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H-Town bound: Bobcats set to play in Astros Foundation College Classic

The+Texas+State+baseball+team+gathers+together+before+the+game+against+Kentucky%2C+Friday%2C+Feb.+23%2C+2024%2C+at+Dell+Diamond+in+Round+Rock%2C+Texas.
Meg Boles
The Texas State baseball team gathers together before the game against Kentucky, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, at Dell Diamond in Round Rock, Texas.

Just one weekend after playing in the Karbach Round Rock Classic, the Texas State baseball team (4-3) is set to play in the 2024 Astros Foundation College Classic in Houston. The Bobcats will face a trio of quality opponents, two being familiar foes: the University of Houston Cougars (6-1), the No. 14 University of Texas Longhorns (6-1) and the defending national champions No. 2 Louisiana State University Tigers (7-1).

The Bobcats will open play at Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros, on the morning of March 1, with a game against UH. The Bobcats and Cougars first met in 1984. Since then, the two sides have gone to battle 55 times; this contest will be the 56th. The Cougars lead the all-time series 34-21. This will be the first meeting since a weekend series in 2021 that saw the Bobcats go 1-2 over the three days.

The Cougars’ offense has been red hot to begin the season, putting up nearly 12 runs a game and batting .345 as a team. A strong outing from the Bobcats’ starter is a must. Head Coach Steven Trout’s squad has thus far suffered from falling behind opponents early; to do so again against an offense as high-powered as Houston’s would be far from ideal and hard to overcome.

Junior right-handed pitcher Jaxon Jelkin will likely be on the hill for the Cougars as he has made both Friday night starts of the year. Jelkin is currently posting a 3.24 ERA over 8.1 innings in his two starts this season.

Saturday afternoon will see the Bobcats take on the Texas Longhorns. The past two seasons have seen the Bobcats go into Austin and upset the Longhorns at UFCU Disch-Falk Field twice. The Bobcats won their last matchup with Texas by a score of 9-3 and are hoping to repeat that performance this weekend.

The Longhorns are led on offense by last year’s Big-12 All-Freshman selection, sophomore first-baseman Jared Thomas. Thomas appeared in all 64 games in 2023 as a true freshman, starting 60. He has begun his 2024 campaign by slashing .542/.607/.833 for a 1.440 OPS with one homer on the year.

The Bobcats will likely see senior Charlie Hurley toeing the rubber for Texas, as he has made both Saturday starts thus far. In his two starts, Hurley has tossed 9.2 innings, only giving up one earned run and striking out five but walking just as many.

The Bobcats will close out the weekend in Houston on Sunday afternoon against the LSU Tigers. LSU defeated the University of Florida in the 2023 College World Series (CWS). The Tigers saw a school record 13 players selected to the MLB Draft, including right-handed pitcher Paul Skenes, who was drafted number one overall by the Pittsburg Pirates. Despite the exodus of draft picks, LSU entered the preseason polls ranked fourth and currently sits at number two in the nation.

Offensively, the Tigers score in bunches. They have put up double-digit runs in four of eight games this season. Currently, the Tigers’ offense is led by a pair of underclassmen: freshman infielder Steven Milam and sophomore outfielder Paxton Kling. Both Milam and Kling have averages over .400, on-base percentages over .500, and an OPS over .900, along with multiple stolen bases.

Javen Coleman is most likely to start on the mound for LSU. He made both Sunday starts this year for LSU Head Coach Jay Johnson. Coleman has tallied 7.0 innings for the Tigers in his two starts while giving up two earned runs. The Tigers have used 16 pitchers through two Sunday games this season, meaning it could very well end up a bullpen game against the Bobcats.

It’s no secret around the Bobcats’ clubhouse how big this tournament is. The key to this weekend is keeping the team grounded and within themselves, Trout said.

“We’re not gonna have to get our guys up for these games; they know what’s going on,” Trout said. “Just like opening night when we had a big crowd, the message is to stay down and stay focused.”

This weekend is going to be a gut check for the Bobcats. It will be crucial for the team to play well in H-Town, as this tournament will have both confidence and postseason implications.

The opening pitch between Texas State and Houston is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday, Mar. 1, at Minute Maid Park in Houston. The games will be available to stream on the Houston Astros’ YouTube channel.

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