With no-hitter, Simonds leads A&M quest for national seed


Fresh off a series win over Vanderbilt that was capped by Kyle Simonds’ no-hitter, Texas A&M has the look of a team destined for a top-eight national seed for the NCAA Tournament.

The second-ranked Aggies (37-10, 16-8) have won 15 of their last 18, lead the SEC West and are fourth in the RPI. They won’t allow themselves to get comfortable, though, not after being passed over for a national seed last year despite a resume that appeared to merit one.

A national seed assures a team of playing at home through super regionals. Last year, the Aggies had to go on the road for super regionals and lost to TCU.

“The older guys, we want to make sure we get past that and punch our ticket to Omaha,” Simonds said, “so I can’t tell you how much it means to us to be playing well right now. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing.”

Simonds doesn’t deny daydreaming about what it would be like to play in Omaha at the College World Series. He grew up in Grand Island, Nebraska, about 130 miles west of TD Ameritrade Park.

The senior right-hander has played a key role in the Aggies’ surge. Since A&M was swept at Florida, Simonds (8-1) has regained command of his breaking ball and allowed just five earned runs over 35 2/3 innings (1.26 ERA) spanning five starts.

On Saturday, he followed his first career complete game, against Arkansas on May 1, with the SEC’s first no-hitter in a conference game since 1994. Simonds’ bid was aided by two big defensive plays in the ninth inning – center fielder Nick Choruby’s diving catch for the second out and Simonds’ game-ending catch of Jeren Kendall’s hot liner.

Simonds said he thought Kaiser’s ball might drop in front of Choruby.

“Sure enough he gave everything he had and laid out,” Simonds said. “I can’t thank the kid enough for giving everything he had.”

Improved pitching the last month has complemented an offense that’s batting .320 and scoring 7.4 runs a game. Third baseman Boomer White, a national player-of-the-year candidate, is second in the country with a .441 average – and an incredible .520 in SEC games.

“Early in the year our offense was able to cover up our shortcomings on the mound,” Aggies coach Rob Childress said. “The last 2-3 weeks we haven’t gone as good offensively as we did early. The (opposing) pitching has been a big part of that. But our pitching has matched the other teams’, and that’s given us a chance to win series the last month.”


A look around the country:

RALLY POSSUM: LSU’s sweep of Arkansas was highlighted by Saturday’s 10-9, 10-inning win in which the Tigers rallied from a 9-1 fifth-inning deficit. It was LSU’s biggest comeback win since April 10, 1988. The Tigers were still down 9-5 in the seventh when the game was delayed while a baby possum traipsed through the outfield. Arkansas committed four errors leading to six LSU runs in the final four innings after the possum appeared.

HERE COME THE HUSKIES: Washington will go into this weekend’s home series against rival Washington State no worse than tied for first in the Pac-12. The Huskies (27-16, 13-8) took two of three on the road against Southern California, with Ryan Schmitten allowing one hit over seven innings in a 6-0 win Sunday.

FORTY AND COUNTING: Top-ranked Florida (40-8) won two of three against Tennessee and reached 40 wins faster than any other Gators team, needing just 48 games. The previous best was 52 games to reach 40 wins, by the 1996 squad.

SAME OLD, SAME OLD: Clemson has clinched its 52nd consecutive winning season, the third-longest active streak in Division I behind Florida State (69) and Miami (59). The Tigers (31-16) did it by winning two of three against North Carolina State.

CROWDED AT TOP: The top eight teams in the Big Ten are separated by three games or fewer with two weeks left in the regular season. Indiana won its series at Minnesota to take over first place. The Gophers and Michigan, which swept Rutgers, are a half-game behind the Hoosiers.

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