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Let’s skip the niceties and get to the point here: The inaugural Round Rock Classic is going to be an absolute show, with bonafide national title contender Texas Tech accompanied by a trio of programs in Tennessee, Houston and Stanford that each have their collective gaze fixed on the NCAA Tournament.
Fans of any one of these teams know what they’re signing up for, but for those of us who are simply fans of college baseball as a whole, there is no ballpark in America that will play host to the level of star power that will be on display at Dell Diamond.
In the interest of enhancing your viewing experience, may we present to you a cheat sheet of sorts — a baker’s dozen of dudes who you would be well served to keep an eye on from Friday through Sunday.
1. LHP / UTIL Lael Lockhart, Sr., Houston
The senior from Friendswood, Texas, is expected to do it all for Todd Whitting’s Cougars in 2020 after going 6-9 with a 3.58 ERA and 76 strikeouts against just 31 walks over 83 innings of work in 2019. Lockhart will be UH’s Friday night starter — and a middle of the order bat.
2. 3B Jace Jung, Fr., Texas Tech
How do you replace a player like Texas Rangers first round pick Josh Jung? Pro tip: Just sign his little brother. Jace exploded onto the scene for the Red Raiders over the weekend, collecting eight hits over his first 16 at-bats, including two home runs, two doubles, and 13 RBI.
3. LHP Clay Aguilar, Jr., Houston
Clay Aguilar may have been an overlooked prospect while prepping at Deer Park (TX) HS, but no one is looking the 6-1, 204-pound southpaw anymore. Aguilar broke out in 2019, earning American Athletic Conference first team honors after going 6-4 with a 3.06 ERA and 73 strikeouts against 23 walks across 16 appearances.
4. CF Dylan Neuse, Jr., Texas Tech
Neuse went 5-for-5 with 4 RBI against Northern Colorado on Feb. 15. There’s a whole lot more to his story, but that’s just fun to say. The Fort Worth, Texas, native hit .298 with eight home runs, 51 RBI and a Big 12-best six triples in his first season with the Red Raiders. Thus far, for an encore, he’s hitting a casual .571 through four games in 2020.
5. OF / INF Alerick Soularie, Jr., Tennessee
The Round Rock Classic will be a pseudo-homecoming for Soularie, who hails from Houston. He will arrive in the Lonestar State still in search of his first hit on the season, but it’s really just a matter of time before Soularie gets going. You don’t accidentally hit .357 with 11 home runs, 13 doubles and 46 RBI in the Southeastern Conference.
Another team and another honor for Alerick Soularie!— Tennessee Baseball (@Vol_Baseball) February 6, 2020
↳ Preseason All-@SEC First Team
6. RHP Micah Dallas, Soph., Texas Tech
Dallas made quite a splash in Lubbock during his freshman season of 2019, ascending to the role of Friday night starter for a team bound for Omaha. And, when he got there, the kid from Aubrey was the only Power Five freshman to win seven games without a loss.
7. OF Tim Tawa, Jr., Stanford
The heart and soul of the Stanford lineup, all Tim Tawa did upon arriving in Palo Alto as a freshman was pick up All-Pac-12 and Freshman All-America honors. Now a junior, Tawa will be looked upon to carry a significant load for a Cardinal squad looking to return to the College World Series for the first time since 2008.
8. C Nate Rombach, Fr., Texas Tech
Mansfield, stand up. The youth movement throughout the Texas Tech lineup is remarkable and Rombach — who spurned the Miami Marlins to, instead, honor his commitment to Texas Tech — is at the forefront. Through four games, the Mansfield Legacy product is hitting .500 with five home runs and 15 RBI. That seems good.
9. 1B Ryan Hernandez, Jr., Houston
Another San Jacinto College product (along with Tennessee’s Soularie), Hernandez is an explosive athlete with legend status back home in New England, where he was a Rawlings All-American and a two-time Small School Championship MVP. Hernandez wasted no time in introducing himself to the UH faithful, going 5-for-13 with a pair of home runs, a double and four RBI against Youngstown State.
10. RHP Bryce Bonnin, Jr., Texas Tech
Bonnin arrived in Lubbock by way of the University of Arkansas, where he appeared in 11 games as a freshman. Upon changing shades of red, the Mont Belvieu, Texas, native emerged as a key weekend starter for Texas Tech in 2019. Bonnin looked excellent in a brief, 65-pitch outing against Northern Colorado on Saturday, striking out eight and walking none while allowing just one hit over four innings of work.
11. OF Zach Daniels, Jr., Tennessee
Do yourself a favor and get to know Zach Daniels. D1Baseball’s 48th-rated 2020 MLB Draft prospect has put together a hell of a three-game run as the Vols tuned up ahead of their trip to Round Rock, recording six hits over his last 11 at-bats, including a pair of doubles, a pair of home runs and eight RBI.
12. RHP Clayton Beeter, RS Soph., Texas Tech
Beeter made a name for himself in 2019 after emerging as an outstanding closer for Texas Tech. The Birdville (TX) HS product record eight saves over 21 appearances, while striking out 40 batters. He got the ball as the Valentine’s Day starter against Houston Baptist last week and dominated, allowing just two hits and one earned run while striking out six over six innings of work.
13. RHP Brendan Beck, Jr., Stanford
Now in his third season as a weekend starter for the Cardinal, Beck will need to come up big for Stanford more often than not. All told, Beck is 13-5 with 124 strikeouts against just 39 walks over 35 appearances in his career — which includes 4.2 innings of two-hit baseball in his first start of the season against Cal State Fullerton on Friday.
The Round Rock Classic will air LIVE and on-demand on the shiny, new FloBaseball and the FloSports app, Feb. 21-23.