Opening day for the Texas A&M baseball team always brings the swirling curiosity and excitement of questions yet to be answered about the newest edition of Aggies.
In recent history, one question has always been answered long before A&M takes the field — who will be handed the ball to pitch the opener.
As the Aggies kickstart the 2020 season with a 6:30 p.m. Friday first pitch against Miami (Ohio), junior left-hander Asa Lacy will take the mound in his progression to staff ace that has been two years in the making.
“He just wants to be the best,” head coach Rob Childress said. “He wants to be the best in the country and everything that he does, and he works hard at his craft.”
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Lacy served last season as an understudy to ace John Doxakis, staking his claim on the Aggies’ Game 2 starts in three-game series. He also had the best opening stretch to the season of A&M’s starters last year, throwing nearly two months before taking his first loss against Auburn on April 13.
Lacy finished the season with an 8-4 record and 2.13 ERA in 104 2/3 innings pitched and an added respect from his teammates for the four-pitch dominance he showcased.
“[Doxakis’] thing was he was so competitive,” senior outfielder Cam Blake said. “You just didn’t want to hit off him just because of that look in his eye. Asa’s got more of the stuff. He’s got an electric arm and electric stuff. Now Asa can just jump into that Friday role like nothing happened.”
Over the previous two seasons, Lacy added 30 pounds of muscle to his 185-pound frame thanks to a regimented diet and A&M’s weight program. On the field, Lacy has used summer league baseball to help hone his secondary pitches. In the Alaska Baseball League after his freshman season, Lacy worked with Mat-Su Miners’ pitching coach Jeff Urlaub to develop his curveball.
Then last summer Lacy improved his slider while playing for Team USA under pitching coach Greg Moore, the head coach of St. Mary’s University. Lacy pitched 12 innings in three appearances for Team USA, allowing three runs on nine hits for a 2.25 ERA. He also struck out nine.
“It was just a reminder that you’re always playing for something bigger than yourself, whether it’s playing here at Texas A&M or Team USA and the stars and stripes,” Lacy said. “I learned a lot from a lot of my teammates, and it was overall a really great experience that’s going to help me this year.”
Lacy is backed by a pair of junior pitchers in right-hander Christian Roa and lefty Chandler Jozwiak.
Roa will start Saturday’s game at 2 p.m. after going 2-1 with a 3.19 ERA last season. Roa took over the No. 3 starter’s role midway through last season when freshman Jonathan Childress suffered damage to his ulnar collateral ligament.
While his place at the top of A&M’s rotation was mostly concrete, Lacy said Roa pushed him during fall practice.
“We had a few guys make some really big strides,” Lacy said. “Christian Roa has been right there on my tail the whole time, really working his butt off, and he could easily pitch on Friday night’s as well.”
Jozwiak, who will start the noon Sunday finale, started 14 games over the last two seasons, compiling a 6-5 record with a 4.65 ERA.
Lacy begins his season as a unanimous preseason first-team All-American through the five major outlets and a member of the preseason All-Southeastern Conference team. He also was named to the Golden Spikes Award watchlist Thursday, becoming the 12th A&M player to appear on the list. Many also project Lacy as a first-round pick in the 2020 MLB draft.
Until then, there isn’t anyone else A&M’s players said they would like leading the charge into the 2020 season.
“That guy’s incredible,” second baseman Bryce Blaum said. “His work ethic is second to none. He’s not complacent at all. He’s going to give you everything he’s got every single day. We’re very fortunate to have him on our team, and it’s cool seeing the younger guys take steps behind him and follow his lead.”