In lieu of another day’s recap from The Classic, I’m going to do something a little different and give my analysis of the weekend on each team in “Five Thoughts.”
- I came into the weekend knowing that this team could really get after it at the plate. I feel even better about them at the plate now than I did coming in. The Razorbacks scored 27 runs on the weekend on 30 hits. Shortstop Orlando Garcia hit three homers on the weekend, while the team totaled five.
- I leave underwhelmed by what I saw from the starting pitching. Don’t get me wrong, Arkansas got the high pressure outs when they needed to, but had it not been for their ability to hit for power and bat in the clutch, I’d be very worried. Starters on Saturday and Sunday totaled 3.1 total innings which forced them to use 14 pitchers in two days.
- One word to describe the team: Gritty
- Yoeman’s Work: While they had to use a lot of relievers over the course of the weekend, those relievers did a nice job throughout. The bullpen gave up three runs on 16 hits in 18 innings pitched.
- Final thought: If the rotation can get better, there’s no reason to think this team can’t go as far as they want to go. The SEC is going to be a tough road to tread, but that’s why I called them Gritty. They are more than capable of treading that water into the NCAA Tournament. Barring injuries, I wouldn’t want to see this team in my regional, or travel to theirs.
- Total Domination. No one TCU played against this weekend stood a chance, and that has everything to do with how the Frogs played. TCU scored 27 runs on the weekend while only giving up 2! The bullpen didn’t give up a run, earned or unearned.
- Offense: If you ask head coach Jim Schlossnagle, this is the biggest strength the team has, even without Nolan Brown who is one of the biggest threats in the country when he gets on base. Again, 27 runs on 33 hits. The power was on full display as well to the tune of FOUR Frogs homers.
- Pitching: Schlossnagle told me before the weekend that, coming into the season, the pitching was a little bit of a question mark. Not because of talent, but because of how much pitching they lost over the last couple of seasons. TCU’s is a bit of a young staff but, again, they only gave up 2 runs on the entire weekend.
- One word to describe the team: Poised.
- Final thought: This team won’t be able to hit like this all season, but if they average something close to 20-22 runs per three games, they’ll be fine. Schloss said he learned more about his pitching staff this weekend than he did about the hitters. That should tell you a lot right there.
TEXAS TECH (2-1)
- They say a team takes on the personality of its coach. The Red Raiders have definitely done that. A team that won’t necessarily scare you on talent, but can beat you on hard work and grit. Coach Tim Tadlock has impressed upon his players that it doesn’t matter who is in the other dugout, they have a chance to win. Against what most have said was superior talent this weekend, the Red Raiders prevailed.
- Hitting: The Red Raiders hit much better than I’d expected coming in. I knew that batting was the team’s strength, but against three really good pitching staffs they held their own. In fact, Texas Tech knocked out Arkansas’ starter Keaton McKinney after just 2/3 of an inning on Sunday.
- Pitching: Coming into the weekend, the pitching staff was the clear question mark for me with the Red Raiders. In many ways, it still is. They pitched very well against Houston on Friday, but gave up key runs late in the game against Louisiana and lost a 5-0 lead against Arkansas. I noted how good Arkansas is at the plate, but a 5-run lead needs to be held.
- One word to describe the team: Mentally tough. I know that’s two words but just go with me here. The Red Raiders see each game as if the two teams are equal in every way. They haven’t necessarily embraced the “underdog” role, because they don’t think they are the underdogs.
- Final thought: After seeing the team all weekend and talking to Tadlock and players, I feel very comfortable in saying that this team is a contender in the Big XII. The player I thought would have a big weekend, first baseman Eric Gutierrez, didn’t have his best performance, but the team still won, and impressively at that. They have a tough conference to get through, and after seeing TCU this weekend I feel like the Frogs are the heavy favorite to win it, but Texas Tech has to feel like they are the third or fourth best team in the Big XII.
Louisiana Lafayette (1-2)
- The Ragin’ Cajuns are well known for their aggressiveness. Tony Robichaux loves to create havoc on the basepaths and his team is built around just that. Getting on base and creating errors and runs.
