The first day of the Houston College Classic is in the books, and what a day it ended up being. The first two games, mere opening acts for the night’s finale, set the pace for the day, but couldn’t match up to the game most people anticipated.
No. 8 TCU 11 Texas Tech 2
TCU came to Houston ready to play, and play they did. Facing Texas Tech ace, Chad Bettis, the Horned Frogs put up 11 runs and allowed only two. Starter Steven Maxwell held the potent Red Raider offense in check for six innings, allowing only seven hits while walking a pair and striking out four. Bettis, on the other hand, matched Maxwell in innings, but surrendered 11 hits and seven runs against two walks and nine strikeouts, eight of which were of the swinging variety.
TCU 1B Matt Curry had a great start to the Classic, collecting three hits, three runs and three RBI in four plate appearances, including a second deck home run off reliever John Neely, and two doubles. For Texas Tech, Michael Reed doubled and singled in four plate appearances. Maxwell improved to 3-0, while Bettis dropped to 2-1.
Houston 3 Missouri 0
In the second game of the night, the Houston Cougars brought a home-heavy crowd in to play the Missouri Tigers. After seeing TCU wreck Texas Tech with offense, Houston and Missouri combined for a defensive battle. Houston kicked off the scoring in the first inning with a Keith Creel sacrifice fly to score CF Joel Ansley. The Cougars jumped up 2-0 in the second when 2B Blake Kelso doubled down the left field line, scoring 1B Matt Murphy from second base.
Houston starter Chase Dempsay (1-0) worked a scoreless five innings, allowing only four hits, but walking another four batters and collecting two strikeouts. William Kankel and Matt Creel collaborated for the combined shutout, with Creel collecting his first save of the season. Missouri freshman Eric Anderson (1-1) was tabbed with the loss, allowing two runs on six hits over 5.2 innings pitched. CF Blake Brown paced the Tigers with three hits. Kelso and LF Caleb Ramsey both collected a pair of hits for Houston.
No. 6 Texas 2 No. 16 Rice 1
Taylor vs. Taylor. The most anticipated game of the series was the highlight of night one. In no surprise, this game quickly transformed into a pitching battle, as Texas put super-sophomore Taylor Jungmann on the mound while Rice countered with their own top sophomore, Taylor Wall. Jungmann and Wall battled back and forth for five and a half scoreless innings until Texas finally drew first blood.
After Texas 1B Tant Shepherd stole second base with one out, Cameron Rupp knocked a 2-out pitch up the middle, scoring Shepherd and giving Texas a 1-0 lead. Rice was far from down, and nowhere near out.
With one out and runner on second base, pinch hitter Abel Gonzales lined Taylor Jungmann’s final pitch over third base, scoring Daniel Gonzales-Luna and tying the game at 1-1.
As went Jungmann’s final pitch, so went Wall’s. With 2B Jordan Etier standing on second, Shepherd ripped a double off the Rice bullpen wall in left center, scoring Etier and giving Texas enough runs to finally beat Rice after losing six of the last seven.
Chance Ruffin (1-1) closed down the heart of the Owls’ order in the ninth, striking out LF Michael Fuda, 3B Anthony Rendon and DH Chase McDowell to grab his first win of the year. Wall (0-1) was saddled with his first loss.
Ruffin, a former starter, quieted any possible critics with his Huston Street-esque ninth inning. Facing Rice’s top two hitters, Ruffin worked his fastball and curveball around the zone. Fuda and Rendon combined to go hitless over seven at bats, striking out a combined four times. C Craig Manuel was the only Owl with multiple hits on the night, while five Longhorns each collected a single hit.
Jungmann pitched 7.2 innings, allowing one run on four hits with a pair of walks and eight strikeouts. Wall lasted seven innings, allowing two runs on five hits with three walks and eight strikeouts.
While Jungmann and Wall were both excellent, the real hero of the game was Texas CF Connor Rowe. Rowe robbed Rice of three deep hits, once holding onto the ball after a collision with LF Kyle Lusson, another on the run at the base of Tal’s Hill in center field, and the final on the hill while falling to his knees. Without Rowe’s catches, Rice might have pulled off the upset of the higher ranked Longhorns.
Game highlights can be found here.