2017 Shriners Hospital for Children College Classic Preview
The 2017 installment of the Shriners Hospital for Children College Classic will not lack any fireworks. This will be the first time that the tournament, hosted by the Houston Astros, has a specific theme to it. The tournament will have a Big 12 vs. SEC format for the three-day tournament. The three teams representing the Big 12 will top ranked TCU along with 2016 College World Series participant Texas Tech and Baylor. For the SEC, they will be represented by LSU, Ole Miss and Texas A&M.
TCU enters the tournament as the consensus #1 team in the country with the LSU Tigers nipping at their heels. LSU, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Texas Tech are all also ranked in the Top 25 nationally.
This will be the first time for the Ole Miss Rebels to make the trip to Houston for the tournament while Baylor and Texas Tech will be making their field leading 10th appearance in the tourney. Texas A&M will be making their 9th appearance, while TCU will be making their 7th appearance and LSU will be making their 2nd with the first coming in 2015. This will also be the first time since the inception of the tournament that neither Houston or Rice will be playing in the tournament. They are expected a return to the tournament in 2018.
The big headliner game coming into the weekend will be when TCU takes on LSU. Most likely it’s going to be Brian Howard for TCU going against Alex Lange for LSU. TCU avoided a big upset last weekend after Friday night at home to Arizona State but then coming back to take the Saturday and Sunday games. The Horned Frogs are led offensively by redshirt senior outfielder Nolan Brown (.400/.516/.480) and Luken Baker (.346/.471/.692 and 3 HR).
LSU’s offense comes into the weekend hitting .351/.431/.556 with 10 HR and 68 RBI. Cole Freeman leads the hitting .500/.611/.571 in 9 games with 6 steals. Their pitching staff is holding opponents to .188/.270/.279. Jared Poche’ has given up 1 hit in 15 IP over 2 games including a 7-inning no-hitter against Army on opening weekend. Lange has a 0.82 ERA in 11 IP over 2 starts. LSU is absolutely on fire offensively and on the mound.
Ole Miss has been a surprise to most that they are 7-1 at this point with the youth they have and also not having Colby Bortles being very productive. Ole Miss’ top two hitters are freshman, Thomas Dillard and Cole Zabowski, hitting .500/.591/.778 and .417/.481/.542 respectively. However, Bortles does lead the team in the dinger department with 2 of those.
Baylor is the biggest surprise with them coming in undefeated on the season at 8-0. However, there is a good chance they struggle this weekend facing their first big competition of the season.
Texas Tech should be able to compete the whole weekend as they did last year but this will be a big test for their pitching depth and for their hitters to see quality arms all weekend long.
Just like Baylor, Texas A&M will be seeing their first big-time opponents on the years. Interesting stat for A&M, in 9 games they’ve scored 91 runs while having 91 strikeouts on the mound. (Thanks to Daulton Shriver for that stat). The Ags have a few young bats including Braden Shewmake and Jorge Gutierrez that’ll be interesting to see how they adjust to really good pitching.