- Hitting: I mentioned it in no. 1, but I’ll say it again, the Ragin’ Cajuns are built around getting on base and creating havoc. 1-9 in the lineup can hit for power, battle for a walk, and steal bases. They aren’t afraid to drop down a bunt in any count, or in any situation. They aren’t going to slug the way TCU or Arkansas does, but they create runs by making you pay for that two-out walk you gave up. My reservations come from the fact that UL had two very winnable games in TCU and Texas Tech, but couldn’t get the offense off the ground when they needed it most.
- Pitching: I won’t lie, I expected a little more out of the pitching staff. Robichaux has lost a ton of talent to the MLB Draft and graduation over the last couple of seasons. They are good, definitely good enough to win the Sun Belt, but I wonder about this team in the NCAA tournament. I reserve the right to change this as we get deeper into the season.
- One word to describe the team: Aggressive
- Final thought: I don’t know that there’s anyone in the Sun Belt that can compete for three games against UL, but that doesn’t mean I’m ready to give them a one-seed just yet. Unfortunately for the Ragin’ Cajuns, this was the last weekend they have against premium talent. They had a chance to show a lot this weekend, but instead, I have many questions about the team. Again, I reserve the right to change this in a few weeks.
- From being in the Top-15 a week ago, the Cougars would not be in my Top-25 if I were voting today. Like UL, the Coogs had a chance to show the country a lot this weekend against the premium talent of TCU, Arkansas, and Texas Tech, but didn’t get the job done. TCU and Arkansas beat UH soundly (Arkansas 12-3, TCU 10-1) and Texas Tech was able to score three late runs to beat UH 3-2 on Friday. After looking dominant against Villanova on opening weekend, the defense and lineup looked suspect against the elites.
- The bright spot in a tough weekend. Offensively, Joe Davis might be one of the most exciting freshmen in the country. Consider his slash line through two full weeks, .538/.625/.556, the kid is on fire. This is even after an 0-4 on Sunday against Arkansas.
- The team committed five errors over the weekend. The AAC isn’t the SEC or the Big XII, but the offenses in the American are going to take advantage of mistakes just like TCU (3 errors) and Arkansas (2 errors) did. Though the five errors only accounted for 2 unearned runs, all of them hurt this weekend.
- One word to describe the team: A-work-in-progress. See what I did there?
- Final thought: This team has been so up and down through six games that I don’t know what to make of it. They were dominant, like they should be, against a Villanova team that lacked a lot of talent. In the midweek, the Coogs curb-stomped McNeese State, again like they should. UH could have beaten Texas Tech to open the weekend and this section might have a completely different tone to it. But, they didn’t. The good news for Coogs fans is that this team still has a month before they welcome UCF into Houston to start AAC play.
- A bad weekend for the hometown teams. Houston and Rice were a total 0-6 at The Classic this weekend. The city of Houston is a collective 2-10 in their last 9 games at the Classic (both schools 1-5 in last two Classic appearances.)
- Old School: Rice is an old-school team. The Owls aim to beat you with pitching and defense. Which is great, when the offense is doing its job. Which has been the problem. When the team needed offense the most, it wasn’t there this season, and wasn’t this weekend. In three games, Rice scored four runs.
- Pitching: I love this starting rotation even though they’ve struggled to begin the season. Arkansas’ Dave Van Horn said himself after seeing Jon Duplantier on Friday night, “We just beat a future major leaguer.” Blake Fox is another that should hear his name called during the MLB Draft. Both starters were good for the Owls this weekend, but neither got the offensive support they needed. Sunday night, Fox was pitching lights out after two early UL runs, but left a pitch out over the plate to Stefan Trosclair that won the game for UL.
- One word to describe the team: Pitching.
- Through eight games this season, the pitching staff has been the team’s biggest strength. The defense however, has committed 17 (!) errors. The good news though for Rice, they only committed two this weekend. Realistically speaking, the Conference USA doesn’t have many teams that can hang with the Owls for a full conference season so I think, for the 19th time in the last 20 years, the Owls win their conference. The team is struggling right now, but in the words of Aaron Rogers “R-E-L-A-X.” They’ll be fine.