CORPUS CHRISTI - A Southeastern Conference college baseball blueblood, a power from the west, and a fellow Southland conference school join Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the 2018 Kleberg Bank College Classic.
The 13th annual round-robin tournament unfolds at Whataburger Field on Friday-Saturday-Sunday February 23-24-25.
"We're extremely excited about this year's field," Islanders coach Scott Malone said. "Once again, we've been able to attract some outstanding intersectional competition from elite conferences.
"Mississippi State has been to Omaha and the College World Series nine times and won 18 SEC regular-season and tournament championships," Malone said. "UC Santa Barbara has enjoyed remarkable success out of the Big West under Andrew Checketts' leadership. And, it's always interesting to catch a conference opponent in a non-conference environment. Seth (Thibodeaux) has done a good job at Nicholls State; he's averaged about 30 wins a year and it's never easy to reckon with the Colonels between the white lines."
Mississippi State and UCSB meet in the tournament's first game Friday at 2 o'clock, followed by Nicholls State and the Islanders at 6 p.m.
Saturday's action includes Colonels-Bulldogs at 2, and the Gauchos and Islanders at 6.
The final day sees UCSB-Nicholls play at 11 and Mississippi State-Islanders at 3.
College Classic tickets go on sale Thursday, February 1. Adult tournament packages are $25.98 each for all three days; youth packages (ages 4-12) $12.99. Daily tickets cost just $10.83 and $5.41. Children 3-and-under are admitted free of charge.
• • • • • • • • •
The Bulldogs, coached by Andy Cannizaro, are making their second appearance in the College Classic (2010)… Mississippi State is coming off a 40-27 campaign and Baton Rouge Super Regional appearance… SEC record was 17-13… Highest final national ranking was 12th by USA Today Coaches Poll… Conference Player of the Year and consensus All-American outfielder Brent Rooker has taken his talents to the Minnesota Twins organization, the 14th MSU first-round draft choice… Junior outfielder Jake Mangum (.324/0/26/14 steals), junior OF/1B Hunter Vansau (.297/0/14), and junior infielder Hunter Stovall (.288/2/18) are among the returning offensive leaders… Mangum was second-team All-SEC… Junior right-hander Spencer Price notched a team-best 14 saves and went 4-1 with a 2.91 earned run average over 31 relief appearances… Junior left-hander Connor Pilkington (8-5/3.08 ERA/17 starts) struck out 111 in 108 innings… Sophomore right-hander Riley Self (5-2/3.72 ERA) matched Price in relief outings and saved eight contests.
Coached by Seth Thibodeaux… The Colonels were 29-27 overall in 2017, 15-15 in Southland Conference action… Senior outfielder Chet Niehaus (.303/1/23) is the top returning hitter… Senior infielder Gage Teer (.270/3/26) was another key offensive contributor… Both posted a team-best 13 doubles and Teer was the league's top defensive third baseman… Junior right-hander Adam Tarver was the club leader in saves (8) and wins (7) over 29 appearances, all in relief… His earned run average was 2.95… Sophomore southpaw Austin Bollinger was also effective out of the pen (1.99 ERA/18 outings)… Senior lefty Alex Ernestine (2-3/3.65/25 games/8 starts) and classmate Cayden Hatcher (4-4 over 16 games/11 starts) provide mound experience.
UC - Santa Barbara
Coached by Andrew Checketts… A year after advancing to the College World Series for the first time, UCSB went 24-32 overall and 8-16 in the Big West Conference… The Gauchos have qualified for the NCAA Tournament three times since 2013 and had 35 drafted players… Junior all-league SS Clay Fisher, who played in just 15 games last year, returns from Tommy John surgery… Redshirt freshman Andrew Martinez is back from the same procedure and expected to play second or third base… Sophomore outfielders Tommy Jew (.295/4/30) and Armani Smith (.285/3/24) were relied on heavily as freshmen… Junior DH Sam Cohen (.264/8/24) was honorable mention All-Big West… Junior Noah Davis, last year's Opening Day and Friday starter, finished 7-4 with a 4.63 ERA… He beat Miami in the CWS as a freshman… Redshirt freshman Jack Dashwood is a 6-foot-6 left-hander expected to compete for a weekend starter's role after Tommy John surgery.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
Coached by Scott Malone… Islanders were 22-32 overall and 14-16 in the Southland Conference last season… Senior outfielder and team MVP Dalton Stark topped the club with a .325 batting average and 15 doubles… He also drove in 32 runs and was honorable mention all-conference… Junior outfielder Nick Anderson's five home runs and 36 RBIs paced the A&M-Corpus Christi attack… Sophomore utility man Luke Marbach (.319 in 33 games) and senior infielder Cam Boudreaux (.286 in 34) added punch as well… Senior right-hander Chris Cooper led the pitching staff in wins (5), saves (7), and ERA (3.78)… Former Corpus Christi Moody star Aaron Hernandez, a junior right-hander, is expected to provide immediate help.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.