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Takeaways From the Shriners College Classic in Houston; Texas Shines, UCLA Climbs

Updated: Mar 13, 2022

It is easy to say that the No. 1 Texas Longhorns walked away from the Shriners College Classic in Houston as the big winners, with wins over No. 7 Tennessee and No. 6 LSU, even though they did lose their first game of the year at the hands of No. 13 UCLA.

The best questions to ask following the conclusion of the weekend are who benefited the most, who lost the most ground, and who could challenge Texas between now and mid-June?

Texas (2-1)

The Texas Longhorns are easily the most complete team that took part in the Shriners College Classic.

The Longhorns’ starting pitching might be the best in the country and was certainly the best in Houston.

Pete Hansen went six innings against the Volunteers on Friday night and only allowed one run — he had a .53 ERA after the outing. Tristan Stevens pitched seven complete without allowing a run in the 6-1 victory over LSU Saturday night; he has not allowed a run in any of his three starts to begin 2022.

Pete Hansen followed by Tristan Stevens is a one-two punch that few teams in the country will be able to match in a short series, or in Omaha, and the Longhorns bullpen, anchored by sophomore closer Aaron Nixon is as tough as it gets to bat against.

Tanner Witt was originally scheduled to pitch on Sunday in Houston, but he was a late scratch due to arm tenderness and head coach David Pierce opted instead for left-hander Lucas Gordon. Compared to the rest of the staff, Gordon is an unknown entity.

The Longhorns are sound defensively and their offense is incredibly balanced and there are no spots in the lineup that lack power or that cannot make contact when needed.

Douglas Hodo III hit a three-run home run into the Crawford Boxes and Murphy Stehly added a solo home run of his own against LSU. Ivan Melendez tied Sunday’s game with UCLA on a mammoth home run which accounted for the only Texas run in the game and also had a key double in Friday’s win over Tennessee. Trey Faltine is a great table-setter, entering the weekend with a .395 on-base percentage, but he also has power, as he showed Friday night against Tennessee when he homered. Silas Ardoin is a tough out in the middle of the lineup as well. Ardoin led off the second inning versus LSU with a double off the base of the wall in deep left-center and he scored moments later on a throwing error to first base by LSU starter Ty Floyd.

Texas did only get five hits on Sunday against UCLA, so it is possible that the right pitchers can stop their offense, but the other side of that coin is that you still must score on the Longhorns pitching staff.

Texas has no weaknesses, aside from the possibility of an unknown third starter if Witt misses any more time, and that’s still a good place to be.

Tennessee (2-1)

The Volunteers opened their weekend with a 7-2 loss to Texas — there were no moral victories to be had to be had there for the Tennessee — but they rallied to win their final two games of the Shriners Classic.

Despite a solid outing by starter Chase Burns where he scattered two hits and one run over five innings, Tennessee was plagued by having to face Texas and their number one starter, Pete Hansen. Evan Russell’s solo home run into the Crawford Boxes to give the Volunteers a 1-0 lead was a lone bright spot for the offense on Friday night.

Tennessee trailed 4-0 in the first inning of Saturday’s middle game against Baylor and their defense allowed six stolen bases in the first inning. However, in quick-strike fashion, Tennessee took a 9-4 in the bottom of the third. Tennessee’s Ben Joyce pitched a third of an inning against Baylor and hit triple digits on several pitches. The Volunteers won 10-5.

Drew Beam dazzled in five scoreless innings against Oklahoma on Sunday. Jordan Beck’s first inning home run was all that the Volunteers needed offensively, but they added seven more on their way to an 8-0 shutout. Christian Moore had one of the most excitement moments of the weekend with an inside the park home run.

Tennessee can score runs and they can pitch well enough to compete not only in the SEC but also with anyone they might face on their way to a potential second straight appearance in Omaha.

UCLA (2-1)

Youth and inexperience are two words that are following the Bruins around the country to start 2022. The Bruins had three freshmen in their starting lineup for two of the three games in Houston.

UCLA was shut out for most of game one against Baylor’s Tyler Thomas. But sophomore Carson Yates came off the bench in the ninth to get the Bruins their only run in Friday's game, on a pinch-hit solo home run. The comeback came up short, and the Bruins fell to the Bears 2-1.

Yates hit a grand slam in his very next at-bat, part of a six-run opening inning for UCLA against Oklahoma on Saturday morning. The game eventually ended with the Bruins on top 15-3 after 7 innings via the run rule.

