By Stephen Francis
There were three big series going on this weekend involving Texas teams, and one of them (Texas vs. Stanford) was already covered by fellow College Baseball 360 contributor Jack Blanchat so the focus this week is on the Houston College Classic and the TCU-Texas Tech series.
TCU @ Texas Tech
What looked like a competitive series on paper (TCU entered the game at 4-4 in the midst of a three game losing streak and Texas Tech came in at 8-2 with a team batting average of .366) turned out to be the shot in the arm that the Horned Frogs needed.
TCU dominated in 25 of the 27 innings played, as those were the only two where Texas Tech put anything on the scoreboard. The Frogs also received a huge offensive boost for the weekend from a bat that had remained relatively dormant through the first eight games of the season.
Left fielder Jason Coats entered the weekend with a meager .125 batting average with just four hits and seven strikeouts in 32 at bats. That made it no further than the first at bat of the second inning when he drove a single up the middle. That little hit ignited a spark that reminded Frog fans of 2010 again. He then added another single, a triple, and then a mammoth home run that’s rumored to still be in the air before finally being retired for the first time of the game in the ninth inning. On the night, he finished 4-for-5, a double short of the cycle with three runs scored, three runs batted in and two stolen bases. But Coats’ big night almost over-shadowed the other big story of the game.
Junior right-hander Kyle Winkler continued his run of dominance with another eight shutout innings of four-hit pitching. Winkler struck out nine Red Raider hitters and walked none, although he did bean two. Now let’s play a game of “Which stat is more impressive?”
1) For the season, Winkler has now fired off 22 1/3 innings without surrendering an earned run. He has a good chance to build on that streak against Houston Baptist this coming weekend.
2) For the season, Winkler has allowed just eleven hits. Would anyone like to take a guess as to how many have gone for extra bases? ________________________ *Hint, I gave you the answer. Look at the blank.*
The Frogs went on to win handily by the score of 7-0.
Coats had a milder game two as TCU won a blowout that turned into a close game, 8-6. He only hit two for four with a double and an RBI. All six of those Tech runs came in the fifth.
Game three saw the return of sophomore left-hander Matt Purke. That pesky blister was definitely a thing of the past as Purke flat-out dominated Red Raider hitters for six innings of shutout one-hit baseball. He tallied six strikeouts in his second victory of the season and like Winkler, he also has a 0.00 ERA.
As for Coats, he only had one hit in three at bats. But, it was another “big ‘un.” Coats drove a solo home run to left field to lead off the eighth. He also opened the scoring in the first with a sacrifice fly, giving him two RBI and a run in the final game of the series.
The Red Raiders squeaked a run across in the ninth, but the damage had already been done and the Frogs took the game and the sweep with an 8-1 win.
Coats finished the series going 7-for-12 with a double, a triple, two home runs, six RBIs, four runs and two stolen bases. That’s why he’s the Lone Star State Player of the Week for week three. Now to travel south to check out what happened in Houston . . .
Houston College Classic
Game One — Baylor 5, Houston 2
Four Texas teams participated in the round robin-style Houston College Classic this weekend at Minute Maid Park. Baylor and Houston kicked off the festivities with a fairly entertaining contest.
Baylor junior RHP Logan Verrett took the mound for the Bears and tossed 6 2/3 innings to earn the win. He struck out seven Cougar hitters in the outing while they scattered just seven hits off of him. The win makes Verrett 2-1 on the season with a respectable 4.02 ERA. Reliever Brooks Pinckard notched his second save of the year to close it out.
Baylor third baseman Jake Miller put together three base hits with a run in the winning effort for the Bears.
Houston left fielder Jake Runte scored both of the Cougars’ runs in the losing effort and ended the day batting 3/4.
Game Three — Rice 8, Kentucky 7
After two relatively low-scoring games, all the opening day of baseball at the Houston College Classic needed was an offensive outburst. Game three provided that as the second of two “local” teams pounded out a victory to close the day.
Neither starting pitcher fared very well but several Rice hitters strung together a few hits for a solid evening at the plate.
First baseman/pitcher J. T. Chargois, designated hitter/first baseman Anthony Rendon and center fielder Jeremy Rathjen each finished with three hits. Rathjen also drove in two runs while Chargois and Rendon each scored two.
