Seven Fort Bend players to compete in Houston College Classic this weekend
By Michael Sudhalter
Five of the six teams in the Shriners Hospital for Children Houston College Classic have players with ties to Fort Bend County.
Local favorites Houston and Rice, along with 2015 College World Series (CWS) qualifiers TCU and Arkansas, 2014 CWS qualifier Texas Tech, and Louisiana-Lafayette (ULL) will compete in the annual event, held Friday through Sunday at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
Only ULL doesn’t have a player with a Fort Bend connection, and five of the six teams are ranked in the Top 25 (with Texas Tech being the only exception).
The tournament provides college teams with a chance to face strong competition before they begin conference play.
And it ends up being a reunion for many of the players, including those from Fort Bend.
Rice will face Arkansas at 7:05 p.m. Friday, and junior pitcher Dominic Taccolini – a Kempner High graduate – is expected to start for the Razorbacks.
Taccolini will likely face his former Kempner teammate, Rice senior infielder Connor Tekyl.
A third Kempner alum, Texas Tech junior pitcher Dylan Dusek, will miss the season due to injury.
Tekyl, however, is looking forward to facing Taccolini, who has a 1.29 ERA through one start this season – a victory over Central Michigan.
“It’s going to be awesome,” Tekyl said. “I’ve only faced him a handful of times in my life. We worked out together throughout the winter break.”
Two of Tekyl’s teammates are Fort Bend ISD graduates – sophomore infielders Khevin Brewer (Travis) and Tristan Gray (Elkins). The Owls are looking to return to the CWS for the first time since 2008.
“I think this year’s team is really underrated in the polls (No. 24) and blogs,” Tekyl said. “We’re under the radar. We have a tough schedule, and we can win a lot more games than everyone thinks.”
TCU junior pitcher Mitchell Traver, a Sugar Land native who attended Fort Bend Christian and graduated from Houston Christian, pitched in the CWS last season.
Houston has two Fort Bend area pitchers that transferred in from junior colleges – junior starter John King (Clements/Angelina CC) and junior reliever Nick Hernandez (Dulles/Alvin CC).
King won his UH debut, striking out nine in a victory over Villanova last weekend, and Hernandez pitched in relief that series.
King and Hernandez grew up together, playing on the same teams in the First Colony Little League, before playing for rival schools in high school.
“I’m very excited,” said King, who threw 150 innings in two seasons at the Lufkin junior college. “ We have a great coaching staff, great teammates and it’s been a really easy transition from junior college to here.
Hernandez, who played on Dulles’ Class 5A State Runner-Up Team in 2013, hopes the UH Baseball Team can have its own version of the “H-Town Takeover”.
This year’s tournament will be the first time that Shriners Hospital has sponsored it, in coordination with the Astros Foundation, which will donate $1 from the sale of each ticket directly to Shriners Hospitals as well as provide other fundraising and awareness opportunities.
Adult tickets purchased in advance are available for a $18 daily admission, as well as a $39 three-day tournament pass. Tickets for high school and college students, with a valid student ID, and children (ages 4-14) are available now for $10 daily and $24 for a tournament pass.
Astros full season ticket holders are offered a $12 daily ticket and a $30 tournament pass. To purchase general admission group tickets for groups of 20 or more, please call 713-259-4300. Luxury suites and Diamond Club tickets are available for purchase by calling 713-259-8350. Select parking in the Astros controlled lots will be sold for $20 (Diamond Lot) and $10 (Lot B).
2016 Shriners Hospital for Children College Classic
Houston (#18) at Texas Tech 12:05 p.m.
UL Lafayette (#13) at TCU (#11) 3:35 p.m.
Arkansas (#22) at Rice (#24) 7:05 p.m.
Texas Tech at UL Lafayette (#13) 12:05 p.m.
Houston (#18) at Arkansas (#22) 3:35 p.m.
Rice (#24) at TCU (#11) 7:05 p.m.
Arkansas (#22) at Texas Tech 11:05 a.m.
TCU (#11) at Houston (#18) 2:35 p.m.
UL Lafayette (#13) at Rice (#24) 6:05 p.m.