Editor’s note: Added an archive image as the post’s featured image.
Kansas State seeks its first win against the nation’s best since losing a 4-3 midweek game against the Lamar Cardinals. The showing spoiled an undefeated record for the Wildcats, but K-State has the opportunity to shock the country against No. 1 LSU.
Friday: No. 1 LSU Tigers
LSU head coach Jay Johnson restored hope in the Tigers’ historic program the day he stepped foot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to replace legendary Paul Mainieri. Although there’s high expectations for any manager that laces purple and yellow cleats, LSU is on its way to resurgence following a No. 1 preseason ranking and 3-0 start.
Highly touted high school recruits and MLB prospect transfers quickly turned the tide and raised the bar to a new level. Former NC State Wolf Tommy “Tanks” White exited his debut with an elbow injury and ace pitcher Grant Taylor’s out for the season with a torn UCL. However, betting odds suggest that the Tigers remain locked and loaded for a College World Series run if they play their cards correctly.
In the wake of Taylor’s news, Paul Skenes stepped into the ace role and dominated Western Michigan, striking out 12 hitters and allowing three hits in six innings pitched. Skenes’ second appearance will likely be against the Wildcats with proper rest for Friday’s first round of the round-robin tournament.
Four LSU junior right-handed pitchers and three position players cracked Perfect Game’s preseason top 150 prospects list, according to BRProud. Of those players, center fielder Dylan Crews ranked No. 1 following a .349 batting average, 72 RBI and 73 runs scored in his first-team all-American 2022 season.
First baseman Tre’ Morgan ranked No. 16 after a second-team All-American season this past year, and leads the Tigers with nine RBI in four games. Morgan’s only behind No. 128 prospect, shortstop Jordan Thompson, who’s scored four runs and five hits in equal amount of at-bats as Morgan, likely due to the lineup order.
The remaining three pitcher prospects include No. 61 RHP Christian Little, No. 88 RHP Ty Floyd and No. 119 RHP Blake Money. Little and Money made appearances in the first three games, Little striking nine batters out in 5 2/3 innings pitched, while Money struck three batters out and allowed a run in two innings.
Saturday: Sam Houston State Bearkats
Sam Houston State enters as the classic’s lone mid-major program, with a 3-2 record with wins against Rhode Island and McNeese State. K-State serves as the Bearkats’ first Power 5 opponent in the 2023 campaign.
The team is out-scoring opponents 49-23, an average of 9.8 runs per contest. Along with run production, seven Bearkat hitters are listed above the measuring stick for successful hitting at a .300 batting-average, two at .500 and above while two are hitting .400.
Wichita State-transfer Tyler Davis helms the top of the batting categories, slicing a .533 batting average on eight hits and four RBI in 15 plate appearances. The two-way player hasn’t displayed anything on the mound this season but expects to pitch coming off an injury this past season.
Sophomore from League City, Texas, Lane Brewster leads the team with three home runs and nine RBI. On 16 at-bats, Lane’s hitting .316 and is tied with teammate Clayton Chadwick for the most runs scored on the team with seven.
The Bearkats’ ace so far this season is Chandler David, the only Sam Houston State pitcher without a run surrendered. David leads the staff with 10 strikeouts and three hits allowed in five innings pitched.
Sunday: Iowa Hawkeyes
Dominant pitching characterizes the Iowa Hawkeyes, holding opponents to one run allowed in its 3-0 showing at the Snowbird NCAA Baseball Classic round-robin.
The Iowa pitching staff collected 35 strikeouts in its opening three games. Brody Brecht led the way with 10, and Jared Simpson followed with seven. Brecht pitched a no-hitter through five innings, the longest a Hawkeye’s been on the mound this season.
Iowa’s weakness lies in their offense, although they’re currently batting .306 as a team compared to its opponents .170 average. Five Hawkeye’s have a .300 and above average, but rank the lowest coming into the Round Rock Classic with 23 runs scored on 22 RBI.
Kyle Huckstorf leads the team with a .455 batting average on five hits, six RBI and a home run, while Brennen Dorighi is at .400 with four hits and a homer. The two need others to carry weight if the Hawkeye’s want to win this weekend’s round-robin competition.
It’s difficult to project the winner of the Round Rock Classic with such a small sample size, but the Wildcats’ odds are favorable against Sam Houston State. Although the “experts” may have Iowa ahead of K-State in Sunday’s matchup, the heavy-hitting Wildcat lineup should break through to score enough runs to finish the weekend 2-1. K-State plays No. 1 LSU at 2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24. Viewing is available on D1Baseball, while audio is accessible on KMAN Radio.