This year’s Shriners College Classic is set to be one of the biggest weekends in all of college baseball. Five of the six teams attending are ranked in D1 Baseball’s the Top 15. The attendees include No. 1 TCU, No. 4 LSU, No. 10 Texas Tech, No. 11 Ole Miss, No. 15 Texas A&M and Baylor.
For the first time the Classic is set up in a Big 12 vs. SEC format. Texas Tech will take on former conference rival Texas A&M on Friday, Ole Miss on Saturday and finally the highest ranked team LSU on Sunday. The Red Raiders have gone 6-0 the past week after beating New Mexico State, sweeping a series against Cal and most recently a win over New Mexico.
Here is a breakdown of each opponent Texas Tech will face.
Texas Tech vs. Texas A&M (Friday, 3:30 p.m. CT)
The rivalry will be restored in Houston. Texas Tech has not faced Texas A&M in any sport since the Aggies moved to the Southeastern Conference in 2012. Prior to that the two teams were bitter rivals for many years in both the Southwest Conference and the Big 12.
Both Texas Tech and Texas A&M enjoyed a successful 2016 campaign making it to the College World Series with senior laden teams. Going into this season Texas A&M had to replace six of their regular starters and some key pieces in their starting rotation. But so far, the Aggies are 7-1 on the season and most recently won a series against Pepperdine and midweek game against Prairie View A&M.
The guy to watch at the plate for the Aggies is centerfielder and leadoff hitter Nick Choruby. He had a breakout year last year at the plate which earned him the starting role in center. So far this season he is hitting .452 and has an on base percentage of .564.
Another big hitter for the Aggies is freshman Braden Shewmake who has started all eight games at second base is hitting .444. He has hit five doubles, a triple, home run and knocked in 12 runners this season. Jorge Gutierrez is another freshman that has made a difference early for A&M. He leads the team with a .462 batting average and has hit three home runs through eight games.
More than likely Texas Tech will throw out their Friday guy RHP Davis Martin (2-0) against the Aggies. So far he has proved to not have any kind of sophomore year drop off as he turned in two solid starts against Western Illinois and Cal.
If Texas A&M starts their friday night guy, Brigham Hill, (2-0) then that will be an interesting matchup. Hill proved himself as a consistent starter in the rotation last season after going 9-2 with a 2.51 ERA in order to move up to the Friday night spot and so far has not allowed a run this season.
Texas Tech vs. Ole Miss (Saturday, 12:05 p.m. CT)
Texas Tech will take on Ole Miss on Saturday after the Rebels play Baylor the previous day. The Rebels started the season hot going 7-0 and sweeping back to back home series against Top 25 opponents East Carolina and UNC Wilmington. The Rebels most recently suffered their first loss in a midweek game to Memphis on Tuesday.
This season the Rebels seem like a young team with their 28 combined freshman and sophomores but they are returning five starters to the lineup and nine pitchers from last year’s staff. A freshman who has made a significant impact at the plate for the Rebels is Cole Zabowski. He has hit .417 so far with an on base percentage of .481.
Another guy to watch for at the plate is senior Colby Bortles. He is a power hitter who lead his team in doubles last season with 21. So far this season he is batting .222 but has showed that power with two doubles, two homeruns and a team leading 14 RBI.
LHP Steven Gingery, who received Big 12 Pitcher Of The Week honors this week, will more than likely start for Texas Tech against the Rebels. Davis Martin and Steven Gingery have proved to be one of the most potent 1-2 punches in the country. In his last outing Gingery only allowed one run on two hits in seven innings.
On the mound for the Rebels will likely be their Saturday starter RHP James MacArthur (0-0, ERA: 2.61). MacArthur was a midweek starter the majority of last season and has worked his way into the starting rotation. In his last outing against UNC Wilmington he allowed one run on two hits and threw 11 strikeouts through six innings.
Texas Tech vs. LSU (Sunday, 10:05 a.m. CT)
Texas Tech’s most challenging opponent of the weekend will likely be No. 4 LSU. The Tigers are off to an 8-1 start with their only loss coming to New Orleans during their first midweek game. Since that loss the Tigers have gone 5-0 with wins over Hofstra, Maryland and Nicholls.
There is no doubt the star of the show is senior LHP Jared Poche’ who has received national player of the week honors the past two weeks from Collegiate Baseball. He threw a no-hitter against Army on LSU’s opening day and the next weekend nearly did the same as he didn’t give up a hit until the ninth inning against Maryland.
With the Tigers playing No. 1 TCU on Friday and Baylor on Saturday, Texas Tech should be able to avoid Poche’ starting on the mound on Sunday. Instead it will most likely be LSU’s second best starter junior right-hander Alex Lange (2-0, ERA:0.82). In Lange’s most recent outing in the series opener against Maryland he allowed one run on six hits and one walk, but he also struck out 12 batters through six innings.
LSU has many offensive threats as they have put up an average of 8 runs per game so far this season. Leading the Tigers is Cole Freeman who is batting .500 on the season. The senior infielder has not only dominated at the plate but is also known for his speed and stealing bases.
Kramer Robertson, a junior, and and freshman Jake Slaughter bring power to the plate for the tigers. They are both batting over .400 and combined have accounted for five doubles, a triple and two home runs. LSU’s lineup from top to bottom looks like it will be a challenge for Texas Tech’s pitching staff to contain.
I suspect that right-hander Ryan Shetter will get the start against LSU, based off the fact his starts have been better than Erikson Lanning’s so far this season. In his last outing Shetter lasted a career high 6.2 innings and totaled 10 strikeouts with only allowing one run on four hits.
There is no doubt Texas Tech will have their hands full this weekend. So far they have proved that their strengths are starting pitching, timely hits and little to none fielding errors. Yet, the bullpen and young guys who see the plate will have to continuing holding it down for the Red Raiders to have success.