The first day of the 2020 Round Rock Classic did not disappoint, with big names coming up in big spots, an unexpected result that caught the attention of the entire college baseball community, and a bounce back performance by a team many expect to compete for a postseason berth in 2020.
As we head into Saturday, let’s set the scene for the second of three outstanding days at Dell Diamond.
Tennessee Stays Hot, Stuns Texas Tech
After a relatively uninspiring offensive performance on Opening Day, Tennessee entered the Round Rock Classic having scored 50 runs in its previous three games (a pair to round out the series against Western Illinois, followed by a one-off against Charlotte) — a topic that we touched on during this week’s Quick Pitch with Vols’ outfielder Evan Russell.
Still, the offensive outpouring came against a couple of teams that are not exemplary of what Tennessee will face in the SEC — or what was coming their way in Round Rock — a reality that Russell, himself, acknowledged.
And, yet, with Clayton Beeter and John McMillon — two of the top arms in the country — toeing the rubber for the Red Raiders, there was that Tennessee offense, looking a whole hell of a lot like it has looked for the past week, plating five earned runs on six hits over the first six innings en route to a 6-2 victory.
Zach Daniels continues to be the story for the Vols at the plate thus far. The junior from Stockbridge, Ga., went 2-for-4 with an inside-the-park home run in the first inning. Of course, we told you to keep an eye on him.
You just can’t say enough about the job that Chad Dallas and Sean Hunley did on the bump for Tennessee in this one, as they combined to allow just two earned runs on six hits while striking out 13 batters and walking just four.
Dallas earned his second victory of the season in the process, while Hunley picks up save No. 2 after pitching four innings of one-hit, shutout baseball.
A Late Night
Perhaps even more credit should be given to Tennessee considered the waiting game that both teams had to play in advance.
For no real specific reason of note, the Stanford-Houston opener went 4 hours and 12 minutes, pushing the start time for the late game back to 8:12 PM local.
No matter, Tennessee jumped out early and remained in control late — again, thanks in large part to Hunley’s dominance — to earn the upset win over a Texas Tech team considered by many to be the best in college baseball.
Lockhart Bears Down, Houston Gets Big Win
Lael Lockhart, Jr., probably didn’t get the start he was looking for when he took the ball in a big spot against Stanford on Friday.
The junior lefty walked the lead-off man Brock Jones, who would promptly steal second base moments before Christian Molfetta deposited the first run of the game with an RBI double over the glove of Tyler Bielamowicz.
Fortunately for Houston, that would not be a sign of things to come.
Lockhart buckled down, allowing just three hits and no runs while striking out four over the next 4.2 innings.
In the home half of the fourth inning, after Blake Way plated a pair of runs with an RBI single to left, the flood gates opened for Houston following a pair of fielding errors on what would have been the final out of the inning for the Cardinal.
Seven runs later — five of which crossed the plate with two outs — it was all but over.
Aguilar, Bonnin Get The Ball On Saturday
If you thought we’d run out of good arms after one night in Round Rock, boy, were you mistaken.
Clay Aguilar is on the bump for Houston this afternoon with the unenviable task of pouring cold water on the Vols. If anyone wants that spot, though, it’s Aguilar, who told us he craves big moments like this one.
The 6-1 junior from Deer Park, Texas, went 5.2 innings, allowing three earned runs on six hits and striking out five in his season debut against Youngstown State.
Bryce Bonnin will get the ball for Texas Tech today, as the Red Raiders look to bounce back against Stanford in the night cap.
Bonnin struck out eight of the 14 batters he faced in his lone start of the season against Northern Colorado — a game in which the junior from Mont Belvieu, Texas, allowed just one hit and didn’t walk a batter over four innings of work.
Scuffling Stars Look To Get Going
Two of the top players in college baseball are scuffling out of the gates to open the 2020 season — and each will look to get things turned around over their final two days in Round Rock.
Tennessee’s Alerick Soularie has had a rough start to the season in more ways than one. A player widely regarded to be one of the very best in the sport enters Saturday hitting just .063 (1-for-16).
Still, Soularie showed signs of life against Texas Tech, picking up his first hit of the season and reaching a second time on a walk, and it’s really just a matter of time before the Vols’ superstar centerfielder takes flight.
For Stanford, it has been a rough go across the board offensively in 2020, and the uber talented Tim Tawa has not been immune.
Through five games, Tawa is hitting just .200 (4-for-20). But, like Soulerie, the junior Oregonian flashed brilliance on Friday, reaching base with a walk and a single in the 5th and 7th innings, respectively, during Stanford’s loss to Houston.
The Saturday Slate
Fridays winners, Tennessee and Houston, will get things started for us on Saturday afternoon at 2 PM CT, followed by Texas Tech and Stanford at 6 PM CT.