Lone Star Roundup: Week 4 in College Baseball Around Texas

NCAA Regional - Fort WorthWeek four of the college baseball season was filled with chaos, and many teams around the state of Texas were right in the thick of things- both good and bad.

Let’s take a spin around the state and talk about the weekend that was in Texas college baseball.

TCU

The Horned Frogs went out to Los Angeles over the weekend to take on the stacked field of Vanderbilt, UCLA, and USC in the Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic. The upstart USC Trojans may have stolen the headlines from that tournament over the weekend, but the Frogs acquitted themselves nicely, coming away with a 3-1 win over UCLA and a 4-2 win over Vanderbilt after dropping their tournament opener 7-6 to USC.

TCU was actually very close to going 3-0 on the weekend, as they came as close to beating USC as anyone in LA by dropping the 7-6 game in 12 innings. After TCU fought back from a 5-1 deficit to get to extra innings, the Trojans walked off with a win thanks to a Blake Lacey RBI squeeze bunt. The bottom of the lineup came through for TCU in this one, as seventh-place hitter Nolan Brown went 3-for-5 and eighth-place hitter Keaton Jones outdid him with a 4-for-5 day.

The second game of the weekend was just what we would have expected from TCU and UCLA, a hotly-contested pitcher’s duel. UCLA’s Grant Watson threw six innings, giving up six hits and three runs (one earned) with two walks and four strikeouts.

TCU’s Alex Young bested him, throwing eight innings, giving up three hits and one run with one walk and nine strikeouts. Tied at one in the top of the sixth, Elliott Barzilli came through with the big hit, a two-RBI double, to put the Frogs ahead for good.

On Sunday, it was another TCU win that followed their blueprint for success. Preston Morrison, saved for this start against Vanderbilt, was his typical self. He threw six innings, giving up seven hits and two runs with one walk and four strikeouts. Although you could say this start was actually a step back for him considering he gave up a couple of earned runs, something that had not happened to that point, but that would be nitpicking.

Vanderbilt’s Walker Buehler, making his first start of the season, looked like a reasonable facsimile of his old self in his four innings of work, giving up just one run and striking out five, but the Frogs were able to get to reliever Philip Pfeifer a little bit, plating three runs on him in his five innings. Just like he had on Saturday, Riley Ferrell came on to close the game out, this time for his fifth save of the season.

The Horned Frogs have a tough midweek game this week at Loyola Marymount before heading home to open Big 12 play against Baylor.

Texas A&M/Houston/Baylor

These three clubs took part in the annual Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park, and their results run the gamut of possible outcomes.

First, the good. Texas A&M looked like a complete team in going 3-0 with wins over Nebraska 2-1, Houston 6-0, and Baylor 3-2 to run their overall record to 16-0. Much of the talk heading into the weekend was about A&M’s physical lineup, but it was their pitching staff that had people talking in these three games.

A.J. Minter got the festivities going on Friday against Nebraska, giving up just four hits and one unearned run with no walks and six strikeouts in his five innings of work. Once he was removed after just 70 pitches, the trio of Ty Schlottmann, Andrew Vinson, and Mark Ecker combined to throw four innings of near-perfect relief.

The A&M offense had their own struggles against NU starter Chance Sinclair, but J.B. Moss came through with a solo homer in the bottom of the eighth inning to break the 1-1 tie.

Photo TAMU Athletics

Photo TAMU Athletics

On Saturday night, Grayson Long absolutely dazzled the Houston Cougars, striking out 10 and allowing just three hits in seven shutout innings.

Long was particularly tough in the early going, as he had already piled up eight strikeouts by the end of the fourth inning. On offense, we caught a glimpse of the A&M offense we had seen for the first three weeks, as both Hunter Melton and Michael Barash crushed home runs in the win.

Matt Kent wasn’t quite as good on Sunday against Baylor, but he was still pretty dominant, allowing just two runs to go along with one walk and nine strikeouts in 7.1 innings. After Andrew Vinson came in to finish off the eighth inning, Ryan Hendrix entered the game in the ninth throwing smoke to close out the win over the Bears. Once again, it wasn’t a great showing for the Aggie offense (just three hits), but they got all the offense they needed in a game where pitching set the tone.

The Aggies will be tested quite a bit once they get into the teeth of their SEC schedule, but their play this weekend in Houston went a long way toward silencing the doubters that said that their record was just a function of a weak schedule.

Photo Courtesy Houston Athletics

Photo Courtesy Houston Athletics

The Cougars came into the weekend looking to use some wins against high-level competition to put the struggles of the previous couple of weeks far in the rear view mirror. Instead, they come out of the weekend with a 1-2 record and more questions to answer.

