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Across the diamond: Shriners Children’s College Classic

Junior+LHP+Brandyn+Garcia+%2849%29+celebrates+against+Seattle+U+at+Blue+Bell+Park+on+Sunday%2C+Feb.+19%2C+2023.
Photo by Kyle Heise

Junior LHP Brandyn Garcia (49) celebrates against Seattle U at Blue Bell Park on Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023.

The No. 15 Texas A&M baseball team will travel to Minute Maid Park in Houston for the annual Shriners Children’s Classic, competing amongst a couple of familiar faces and a team it hasn’t seen since 2017. The Battalion sat down with The Daily Toreador sports editor Chris Williams, The Rice Thresher sports editor Daniel Schrager and Louisville baseball beat writer Tate Morris to discuss the upcoming tournament.
The Rice Thresher
Gaspard: How has this season started off so far based on expectations before the season?
Schrager: “They’re 3-5 so it’s tough to say they’ve exceeded expectations, but they hung with a top-five Stanford team — who’s probably ranked a bit too highly right now, but that’s a different story — on the road in two of the three games in that series, and played a good Louisiana team pretty evenly. Even though people around the program have a lot of faith in Rice coach Jose Cruz Jr., expectations were pretty low in year two of a rebuild, especially considering they had no pitching last year, so I’d say they must be pretty happy with how the season’s gone so far.”
Gaspard: A&M and Rice competed last season in March at Reckling Park and the Aggies won 15-8. Now, you get to face them again earlier in the season in your home city once again. Do you expect a different result than last season?
Schrager: “It’s a top-15 team against an unranked rebuilding team, so I’m gonna go ahead and say no. That said, Rice does look much better than they did a year ago. They actually have starting pitchers who can give them five or six innings now, so I don’t expect A&M to put up 15 again. But they still should win comfortably-ish.”
Gaspard: What is it about this team that is going to give A&M trouble? What is the key to a victory over A&M?
Schrager: “Junior RHP Matthew Linskey’s fastball, for one. He has occasional command issues and will sometimes walk half the batters he faces, but when he has control of his fastball, it’s borderline-unhittable. He’s a reliever, so if the game is tied or Rice has a slight lead when he comes in, A&M should be worried. On offense, Rice relies on the middle of their order for better or worse — lately, they’ve been going with some combination of junior INF Jack Riedel, junior INF Pierce Gallo, sophomore catcher Manny Garza and graduate transfer infielder Drew Holderbach — not that those names mean anything to your readers. They’ve been able to string together a few big innings this year and will probably need at least one of those if Rice has a chance.”
Gaspard: Who are the players to watch out for on Rice’s roster?
Schrager: “Linskey, like I mentioned. Garza might be their best player – he showed a ton of flashes as a freshman last year and has been great so far in his first year as their everyday catcher. Just on paper, Gallo’s been their best hitter so far this year. He’s hitting close to .500 and coming off of a three-hit game, but I’m a little skeptical because he was a full-time starter last year and didn’t put up anything close to those numbers. Holderbach has been a nice surprise after hitting .400 in Division III last year. I have to mention junior outfielder Guy Garibay Jr. because he’s arguably been their best hitter over the past two seasons, even though he hasn’t done much this year. He also missed their last two games, so I’m not sure he’ll even play.”
Gaspard: Are you expecting a big home crowd for Rice with this tournament taking place in Houston?
Schrager: “No, Rice has 4,000 students. Minute Maid seats 41,000. Baseball is the one Rice sport that has a strong fanbase in the area just because they were so good for so long, but that fanbase has shrunk significantly over the last decade. It’s hard to imagine fans showing out for a team that hasn’t been above .500 in six years.”
The Daily Toreador
Gaspard: After reaching the regionals last season, how has this season started off so far based on expectations?
Williams: “The 2023 Red Raiders are almost completely different, so I’m not sure there were any real expectations before the season started. Still, I don’t think many people expected the bats to be producing down the lineup this early in the season. Of course, no one is complaining about 10 straight wins to start the year.”
Gaspard: Texas Tech and A&M haven’t faced off since 2017, however, some may say these two teams still have bad blood. What do you and the Red Raider fan base think of these two teams’ “inter-state” rivalry?
Williams: “I think Tech has beef with all inter-state programs, but I think it’s simply enhanced when both teams are ranked. Of course, some fans are still salty about [former Tech and A&M pitcher] Micah Dallas. I do think the fact that they don’t share a conference has tamed the TTU/A&M rivalry, but I still expect that matchup to draw a sizable crowd.”
Gaspard: What is it about this team that is going to give A&M trouble? What is the key to a victory over A&M?
Williams: “Like I mentioned, Tech is loaded top-to-bottom offensively. They do strike out a considerable amount, but the lineup has been a tough out for every pitcher they’ve faced. The Red Raiders have also come back from multi-run deficits several times through the first 10 games, and I think that goes back to the tough at-bats they have up and down the lineup.”
Gaspard: Who are the players to watch out for on Tech’s roster?
Williams: “Sophomore infielder Gavin Kash tops the list. The Texas transfer leads the team in batting average at .538, home runs, with four and is tied for the most RBIs in Division I with 19. Not to mention he’s been nearly lights out as a first baseman. Pitching-wise, the Aggies will see freshman LHP Taber Fast on the mound, who Tech coach Tim Tadlock has been extremely high on throughout the early season. He had a rough start against Western Illinois, but gave the Red Raiders length and was picked up by a few strong arms in the bullpen. Junior RHP Josh Sanders, junior RHP Brandon Beckel and freshman RHP Damian Bravo have shown some stuff out of the pen early this year.”
Gaspard: What will the final result be when these teams face off?
Williams: “I think this’ll be Tech’s first real test of the season, but I think this game will take the full nine innings to decide. I’m concerned about how the Red Raiders will look outside of their home ballpark, as their first 10 games have all been played in Rip Griffin Park. My score prediction: 9-7, Aggies.”
The Louisville Cardinal
Gaspard: After an exciting 2022 season that included a trip to the Super Regional, how do you think this season has started off so far based on expectations?
Morris: “[The] season has started off well and on target with the goals and expectations, excluding the one slip up against Bowling Green on Saturday, Feb. 25.”
Gaspard: The last time these two teams competed, A&M ended Louisville’s season with two back-to-back losses by 1 run. Do you expect another tough battle on Friday, or do you expect one team to have more of the advantage?
Morris: “I do expect it to be a tough battle with them being the favorite being closer to home and having our number last season, even though they’ve dropped a few games early this season.”
Gaspard: The Cardinals have a chip on their shoulder heading into this matchup against the Aggies. What is it about this team that is going to give A&M trouble? What is the key to a victory over A&M?
Morris: “Our hitters can hit from the top of the lineup to the bottom. Our pitching staff has to limit walks and no errors to limit their base runners.”
Gaspard: Who are the players to watch out for on Louisville’s roster?
Morris: “Junior INF Ryan McCoy is a [junior college] transfer from Wabash [College]. GoCards.com talks more about his Wabash career.”
Gaspard: What do you think the final result will be when these teams face off?
Morris: “Cardinals top the Aggies, 5-2.”

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