This weekend marks the tenth edition of the Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Field. This year’s classic features a trio of teams ranked in the NCBWA poll, highlighted by No. 6 Texas and No. 8 TCU. Other participants including No. 16 Rice, Houston, Missouri, and Texas Tech. The event will feature nine games played over three days, all at Minute Maid Field. Rice has appeared in the classic all ten years, Houston has participated eight times, while Texas and Texas Tech are both making their sixth overall appearance. Typically, the weekend features Rice, Houston, three Big 12 teams, and another opponent. Each Big 12 team plays each of the non-conference opponents, and vice-versa. This year will be a little different with Texas playing Missouri instead of TCU because of [put on rumor goggles] some past transgressions between Texas coach Augie Garrido and TCU skipper Jim Schlossnagle [/rumor goggles]. Because of this arrangement, the fans are not going to get a matchup of last year’s Austin Super Regional and a showdown between the two best teams in the state of Texas.
FRIDAY, March 5th
Game 1: No. 8 TCU (6-1) vs. Texas Tech (7-2) (Noon)
Starting Pitchers: RHP Steven Maxwell, Jr. (2-0, 0.82 ERA, 8 K) vs. RHP Chad Bettis, Jr. (2-0, 3.21 ERA, 9 K)
Game 2: Houston (2-5) vs. Missouri (4-2) (3:30 PM)
Starting Pitchers: RHP Eric Anderson (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 5 K) vs. RHP Chase Dempsay, Jr. (0-0, 2.00 ERA)
Game 3: No. 16 Rice (5-4) vs. No. 6 Texas (6-2) (7:00 PM)
Starting Pitchers: LHP Taylor Wall, So. (0-1, 5.40 ERA, 8 K) vs. RHP Taylor Jungmann, So. (2-0, 0.64 ERA, 18 K)
Game to watch: Texas vs. Rice
Easy call. This is typically the top matchup at the HCC every other year, and 2010 is no different. Texas, like always, boasts a better pitching staff, but lacks in the offense. Rice, in a change of pace this season, is still coming around on the pitching, but quickly improving their offense after a bad start to the season in Palo Alto. Taylor Jungmann is pitching with authority so far this season, and has the arm to beat any team in the nation. Michael Fuda has paced the Rice offense with a .455 average and five extra base hits, but Anthony Rendon is still the player to keep an eye on. Most teams have pitched away from Rendon, walking him a Conference USA-high 16 times, but I am expecting Jungmann to come right at him. While Rendon is a beast at the plate, his critics (including Adam Foster of Project Prospect) have often attacked his defensive abilities and lackadaisical effort in the field. Regardless, this is the must-see game of the weekend.
SATURDAY, March 6th
Game 1: Missouri vs. No. 8 TCU (Noon)
Starting Pitchers: RHP Nick Tepesch, Jr. (1-0, 9.90 ERA, 6 K) vs. LHP Matt Purke, Fr. (1-0, 8.59 ERA, 10 K)
Game 2: No. 6 Texas vs. Houston
Starting Pitchers: RHP Brandon Workman, Jr. (1-0, 4.09 ERA, 13 K) vs. RHP Michael Goodnight, So. (1-1, 6.52 ERA, 13 K)
Game 3: No. 16 Rice vs. Texas Tech
Starting Pitchers: LHP Tony Cingrani, Jr. (1-0, 6.23 ERA, 7 K) vs. RHP Bobby Doran, Jr. (0-0, 3.75 ERA, 11 K)
Game to watch: Missouri vs. TCU
TCU is quickly making a statement as a team to beat. The Horned Frogs enter the weekend with a 6-1 record including a sweep of Sam Houston State (2009 Southland Tournament Champions) and a 2-1 series victory at powerful Cal-State Fullerton. Saturday will also give fans a chance to see Matt Purke have a chance to showcase the skills that made him a first round pick in 2009 against a team that features one of the Big 12’s best hitters, Aaron Senne. On the other end, Nick Tepesch has had a tough time on the mound, allowing 11 runs in his two starts, and never getting past five innings. TCU is hitting .365 as a team and averaging over nine runs a game, paced by freshman Josh Elander’s .556 average, and sophomore Jason Coats’ three home runs and 11 RBI.