On Friday night, the Cougars dropped a 4-2 decision to LSU. Starter Andrew Lantrip was tagged with three runs in the first inning, two of them coming on a Conner Hale two-run homer, but he battled from that point forward and ended up throwing a complete game despite allowing nine hits and four runs.

Offensively, the Cougars managed just four hits, with the only real fireworks coming on a Jacob Campbell solo homer in the sixth. Ultimately, though, this was not a loss to get down about, as UH hung tight with an LSU team that many feel is on the short list of national championship contenders.

It was a little tougher to find positives in Saturday’s 6-0 loss to A&M. As mentioned earlier, Houston had just three hits all game long and didn’t manage a meaningful rally of any kind until the ninth inning when A&M reliever Kyle Simonds walked the bases loaded before retiring the side. For UH, Jake Lemoine’s start was very similar to others this season. He wasn’t all that bad (6.1 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K), but he has been far from the ace the Cougars were looking for coming into the season.

Houston came away with an 8-6 win over Hawaii on Sunday to salvage a victory in the tournament, but even that didn’t really leave anyone with warm fuzzies. Veteran starter Aaron Garza continued to struggle. He allowed the Rainbow Warriors five hits and four runs in 3.2 innings of work. His ERA now sits at 6.64. The defense was suspect as well, what with the Cougars committing four errors in the game. One bright spot was the work of long reliever Seth Romero, who threw 5.1 innings, giving up five hits and two unearned runs. If head coach Todd Whitting decides to make a change in the Sunday starter role, Romero could very likely get the nod.

The Cougars now sit at 9-7 on the season, and they are reeling in a number of ways. Two-thirds of their weekend rotation has not lived up to expectation, they’re still struggling to firm things up defensively, they’re dealing with a number of key injuries, and they have a couple of veteran hitters in Justin Montemayor (.239) and Ashford Fulmer (.116) that haven’t gotten going yet.

There is enough talent around that you assume they’ll get it in gear again sooner rather than later, but it would behoove them to get it going quickly, ahead of their big series against UCF later this month.

Baylor went winless on the weekend after a 2-1 loss to Hawaii, a 2-0 loss to LSU, and a 3-2 loss to A&M.

The head-scratcher of the bunch is that Friday loss to the Rainbow Warriors. Hawaii starter L.J. Brewster (6.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 7K) was tough to hit and did a great job of working around his walks, but still, that was a game you expected the Bears to win. After getting beaten up two weeks ago against Cal State Fullerton, Drew Tolson fought back and gave Baylor a solid start (6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 4 K).

If you had told head coach Steve Smith that he would get that kind of effort from Tolson against Hawaii, chances are that he would have felt pretty good about his team coming away with a win, but two hits just aren’t going to cut it against anyone, almost regardless of how good your own pitching is.

Saturday brought the loss to the Tigers, but there were positives for the Bears First and foremost, Daniel Castano was outstanding in his start. He threw eight innings, giving up eight hits and one run. He wasn’t overpowering by any means, but he battled and did a masterful job of working around trouble. The Bears also managed eight hits of their own, but they were never able to break through and plate a run.

It was a similar story on Sunday against A&M. They put together seven hits against A&M starter Matt Kent, but weren’t able to break through against him until the eighth inning. The offense looked alive over the last two innings, but by then, it was just too little, too late.

The Bears have to be disappointed with the 0-3 weekend, but the losses shouldn’t cause any more concern or force anyone to recalibrate their expectations for Baylor. The Bears pitched well all weekend, and had they gotten a key hit here or there, the results could have been very different. With talented bats like Logan Brown and Aaron Dodson leading the way, it’s a safe bet that those hits will start to come. Are they a Big 12 title contender along the lines of a TCU, Texas, or Texas Tech? Probably not at this point, but their 0-6 record across the last two weekends isn’t indicative of their capabilities, either.

Rice

The Owls got Conference USA play started with a comprehensive sweep of the Charlotte 49ers on the road by scores of 4-2, 10-3, and 6-3.

Friday’s 4-2 win followed a script that Rice hopes to follow for much of the season. Kevin McCanna turned in a solid start (6.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 5 K) and Matt Ditman provided quality relief work behind him for the save (2.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 4 K). The Owls plated two runs in the first on the power of a John Clay Reeves two-RBI double and added two insurance runs (that it turns out they needed) in the eighth thanks to a wild pitch and a Blake Fox RBI single.

Rice Owls Baseball

Blake Fox – photo courtesy Rice Athletics

Rice won a little more comfortably in game two thanks to an 11-hit attack and a handful of Charlotte errors. Rice’s six runs in the sixth inning were largely what did in the 49ers. Ford Stainback was a leader on offense, going 3-for-5 on the day, and Leon Byrd added a home run. Blake Fox has had some fits and starts in the early going, but he was very good on this day, throwing six innings, giving up eight hits and one run with two walks and four strikeouts.

