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Louisville Impresses in the 2023 Shriners Classic, A&M and Tech Go 16 Innings

This year's version of the Shriners Children’s College Classic in Houston featured four teams in the College Baseball Nation Top 25: Louisville, Texas Tech, TCU, and Texas A&M. They were joined by Michigan and Rice.

Friday commenced with the roof of Minute Maid Park open and a first pitch temperature of 63 degrees; the weather over the weekend allowed the roof to remain open for all nine games of the Classic. The sun caused some problems, and even one rather gruesome injury in the afternoon games, but the natural outdoor feel of baseball was great and the teams adjusted well.

A weekend of continually unforeseen results got underway with a great 3-2 ballgame in which Rice handed Texas Tech their first loss of the season. A fourth inning two-run home run by Connor Walsh off of Red Raiders starter Brendan Girton was the only offense for much of the game.

Rice starter Parker Smith was outstanding over six innings of scoreless baseball where he allowed just three hits and struck out eight. He left with a 2-0 lead before Texas Tech tied the game in the top of the seventh inning. Jack Riedel got the lead right back when he hit the first pitch of the bottom of the seventh inning into the right field stands for the eventual winning run.

Michigan and TCU squared off in Friday’s second game which was scoreless going into the fourth inning. Horned Frogs starter Ryan Vanderhei tossed six scoreless innings and left the game leading 3-0. Michigan starter Connor O'Halloran was solid for the Wolverines through seven innings, with two long balls accounting for the damage against him. Luke Savage handled the final three innings for TCU to finish the 6-0 shutout.

Louisville and Texas A&M closed out the Friday action under the dark Texas sky. The sky further darkened for the Aggies early as Cardinals jumped all over Aggies starter Nathan Dettmer for three first-inning runs. Louisville led 6-0 after three innings, while the Aggies did not get their first hit until the fourth inning. An eight-run fifth inning for Louisville took the life out of the crowd as the Cardinals took a two touchdown lead behind starter Ryan Hawks. The 14-5 final score made the game appear closer than it actually was — the nine run difference felt trivial. Hawks went six scoreless frames and lowered ERA to 0.35

Saturday once again opened with beautiful sunny skies as Texas Tech topped Michigan 10-7. Red Raider starter Mason Molina went six innings and struck out eleven Wolverines. Texas Tech led 5-0 after the second inning and the game was effectively over at that point. Austin Green and Dillon Carter were both 3-for-4 in the game, batting in the fourth and eighth spots, respectively, as part of a balanced approach for the Texas Tech lineup.

Next, Louisville faced TCU and after the fourteen runs they scored on Friday night, the Cardinals only scored three runs on Saturday, but it was enough to claim a 3-2 victory. Louisville starter Greg Farone allowed TCU just two hits and struck out nine over seven-plus innings and left with a 3-0 lead, in the eighth inning, though a runner he left on first base scored on a two-run home run by Karson Bowen to get the Horned Frogs to within a run at 3-2. Louisville did enough to hang on as a potential game-winning home run for TCU died on the warning track for the final out of the ballgame.

Rice and Texas A&M closed out day two of action with a blowout. The game was all but over in the first inning, and the Aggies pushed the lead to 13-0 after four innings. Aggies starter Troy Wansing tossed five scoreless frames while the Aggies offense pounded out fourteen hits before the run-rule mercifully ended the affair at 13-1 after seven innings.

Louisville and Michigan got the final day started with the opening game Sunday morning. The game was scoreless going into the bottom of the third inning when Louisville finally got on the board with two outs. Logan Beard's three-run home run was the big blast of a six-run inning for the Cardinals.

The game ended in the seventh inning when Louisville took a 10-0 lead to claim the walk-off victory and a sweep of the weekend. The entire game lasted just seven minutes shy of two hours. Michigan only had one hit in the ballgame.

A three-run blast by Luke Boyers in the second inning was all the offense that the Horned Frogs needed to defeat Rice in Sunday’s middle game. But Tre Richardson added a solo home run of his own and TCU led 4-0 after three innings on the way to a 7-0 shut out. TCU starter Cam Brown went seven scoreless innings on his way to the victory.

Texas Tech and Texas A&M faced off in the weekend's final game on Sunday evening and they closed the 2023 Classic in fine fashion. Starters Chris Cortez for the Aggies and left-hander Taber Fast for the Red Raiders battled early and each allowed just a run in the contest.

Leading 2-1, the Red Raiders were unable to get three outs in the ninth inning before the Aggies tied the game which eventually went into extra innings and took 16 innings and just over five and a half hours to decide. Two innings after the game's second seventh inning stretch, the Red Raider defense faltered and the Aggies scored two runs to take a 4-2 lead. Texas Tech then went quietly in the bottom of the 16th and the longest game in Shriners history came to a close.

After a fierce Sunday night battle in which every element of a winning ball team was put to the test, Texas A&M proved the team with slightly more pitching than their former conference foe. The Red Raiders were unable to score a run after the sixth inning. They were stymied by Evan Aschenbeck who threw 4 ⅔ innings of scoreless relief in extra innings. In the other dugout, Kyle Robinson tossed six scoreless frames for Texas Tech in extras. The Red Raider defense erred at the worst possible time or the two squads might still be playing. In the race of great pitching versus great, or even clutch, hitting, give the edge to Texas A&M right now. If these two teams were to match up against each other in early June, the home confines might be the determining factor. The Aggies will have to go through the blender process that is the SEC, while the Red Raiders are near the top of the Big 12 and have more breathing room to get right before a potential rematch in the postseason.

Louisville (10-1) leaves Houston clearly the winner of the weekend with victories over a team from the SEC, the Big 12, and the Big 10. Louisville showed they can dominate and put teams away, but they also showed, as they did on Saturday, that they can play the close games as well and close out those contests. Louisville made a statement this weekend and they are on the rise.


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