SUNDAY, March 7th
Game 1: Missouri vs. No. 6 Texas
Starting Pitchers: TBD vs. RHP Austin Dicharry, So. (0-1, 3.38 ERA, 5K) or RHP Cole Green, Jr. (2-0, 1.80 ERA, 11 K)
Game 2: Texas Tech vs. Houston
Starting Pitchers: TBD vs. TBD
Game 3: No. 16 Rice vs. No. 8 TCU
Starting Pitchers: RHP Boogie Anagnostou, Jr. (1-1, 5.56 ERA, 4 K) vs. RHP Kyle Winkler, So. (2-0, 1.00 ERA, 7 K)
Game to watch: Texas Tech vs. Houston
Every team needs to be highlighted. I could’ve easily picked Rice vs. TCU, but who wants to hear about Rice in every paragraph. Texas Tech is a program on the rise now that Dan Spencer has traveled from Corvallis, Oregon back to his alma mater in Lubbock. Houston, on the other hand, seems to be headed towards a coaching change. While neither team has released their starters, I’d guess that Tech will run out sophomore RHP Louis Head (1-0, 5.50 ERA, 4 K), while Houston could pick junior LHP Ty Stuckey (0-0, 3.38 ERA, 5 K) or freshman RHP Eric Brooks (0-2, 17.36 ERA, 5 K). No matter who the Cougars put on the mound, odds are good that the Red Raiders will not have much of a problem hitting them. Texas Tech leads the Big 12 in batting average (.352), runs (85), hits (106) and doubles (30) in nine games, while Houston’s pitching staff boasts a 5.81 ERA and .277 batting average against. The most dangerous Red Raider so far this season has been senior LF Michael Reed. Reed has a knack for getting on base and coming around to score. So far in eight games, the lead off hitter has reached base 21 times and scored on 15 of those. Sophomore DH Scott LeJeune paces Tech with 16 RBI, and his .405 average is second to Reed’s .480 average. Texas Tech’s baseball team is winning with offense, much like the team they put on the gridiron.
Lucky for me, I’m planning on being at all nine games this weekend. Lucky for you (debatable), I’ll be tweeting as much as possible from @williamknox.
The things I’m most looking forward to at the Houston College Classic will be:
1) Watching a game without Texas playing. I’ve only been able to make it to games in Austin so far this season. Sure the press box is incredible, but after a while you want to see someone else play.
2) Matt Purke. I’ve wanted to see him this season, and Saturday will be my first chance. He struggled in Fullerton, but who hasn’t?
3) Texas Tech Baseball. I boldly predicted that the Red Raiders would be much improved from 2009 after attending their Fall Series. Of course, I also have a bit of a bias for the boys from Lubbock. Wreck ‘Em!
4) Minute Maid Park. I’ve been a lifelong Astros fan, and this will be my first Astros game in Houston (and at MMP) since Andujar Cedeno was at shortstop for Houston.
5) Nine great games in three days. Its like a mini-College World Series, and features three teams that are making a heavy push towards Rosenblatt (Yes, Rice swept last week, so they can still focus on 2010).
Bold Predictions for the Houston College Classic:
I predict… Kevin Keyes will hit a home run. He has great warning track power in Austin, but this isn’t the cavernous Disch-Falk Field. Keyes already has a home run this season, but the wind was a large factor in that ball sneaking out. This weekend, it will be all Kevin behind the homer.
I predict… Anthony Rendon will have at least one error. Adam Foster of ProjectProspect.com stated in a recent interview with the CBB that he questioned Rendon’s defense as seen in this video taken by him.
I predict… Rice struggles. The Owls have the toughest schedule this weekend, and face the top pitching staff, as well as the top two offenses in the MMC.
I predict… Houston struggles more. Raynor Noble has taken the Cougars from a win away from Omaha in 2002 and 2003 to a single tournament appearance since. Houston has lost four straight games in the NCAA tournament.
I predict… TCU closes the gap between themselves and Texas. The Horned Frogs don’t have to face the Longhorns, and wins over Rice and Texas Tech will looks very good for Schlossnagle and company.