The Owls showed some resiliency in the finale, as they trailed 3-1 going into the top of the eighth inning. All they did from there was score three to take the lead in the eighth and then two more in the top of the ninth for good measure. Not surprisingly, offensive leaders John Clay Reeves and Leon Byrd had RBI hits in that pivotal eighth inning to bring their team back.

Texas

The Texas Longhorns and Stanford Cardinal continued their quest to become battle-tested in time for their respective conference seasons by splitting a four-game series out in Palo Alto.

Coming off a tough 0-2 weekend at home against San Diego, the Longhorns seemed like a team that needed a quick start in this series. But, alas, they didn’t get one, as Stanford came away with 5-4 and 5-3 wins to get things going.

In game one, Stanford got to Texas starter Chad Hollingsworth to the tune of six hits and five runs in five innings of work, with the big blow coming in the form of a Mikey Diekroeger three-run homer in the third inning. Texas mounted a comeback in the ninth, plating a run to pull them within one, but that’s as close as it would get. In game two, it was more of the same, as the Cardinal plated three runs off of Kacy Clemens in 5.1 innings and then single runs off of Kirby Bellow and Kyle Johnston in relief.

To their credit, Texas fought back to come up with a 3-1 win in game three. Not surprisingly, starting pitcher Parker French was the one that set the tone and turned the series around.

The veteran ace threw seven innings, giving up six hits and one run. He struggled with command at times and issued five walks, but he found a way around trouble time and again. The Texas offense wasn’t fantastic; they had just six hits total, but they were able to plate three total runs in the first two innings against Stanford starter Brett Hanewich, and that turned out to be enough.

In the finale, the Longhorns offense exploded for 12 runs and 15 hits in a 12-4 win. Texas had a 7-0 advantage after just two innings, including jumping on Stanford starter Griffin Weir for five runs in just two-thirds of an inning, and never looked back. After hitting two home runs in the series-opening loss, Texas leadoff hitter Ben Johnson had another big game, going 5-for-5. Tres Barrera and Zane Gurwitz also added home runs.

In the span of a weekend, the Longhorns showed both the worst-case and best-case scenarios for their team. In a couple of games, they got spotty starting pitching, and the offense just never could catch up against quality pitching.

But in two other games, they showed some grit and guile, got a clutch start from their staff ace, and then showed some offensive firepower in a big win to finish off the series. Sure, Texas would liked to have come home with a big road series win, but they’ll take a four-game split against a good Stanford team on the road.

Texas Tech

Lubbock Super RegionalThe Red Raiders went out to southern California looking to notch a signature series win, and instead they came limping out of the series having been swept by the suddenly scorching-hot Cal State Fullerton Titans.

Tech came into their series opener knowing they had a tall task ahead of them in facing CSF ace Thomas Eshelman, but they can’t have imagined he would be as good as he was on this night. He threw a shutout in his team’s 4-0 win, allowing just five hits and one walk with 14 strikeouts. Eshelman threw 119 pitches, with an absurd 89 of them for strikes. That’s what we call pounding the strike zone.

When Eshelman pitches like that, no one in the country is going to beat the Titans, so that loss can almost be excused, but things didn’t get much better as the weekend wore on. On Saturday, CSF’s Justin Garza came as close to returning to his old form as we have seen so far this season, throwing six innings of six-hit, two-run baseball in the Titans’ 3-2 win.

If the Raiders were just waiting to get things turned over to the bullpen, that backfired, as Willie Kuhl and Tyler Peitzmeier combined to throw three scoreless innings to close it out. On the other side, CSF plated three runs against Tech starter Ryan Moseley in 5.1 innings of work, with the big hit coming on a Scott Hurst two-RBI single in the third.

In the finale, CSF freshman John Gavin took the torch from Eshelman and Garza and ran with it. He threw five innings, allowing just three hits and one run with one walk and three strikeouts.

For Texas Tech, Dylan Dusek was not sharp, as he allowed four hits and two runs in just 1.1 innings. Trailing 6-1, Texas Tech’s Ryan Long hit a grand slam off of CSF reliever Henry Omana in the eighth inning to pull them within one, but they couldn’t mount a rally to tie or take the lead in the ninth against Peitzmeier, who struck out two on the way to his sixth save of the season.

After a couple of midweek games against New Mexico State this week, the Raiders will head to San Diego to take on the San Diego State Aztecs in what could prove to be another big road challenge.

UTSA

The Roadrunners hosted UC-Irvine in a quality three-game set over the weekend.

