Missouri kicks off it’s baseball season in one of the toughest ways possible when it heads to Arlington, Texas for the College Baseball Showdown this weekend. The showcase features three teams from the SEC and three from the Big 12. Each team will face the three from the opposite conference. In Missouri’s case, it’s schedule will go as follows:
No. 15 Oklahoma State – Friday 11 a.m.
Texas – Saturday 3:00 p.m.
No. 14 TCU – Sunday 6:30 p.m.
Now let’s talk about what Missouri can expect from each of their opponents.
No. 15 Oklahoma State
The Tigers drew the unlucky fortune of having to face Oklahoma State on Friday night. This means they’ll be opposed by Juaron Watts-Brown, the Preseason Big 12 Pitcher of the Year. A transfer from Long Beach State, Watts-Brown will be one of the top college arms taken in next summer’s MLB Draft. Last season, had a 3.68 ERA and 110 Ks in 73.1 innings. His 2.80 xFIP was exceptional, and his 13.62 K/9 set a LBSU single-season program record. His crowning achievement of his season was a complete game no-hitter, the first in LBSU history. You can expect Watts-Brown to attack hitters with his lethal fastball-slider combination which has surely improved even more under the tuteledge of famed Oklahoma State pitching coach Rob Walton.
At the plate, 2B Roc Riggio is the X-factor for the Cowboys. Only a true sophomore, Riggio was one of college baseball’s most exciting players last season thanks to his unapologetic tendency to celebrate when he takes a heater 400 feet over the RF wall. Just ask Arkansas what they think about him. The left-handed hitter slashed .295/.413/.519 with 11 HR and a 125 wRC+ last season. Look for Riggio to jump on fastballs early in counts and try to hit them back to Stillwater on Friday.
Jack Sparrow of Oklahoma State with the three run bomb, don’t let Amber Heard see this— Stephen Schoch (@bigdonkey47) June 5, 2022
Maybe the most powerful bat for the Pokes, is two-way superstar Nolan Mclean. With a mid-90s heater on the mound and nuclear power at the plate, it’s easy to see why the Orioles selected Mclean in the 4th Round of last summer’s MLB Draft. Unfortunately for Missouri, Mclean didn’t get money he was looking for, and he’s back in Stillwater for another year after mashing baseballs to the tune of a .285/.397/.595 slashline and 19 HR in 2022. If there is one flaw in Mclean’s game it’s his tendency to swing-and-miss. With a 36.9% strikeout rate, if Chandler Murphy can get him to chase pitches, Missouri can probably avoid Mclean.
When Riggio and Mclean are driving in runs, OF Zach Ehrhard will be one of the guys crossing the plate. Ehrhard hits leadoff for the Pokes, typically, and his job is very simple: get on base, cause havoc on the basepaths, and score runs. Ehrhard’s one of the few small-ball players in the Cowboys’ powerful lineup, but he’s excellent at his job. Last season as a freshman, Ehrhard slased .330/.429/.407 with a 110 wRC+ and stole 18 bases on 23 attempts.
Perhaps no team in the country has been forced to overhaul their lineup from 2022 to 2023 like Texas. In 2023, Texas has to replace 105 HR from their 2022 lineup and 29 weekend starts from their 2022 pitching staff. The Longhorns not only lost Golden Spikes Award winner Ivan Melendez but a number of other crucial starters. With all this in perspective, it’s hard to know for certain who will be leading the Longhorns this weekend, but I still have a couple of names to watch for when the Tigers face UT.
Dylan Campbell is one of the few returning players from last year’s team. The utility man isn’t the flashiest ballplayer, but the Longhorns are expecting him to take a big leap this year and anchor their lineup in the 3-hole. Campbell slashed .267/.370/.494 with at 10 HR last season. He was named to the All-Regional team in last year’s Austin Regional. Campbell can play numerous positions, but he figures to find his regular role in the outfield this season. With that being said, don’t be surprised if he pops up somewhere else on the diamond.
Despite losing a number of talented players, Texas managed to secure an extremely talented recruiting class. The crown jewel of the class was 3B Jalin Flores. The No. 155 overall prospect in the Class of 2022 according to Perfect Game, Flores was recruited as a SS, but you can expect him to play 3B for the Longhorns in Arlington. Supposedly, Flores’ adjustment to the hot corner hasn’t been seamless, but he’ll be in the lineup every day thanks to his advanced approach at the plate. If you can’t tell, the expectations are high in Austin for Flores who was named Preseason Big 12 Freshman of the Year.
Who will pitch for Texas on Saturday is somewhat uncertain, so I won’t waste your time with my guesses. Just know they have a number of talented arms, and whoever does toe the rubber will test the Tigers immensely.
No. 14 TCU
The Horned Frogs have also listed their Sunday starter as TBA, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty to worry about on the other side of the ball for the Tigers.
Everything for TCU gets started with 3B Brayden Taylor. He’s MLB.com’s No. 11 prospect for the 2023 MLB Draft, and he’s done nothing but rake since stepping onto campus in Ft. Worth. As a freshman, Taylor had a 149 wRC+ and kept things going with a 140 wRC+ as a sophomore last season. He hit 13 HRs last season and walked more than he struckout. He was also named Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year. In the field, Taylor is a plus defender at the hot-corner with a 55 grade for his glove and arm on the 20-80 scale. There are zero holes in Taylor’s game, and it’s almost certain that he will punish the Tigers on Sunday because he’s just that good.
A pair of speedy outfielders will set the plate for Taylor. The first is Elijah Nunez. He slashed .287/.435/.368 with a 108 wRC+ last year, but where Nunez really does his damage is on the basepaths. In 33 attempts last season, Nunez stole 31 bags, and I guarantee when he gets on, he’ll be ready to test Dylan Leach’s arm behind the plate.
Joining Nunez in the outfield is West Virginia Transfer Austin Davis. In 2022 for the Mountaineers, Davis slashed .330/.402/.368, and in each of the last three seasons, his wRC+ has exceeded 105. However, just like Nunez, where Davis adds the most to the TCU offense is baserunning. In the last two seasons, Davis has swiped 46 bases combined.
All three of these games will be major tests for Missouri. The Tigers won’t be favored in any of these games, and they’re considered by far the worst team at this tournament. Nevertheless, this is an opportunity for the Tigers to get some serious NCAA tournament resume building wins and to surprise some people. If Missouri can even leave with one win, that could go a long way to boosting its resume for a regional.
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