Rice is coming off a weekend sweep over Purdue followed by a mid-week loss to Sam Houston State; meanwhile, the Longhorns are coming off a series victory over Stanford, and they picked up a mid-week win over UT-Pan America. TCU picked up three wins last weekend in a tournament that included BYU, Texas A&M Corpus Christ, and UTSA, but then they dropped their mid-week game 10-2 to Texas Arlington. The Red Raiders started out the year winning three-out-four against then ranked #3 Indiana. They then went on to sweep a three-game series over Oral Roberts and picked up a mid-week win over BYU.
As a team, the Owls are hitting .282 through nine games, while Texas is at .251 through the same amount of games. Pitching is where the Owls typically dominate, and that’s no different this year. Rice’s pitching staff has an ERA of 2.96 with 67 strikeouts in 82 innings, while only giving up 58 hits. The Texas pitching staff has been no slouch either, putting up an ERA of 2.51 in 79 innings, but they’ve only struck out 48 and walked 34, while giving up 74 hits. Through eight games TCU is hitting .279 as a team and has scored 44 runs. The pitching for the Horned Frogs has been great with an ERA under 2 through eight games (68 innings). Texas Tech’s offense has hit .300 through their first eight games, putting up 41 runs. The pitching has been unbelievable though, only allowing 10 earned runs in 72 innings (1.25 ERA).
Players to Watch
For Rice, Skyler Ewing is off to a torrid start, hitting .459 in his first 37 at-bats with three home runs and 17 RBIs. In the pitching department, Blake Fox has been outstanding, winning his first two starts, while only allowing one earned run, eight hits and four walks in 11 innings. Jordan Stephens has also won both of his starts this season, and he’s struck out 12 batters in 12 innings pitched, while posting an ERA of 3.00. Matt Ditman has made two starts and appeared in three games for the Owls and struck out 12 in 14.1 innings, while only giving up three runs. And then the Owls have two of the best relievers in the country in Zech Lemond and Jon Duplantier. Lemond has two saves in four appearances, allowing two runs in eight innings and striking out 11. Duplantier has given up three runs in 8.2 innings and struck out nine.
Mark Payton has carried the Longhorns’ offense so far as he already has 20 hits in just 35 at-bats with three triples, one home run and eight RBIs. Parker French and Dillon Peters have become a solid 1-2 punch in the rotation. French has given up just one earned run in 11 innings, while striking out 12, and Peters has given up two earned runs in 14 innings. Nathan Thornhill has also been solid in four appearances (one start), giving up just one run in 14.2 innings, and he has already won three games.
For TCU, Boomer White has been the leader of the offense with 12 hits in his first 32 at-bats with a home run and eight RBIs. Neither Preston Morrison nor Brandon Finnegan has given up an earned run in their first two starts. Finnegan has struck out 22 batters in 14 innings.
For the Red Raiders, Adam Kirsch is hitting .370 in his first 27 at-bats with a home run and eight RBIs. In only 15 at-bats, Tyler Neslony has eight hits, two home runs and 10 RBIs. Matt Withrow has been Texas Tech’s best starting pitching, only allowing one earned run in 10 innings, while striking out 11.
Probable Pitching Matchups
Friday – Jordan Stephens (2-0, 3.00) vs. Dillon Peters (0-0, 1.29)
Saturday – Blake Fox (2-0, 0.79) vs. Preston Morrison* (1-0, 0.00)
Sunday – Kevin McCanna* (1-1, 5.91) vs. NA
* – Not confirmed
Rice head coach Wayne Graham on the talent in this tournament:
“This Minute Maid Classic is the strongest it’s ever been. All of these teams are very highly rated as seven Texas squads are (ranked) in the top 35 teams in the country.”
Friday night’s starting pitcher for Texas, Dillon Peters, during a media conference before the tournament:
– On playing in Minute Maid Park
“Minute Maid is a pretty cool stadium. It will be my first time playing there so I’m pretty excited.”
– On playing in this type of tournament
“I think it’s pretty much the same (preparing for a tournament like this). You’re still playing three games. It’s still early in the season and you’re basically just going after wins. It might be the same format as a regional, but I don’t think we’re taking it like that; you’re playing three different teams, but we still want to win all three games and play to the best of our ability.”
Texas head coach Augie Garrido on playing at Minute Maid during a media conference before the tournament:
“It will be interesting to see the response of the players being in a major league stadium, a place they’ve all dreamed of playing in, and want to play in in an Astros uniform; especially the Texas players. But all of them would love to play in the major leagues, so will that distract them, will that have a negative effect on them? We won’t know till we see it.”