The Bruins pitching staff only allowed six runs all weekend, highlighted by Sunday starter Austin Kelly who went 5 1/3 innings against Texas in the 5-1 win. The staff as a whole only allowed five hits to the Longhorns.

For all that is made of the supposed youth and inexperience of the Bruins, their team may be too young and inexperienced to notice all of that. The Pac-12 is loaded, with Stanford in front but with Oregon State in the mix as well. If the UCLA pitching holds up, the Bruins offense can keep them in games and lead them into the postseason with little to prove but a ton of experience to gain along the way.

Baylor (2-1)

Baylor left-hander Tyler Thomas turned in what may have been the top pitching performance of the weekend in the opening game of the Shriners Classic. Thomas was two outs away from a complete game shutout when UCLA’s Carson Yates hit a pinch-hit home run to get the Bruins to within a run. The home run drove Thomas out of the game after a 10-strikeout effort.

UCLA’s performance in the final two games of the weekend made Tyler Thomas’s near-shutout of the Bruins on Friday that much more impressive for Baylor.

After losing to Tennessee on Saturday, Baylor also fell behind to LSU on Sunday. Down 2-0 early, the Bears’ slow but steady attack allowed them take a lead late in the game that they would not relinquish. Jack Pineda hit a laser home run just under the gas pump in left-center field in the bottom of the sixth which gave Baylor the 7-5 lead. Baylor went on to win 9-6.

Mason Marriott looked sharp out of the bullpen and picked up the save in each of the Baylor victories.

The Bears can get to the postseason. Playing in the same conference as Texas, Oklahoma State, TCU, and Texas Tech may prove to be too much for the Bears, but Baylor’s pitching can certainly keep them in games if the offense, which also features speed in addition to power, can get rolling.

LSU (1-2)

LSU was taken to eleven innings on Friday night in their opening game against Oklahoma, but they won on a walk-off home run by Jordan Thompson. LSU starter Blake Money threw 6 2/3 innings and only allowed an unearned run.

Gavin Dugas, Dylan Crews, Jacob Berry, and Cade Doughty join Thompson in forming a formidable offensive lineup that can put up runs in bunches. Trailing 3-0 in the seventh on Friday against Oklahoma, Dugas singled to get the Tigers on the board. Doughty’s clutch eighth inning home run tied the game at three before the Tigers went on to win 5-4.

LSU lost to Texas on a wild Saturday night where nearly 25,000 people sat in the lower bowl of Minute Maid Park and were loud throughout the night. Ty Floyd started for LSU against Texas and allowed four runs in four innings. Thompson’s RBI on Saturday night against Texas was the sole run for the Tigers in the game.

The Tigers followed the lost to Texas with a loss to Baylor 9-6 on Sunday night to close out the weekend.

Defense was a problem on Sunday and LSU did not look SEC, or Omaha, ready. Head Coach Jay Johnson has pledged in recent weeks that the defense is going to improve, and if LSU stops giving away bases, the Tigers can play with anyone in the county.

Oklahoma (0-3)

The Sooners were the only team not to win a game in Houston over the weekend.

Oklahoma competed well against LSU to open the weekend, as they took the Tigers to eleven innings before falling on Jordan Thompson’s walk-off home run.

Oklahoma pitching gave up 15 and 8 runs fin their two final games.

Left-hander Jake Bennett started against the Tigers and proved to be the highlight of the weekend for the Sooners. Bennett tossed 6 2/3 innings and allowed just one run, his first run of the season in 18 innings. Oklahoma used three other pitchers over the course of the game, and the pitching staff seemed taxed as the weekend moved along.

Pitching put the Sooners in early deficits, such as on Saturday when UCLA jumped out with six runs in the first. The Sooners were into their bullpen before they came to bat a second time in the contest.

In a packed Big XII, the possibility of the Sooners making the postseason seems minimal at this point. They will need teams to fall and they need to rise considerably. The Sooners may have been the most incomplete team in Houston, but they are not far off, and 2023 and 2024 look more promising for the Sooners.


53,879 watched college baseball this weekend at the Shriners College Classic, with just shy of 25,000 attending the big game on Saturday night between No. 1 Texas and No. 6 LSU. Fans all weekend were treated to a top-rate field of six teams that competed pretty evenly throughout the weekend.

Texas appears headed to top heights in 2022 — their weekend was evidence of that — but there were teams in Houston this weekend that are ready to stop what many see as the inevitable.


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