In the end though, the difference in the score came off the bat of second baseman Michael Ratterree; who led off the seventh inning with a solo home run, his second of the season.
To close things out, Chargois took the mound for the final inning and two thirds to notch his second save of the season.
Game Five — Houston 8, Kentucky 5
The Houston bats came alive to the tune of 12 hits against Kentucky as the Cougars bounced back from their loss in the series opener. The hometown team broke the game wide open in the seventh inning with six runs on seven hits to erase a 2-1 deficit. Senior left fielder Caleb Ramsey drove in the third and fourth runs of the breakout frame with a single to the first base side and led all Houston hitters with three hits, including a ninth inning triple. In addition, he drove in three runs and scored twice. Sophomore Dakota Dill sealed the win with two innings of scoreless relief to notch his first save of the year.
Game Six — Rice 1, Texas A&M 0
For their second game in a row, Texas A&M found themselves on the short end of another outstanding pitchers’ duel in a match-up where the teams combined to scatter just 12 total hits in the Saturday night finale.
Rice scored the game-winning run in the third inning on a sacrifice fly by catcher Craig Manuel after Chargois led off the frame with a double and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt.
Owls starter Austin Kubitza went the distance, allowing six hits for the complete game shutout and his first collegiate victory. The freshman baffled the Aggie batsmen all evening with seven strikeouts and no bases on balls to earn College Baseball 360’s Prime Time Pitcher of the Week Award.
Game Seven –
Game Eight — Baylor 12, Rice 8
Baylor and Rice collided in an offensive explosion to combine for 27 hits as the Bears earned a much-needed second win of the series to leave Houston with an overall winning record at 6-5.
Sophomore Max Muncy turned in what was almost the best single-game offensive performance of the Classic by accounting for half of the Baylor offense. The first baseman batted 3-for-6 and drove in amazing six runs on the ballgame with the last four coming in dramatic fashion.
In the bottom of the 10th with the score knotted at eight, shortstop Landis Ware led off with a double to left and moved over on a sacrifice bunt to put the winning run at third. In an interesting decision to set up forces at every base, the Rice coaching staff called for back-to-back intentional walks to Brooks Pinckard and Logan Vick. Two pitches later, Muncy stroked a game-winning walk-off grand slam to right field for an abrupt but authoritative end to the game.
Rice’s Shane Hoelscher collected two hits, two RBI and a run in the losing effort. The Owls fell to 8-5 with the defeat.
Game Nine — Texas A&M 11, Houston 4
The finale of the Houston College Classic saw the Aggies come alive and deliver the second half of a “double-whammy” to the city of Houston after Rice’s earlier defeat. Texas A&M hitters knocked around 15 hits in the outburst, led by sophomore Tyler Naquin. In a performance equal to that of Muncy in the previous game, Naquin accomplished a rare feat of his own.
He began the game by doubling down the right field line for an RBI in the first and then later scored. He drove in two more runs in the second inning with a triple to right center for his second hit of the day. After a ground out to short in the fourth, Naquin cranked a two run home run to right field in the sixth inning for hit number three as well as his fourth and fifth runs batted in. This left him a single away from the cycle. He completed the task an inning later with an RBI base hit to plate the 11th and final run of the game for the Aggies.
Texas A&M senior Nick Fleece earned his second victory of the year with 2 2/3 innings of shutout pitching. The victory pushed the Aggies to a 9-3 record while Houston fell to 6-5 on the season.
In all, it was three days of great baseball with a solid mix of masterful pitching and powerful hitting. Of the Texas teams involved, Baylor and Rice finished the Classic 2-1 while Houston and Texas A&M each went 1-2.
The key games to watch in the Lone Star State this week are:
Baylor vs. Louisiana Tech — 4 games, Thursday — Sunday
Texas A&M vs. Florida International — 3 games, Friday — Sunday
Rice vs. Florida International — Wednesday
Rice — AT&T Tournament, San Francisco, CA — 3 games: Long Beach State Friday, California Saturday, UC-Santa Barbara Sunday
Houston @ Texas St. — 3 games, Friday — Saturday
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