance let to a resurgence of Ryan Prager and major steps forward for Chris Cortes and Shane Sdao. It is a staff that is top 10 in the country. Prager is your prototypical long rangy lefty who sits around 90 with tremendous off speed. He was undefeated at home, and has a sub-1.00 ERA in Blue Bell. Another arm to watch is Evan Aschenbeck, the lefty. He is back to pounding the zone and induces weak contact.

The hitting has some headliners as well. It starts with leadoff and SEC Freshman of the year Gavin Grahovac. The newcomer started nearly every game at third, and saw his average over .300 in 54 of the 56 games. Right behind Gavin in the lineup is lefty Jace Laviolette, a First Team ALL SEC Outfielder. Laviolette took big steps forward in 2024, moving to center field and playing tremendous defense, as well as setting new career highs in nearly every statistical category. The reason for the move to center was the arrival of Braden Montgomery. The projected first-rounder was a big get out of the portal and has fit in nicely in College Station. He, too, loves to launch homers at Blue Bell.

 Like every national seed, the Aggies will likely be a tough out.

2 seed: Louisiana

The Ragin' Cajuns will roll into College Station seeing some familiar faces. This is the Cajuns' third straight regional, and in each of those years, they drew a team from Texas. Two years ago, 2022 saw the Cajuns winning against TCU in the opening game, before dropping two straight to the Aggies and then TCU. Last year, 2023 saw UL head east, but despite the long bus ride, they opened with the Texas Longhorns. While Grambling State is not a tournament foe, UL has played them in 2024. 

We cannot talk about UL without starting with Kyle DeBarge. The Barbe product collected the Sun Belt player of the year in 2024 and has been a mainstay in a pesky and deep Cajun lineup. 

DeBarge, a Dick Howser Award Semifinalist and SBC Preseason Player of the Year, finished the regular season with a .361 average, a team-high 21 home runs, and 67 RBI. Trey LaFleur is the table setter at the top of the lineup and will be tough to keep off base. LaFleur finished second behind DeBarge in hitting during the regular season at .360, with 10 homers and 37 RBI. The senior ranked among the SBC leaders in batting average and slugging percentage (.673) and recorded 15 multi-hit games, 9 games with multiple RBI.

While the Cajuns are considered a “mid-major,” they have one of the deepest pitching staffs in the country. LP Langevin was the Sun Belt pitcher of the team, and has made the adjustment from Juco to D1 seamlessly. Langevin, a Dick Howser Award Semifinalist and named to the NCBWA Midseason Stopper of the Year Watch List, posted a team-best 6-1 record on the mound in his first season in a Louisiana uniform, while also leading the team with seven saves. Langevin finished as the SBC leader in strikeouts (97) and was 25th nationally. The right-hander was third nationally in strikeouts per nine innings (15.22) and sixth in hits allowed per nine innings (5.07). Freshman Chase Morgan is another name to watch out of the pen.

3 seed: Texas

The Texas Longhorns roll into the tournament as a bit of a mystery. They have some of the worst losses of any tournament team. Defeats to BYU and Washington, as well as midweek setbacks to Texas A&M CC and UTRGV, diminish their profile. But, they hold series wins over tournament teams UCF, KSU, OSU and OU. 

Throughout the struggles of the season, the offense is what kept the Horns afloat. While Jared Thomas has the headliner all throughout the year, we need to start with outfielder Max Belyeu. Belyeu was not a regular in 2023; in fact he started only 15 games. He struggled early in non conference play before rising to the occasion as the season progressed.

The sophomore hit .341 with 14 doubles and 49 RBI. He is the fifth Texas player to win the Big 12 Player of the Year award, the second in the past three seasons. Jared Thomas also had a standout year, bouncing between center field and first base throughout the year. He leads the team with a .363 average. Jalin Flores was in a make-or-break year, after we saw flashes of his bat last year in the Coral Gables Regional, and big things were to be expected of him at short. He rose to the occasion in a big way.  Flores shares the team lead in home runs with Belyeu and is batting .348 with a team-high 21 doubles and 50 RBI. 

4 seed: Grambling

Grambling State is a team peaking at the right time, and despite the 26-26 overall record, they are 18-8 in SWAC play. SWAC scheduling is unique in that they play a bunch of conference opponents early on. They took their lumps at the start of the season, then rolled through the SWAC tournament, defeating FAMU twice in elimination games.

The offense starts with second baseman Kyle Walker. The Louisiana Tech transfer is the name you circle in the lineup. He was first team all SWAC and is currently batting .394 with 11 home runs and 41 RBI. Cameron Buford is another name to track. Like many others around the country, Bufford owns his school's home run record. He set the record on March 2 versus Florida A&M and currently sits at 45 career homers. His season total is .349 with 56 RBI, and 6 home runs. 

Pitcher Mason Martinez has the tall task of facing this loaded Texas A&M lineup.  Martinez has proven to be one of the best hurlers in the SWAC, owning a record of 12-2. He sports an ERA of 4.33, the fifth best in the conference. He's also second in the conference with 85 strikeouts in 112.1 innings pitched. Something to track is that he also limits the power of opposing hitters, surrendering four home runs, the second fewest in the SWAC.


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