The frigid weather inside Minute Maid Park did not deter fans of Houston and Texas A&M, who filled most of the lower level in the best-attended game of the Houston College Classic. The bundled-up Aggies fans might not have realized it, but the weather also might have helped their team beat the Cougars 3-2.
A&M sophomore righthander Kyle Thebeau said he loved the conditions, and it showed, as Thebeau struck out eight and allowed just one run over 5 1/3 innings.
"I really liked the weather a lot, it kind of kept me from sweating–sometimes I have trouble with my hand sweating when I'm pitching," Thebeau said.
One scouting director said Thebeau impressed him most for his competitiveness and refusal to let up on hitters, but he also showed better secondary stuff than he possessed as a freshman. Aggies coach Rob Childress said the biggest difference is Thebeau's development of a slider, giving him a reliable third pitch.
"I've been definitely working a lot on it," Thebeau said of his hard slider. "I've been throwing it for about a year and a half now, and finally I've been starting to show signs that it's a pitch I can use to get people out. My changeup is actually my second pitch, my slider just happened to be working today. My changeup is definitely my best pitch, my go-to pitch."
Texas A&M also got another terrific outing from junior righthander Jordan Chambless, who followed up his five-strikeout performance in 1 2/3 innings last week with six strikeouts and no walks in 3 1/3 innings of relief against the Cougars, allowing just one hit (a solo home run to Jimmy Cesario). He entered the game with runners on second and third and two outs in the sixth inning, with the score tied 1-1, and struck out Luis Flores to end the threat.
"Ever since I came here, those are the situations they've been putting me in–runners on, pitcher's in trouble, gotta come in and get out of it," Chambless said. "I guess he figures since I'm a strikeout pitcher that I'm going to come in and shut the door on it. But I'm not really thinking about runners on base."
Chambless is just thinking about baseball, which is a welcome change from years past when the former defensive back for the A&M football team was often preoccupied by football. He decided last year to focus solely on baseball, and for the first time since arriving at College Station he was able to spend the fall working on refining his secondary stuff.
"All I'm thinking about right now is throwing strikes, I'm not thinking about anything else," he said. "I'm not thinking about what's going on on the football field, I'm not thinking about what I'm going to do in the offseason, all I'm thinking right now is baseball. I think that's been the biggest turnaround for me in my baseball career. Especially at this level, it's too difficult to play two. I might have not thought that I was focusing on football during baseball season, but in the back of my mind I was. Now it's just totally baseball. I've got one thing to think about, and it's really helped me."
Chambless said he has developed his slider to the point that he can throw it for strikes in hitter's counts, and he got most of his strikeouts tonight with the slider or his curveball. The scouting director said he liked Chambless' 79-81 mph slider, his 74-76 curveball and his 88-91 fastball. Chambless added that he's working on developing a changeup to use against lefthanded hitters, though he hasn't used it in game action yet.
"I stayed away from the changeup tonight," Chambless said. "I only faced like one or two lefties, and one of them I gave him a fastball and he hit it out, but once I feel more confident with the changeup I'll use it against lefties."
Having that extra weapon could make Chambless shoot up draft boards, but he already helped himself plenty tonight with his dominance in front of dozens of scouts.