The ‘Runners got the series started right by winning the opener 3-2. The season had been a struggle for staff ace Brock Hartson coming into this weekend, but on Friday night, he turned in a vintage performance. The junior righty threw seven innings, allowing just five hits and one run. His command wasn’t great; he did walk four batters, but he showed dominant stuff at times, striking out seven.UCI’s Elliot Surrey was just as good, if not better, however. He threw 8.2 innings, giving up five hits and one run with two walks and eight strikeouts.

If there is one regret for UTSA, it’s that they couldn’t get Hartson a win. The game entered extra innings tied at one. UCI scored in Anteater fashion, on a squeeze bunt, in the top of the tenth, but the Roadrunners answered back with two runs of their own in the bottom half on a Geonte Jackson two-RBI double to walk-off with the win.

UTSA wasn’t able to keep the momentum going, though, as they dropped the final two games of the series by 10-5 and 9-3 scores. In game two, UTSA starter Nolan Trabanino was tagged with seven runs in just four innings of work, and the Roadrunners’ offense just wasn’t able to play catch up. The finale was a similar story, as UTSA got just one inning (with three runs scoring) out of starter Cody Brannon and reliever Chance Kirby allowed two more runs to score in his inning of work behind Brannon. The offense actually did a good job of getting to UCI starter Evan Manarino (4.2 IP, 10 H, 3 R), but they simply couldn’t get over the hump.

Dallas Baptist

The Patriots swept their four-game series with Oral Roberts by scores of 16-0, 6-1, 9-8, and 4-2.

The offensive outburst in the opener was as much about poor ORU defense and walks from the ORU pitching staff as it was offensive prowess for DBU. The Golden Eagles allowed six unearned runs and walked 11 batters in the game. The bottom of the fifth inning was the game in a nutshell. The Patriots plated 11 runs on just six hits in that frame. Meanwhile, Cory Taylor was dominant for DBU, throwing seven shutout innings.

Game two was all about DBU pitching, but it wasn’t any one guy in particular that did the trick. Instead, the trio of Landon Wilson (4 IP, 4 H, 0 R), Drew Smith (2.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R), and Chance Adams (2.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R) combined to shut down the ORU attack. In the third game, the Golden Eagles showed some life, plating five runs in 4.1 innings off of DBU’s Cory Taylor, and then after falling behind 9-5 going to the bottom of the seventh, rallied for three more runs off of DBU reliever Sean Stutzman to pull within one. That’s as close as they would get in a 9-8 loss, however. Camden Duzenack and Justin Wall had home runs for the Patriots.

In the finale, ORU carried a 2-0 lead into the eighth inning, but the Patriots rallied to score four unearned runs in the eighth largely thanks to an error by Golden Eagles shortstop Nick Roark. The loss for ORU wasted the fantastic start of Xavier Altamirano, who allowed just one hit and one run with three walks and seven strikeouts in seven innings of work.

Other Results

Sam Houston State swept their Southland Conference-opening series against New Orleans by scores of 12-4, 11-0, and 3-2.

Texas A&M- Corpus Christi dropped their first two games on the road against Louisiana Tech 6-2 and 2-1 before the finale of the series was canceled due to inclement weather.

Texas State won their Sun Belt Conference series against Louisiana-Monroe, winning games 4-3 and 5-1 before dropping the final game 7-4.

UT- Arlington won their series against Arkansas State in Jackson, Mississippi, with 6-4 and 4-3 wins sandwiched around an 8-0 loss.

Lamar got off to a tough start in Southland Conference play, losing all three games against Northwestern State by scores of 4-2, 9-6, and 3-1.

Similarly, Stephen F. Austin took it on the chin in their opening Southland Conference series. They were swept by Central Arkansas by scores of 5-4, 9-8, and 11-1.

Houston Baptist dropped two of three games to McNeese State, losing the opener 2-1 and the finale 5-2 after winning the middle game 4-3.

Abilene Christian beat Nicholls State 3-2 on Friday night before dropping the last two games of the series 5-4 and 2-0.

Incarnate Word lost the first two games of the weekend against Southeastern Louisiana 5-3 and 4-1 before winning a wild finale 11-10.

Prairie View A&M split two games against Arkansas- Pine Bluff, a 9-7 win and 19-5 loss, before the final game of their series was canceled due to rain.

Texas Southern swept their series with Grambling State by scores of 8-2, 5-3, and 5-4.

 

 

 

 

About the Author

Joseph Healy
Growing up in Houston, Joe Healy was introduced to college baseball at a young age, and it was love at first sight. Like most good love stories, that love has only grown throughout the years. When he's not at the ballpark, he enjoys tacos, college football during the fall, and the spectacle that is American politics. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from Sam Houston State University and a Master's in Public Administration from Southern Illinois University- Edwardsville.