LSU baseball is in for quite a non-conference trio of games in the Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic at Minute Maid Park in Houston this weekend.
The Tigers face No. 1 TCU at 7 p.m. Friday, unranked (but undefeated) Baylor at 3:30 p.m. Saturday and No. 11 Texas Tech at 11 a.m. Sunday.
Here are three things to know about each team the Tigers will face...
No. 1 TCU (7-1)
1: Luken Baker is a stud.
Baker may already have an inside track at being the top pick in the 2018 Major League draft. The 6-foot-4, 265-pound Baker earned Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors as a two-way player as last season, hitting .379 with 11 home runs and 62 RBI while going 3-1 with a 1.70 ERA on the mound. He’s been used strictly as a position player this season and he’s off to another fast start, hitting .346 with three home runs in the first eight games.
2: Brian Howard is TCU’s (taller) version of Jared Poché.
Howard, who will start Friday’s game against LSU on the mound, decided to return for his senior season after the Astros drafted him in the 17th round last season. Like Poché, he is not going to blow away college hitters, but he consistently works deep into games, averaging roughly six innings per start last season. Unlike Poché — and most other pitchers — he is 6-foot-9.
3: The Texas connection.
Like LSU’s Paul Mainieri, TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle was targeted by Texas last June after the Longhorns parted with long time coach Augie Garrido. Like Mainieri, Schlossnagle stayed where he was and was compensated handsomely for it. As a private institution, TCU does not make its salaries public, but Schlossnagle’s deal is rumored to be in the neighborhood of $1.4 million annually, making him one of the highest paid coaches in the sport. Under Schlossnagle, TCU has appeared in three consecutive College World Series.
In the first game since expected setup man Doug Norman was lost for the season, the LSU base…
1: A helping hand.
When Baton Rouge was devastated by the historic flood last August, Baylor’s baseball and softball teams made the roughly seven hour trek to Baton Rouge to help those affected. Baseball coach Steve Rodriguez told the Waco Tribune, “It became really evident when we started working with the people and they got tears in their eyes and the hugs the guys got that this wasn’t just a laborious thing we were doing.”
2: The only one.
Baylor is the least heralded team of the field — Collegiate Baseball Newspaper is the only organization that has the Bears in its top 25, at No. 17 — but it is also the only undefeated team in the field. The Bears have shown an ability to blow teams out, winning each of its first five games by three or more, and also an ability to win close games, sweeping a good South Alabama team by a grand total of four runs this past weekend.
3: Double trouble.
Baylor hasn’t shown a lot of home run power so far — its five home runs are the least by any team in the field — but don’t let that fool you. The Bears have already connected on 30 doubles this season, a figure that leads the NCAA and is 11 more than the next closest team in the field.
After rebounding from their first loss of the season with four convincing wins, the Tigers r…
No. 11 Texas Tech (9-1)
1: Hunter Hargrove is on a tear.
The Red Raiders first baseman has gotten off to a tremendous start in his senior year. He’s already driven in 17 runs in the first 10 games, tied for third most in the country. Hargrove is hitting .395, and 10 of his 17 hits have gone for extra bases.
2: The pitching staff has been tremendous.
Opponents are hitting just .190 against Texas Tech pitching, and have managed just 6.1 hits per nine innings against the Red Raiders. That’s the best mark by anybody in the tournament field, just nudging out LSU, who has allowed 6.2 hits per nine. The key has been the weekend rotation, which has combined to go 4-0 with a 1.59 ERA while striking out 41 compared to just six walks.
3: Defensive whiz kids.
Texas Tech is the best fielding team in the tournament, carrying a .987 fielding percentage into Houston — a full five points better than the next closest team, Texas A&M. The Red Raiders have only made five errors in their first 10 games, and three have been committed by pitchers. Shortstop Orlando Garcia and second baseman Michael Davis have gone error free in 72 combined chances.