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Texas State set to face trio of Power Five teams in Round Rock tournament

The+Texas+State+baseball+team+before+the+game+against+Youngstown+State%2C+Sunday%2C+Feb.+18%2C+2024%2C+at+Bobcat+Ballpark.
Mandalyn Lewallen
The Texas State baseball team before the game against Youngstown State, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024, at Bobcat Ballpark.

After falling to Texas Christian University on Tuesday night for its first loss of the 2024 season, the Texas State baseball team (3-1) will travel to Round Rock to compete in the Karbach Round Rock Classic tournament at Dell Diamond.

From the Big 12 Conference, the University of Kansas will be Texas State’s first foe of the tournament on Friday. A rough start has plagued the Jayhawks as they are 2-2 entering this weekend with a run differential of +3, scoring 36 runs against 33. The Jayhawks will likely go with senior Preseason All-American Reese Dutton, a transfer from USC Upstate, on the mound. In his one outing this season, he has given up three runs on four hits with three strikeouts in the same number of innings.

On offense, the Jayhawks are led by freshman infielder Kodey Shojinaga, who has started in all four games so far and is slashing .500/.571/.1.111 for an OPS of 1.683 to go along with three homeruns and eight RBI. Kansas has slugged 10 round-trippers as a team through the first four games with seven doubles.

On Saturday, the Bobcats will square off against the University of Kentucky, out of the SEC. One word comes to mind when talking about Head Coach Nick Mingione’s teams: defense. Last year, the Wildcats led the SEC in team fielding percentage, committing a league-best 35 errors.

This helped the Wildcats make a run into the NCAA tournament, where they hosted a regional for the first time since 2017. The Wildcats were defeated by the eventual national champions, the LSU Tigers, in the super-regional round. Kentucky plays a very specific brand of baseball, defensively focused, matched with plenty of strike throwers and a proven willingness to bunt at any given time.

The Wildcats are led offensively by graduate student outfielder Ty Crittenberger, a transfer from Western Kentucky, he has started in over 120 games in his career with 31 doubles, he starts 2024 with a slash line of .500/.625/.1.000 for a 1.625 OPS with one homerun.

On the mound, Kentucky will likely go with graduate student Dominic Niman, a transfer from Central Connecticut State. In his lone outing this year, he went five innings, allowing only four hits with six strikeouts and one walk.

The Bobcats will wrap the tournament up on Sunday against Washington State University out of the Pac-12 Conference. In 2023, the Cougars went 29-23 and failed to make the postseason. In 2023, the Cougars hit .292 as a team with a team OBP of .395 and hit 119 doubles.

Leading the Cougar offense is senior catcher Jacob Morrow. In three games to start the 2024 season, he is slashing .625/.667/1.000 for a 1.667 OPS, with one homerun to his hot start.

On the mound is where the Cougars struggle; last season, they pitched to a team ERA of 5.55 with a 1.53 WHIP (Walks+Hits per inning pitched).

The Round Rock tournament will be an interesting test for Texas State stylistically, as all three opponents bring their own unique challenges and strengths.

Opening pitch between Texas State and Kansas is scheduled to be thrown at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23, at Dell Diamond in Round Rock, Texas. The tournament will be available to stream on D1baseball.com.

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