CORPUS CHRISTI - The University of Houston makes its inaugural Whataburger Field appearance at the 2017 Kleberg Bank College Classic, set for February 24-25-26.
Joining the American Athletic Conference Cougars are first-time entry Illinois of the Big Ten and SEC member Missouri. The Tigers return to the "Ballpark by the Bay" after a one-year absence from the Classic; their exceptional pitching translated to victories over Sam Houston State (2-0), host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (5-1), and Purdue (1-0) in 2015.
"Getting Houston to Whataburger Field has been a goal of ours for quite some time," Islanders coach Scott Malone said. "The Cougars have a great baseball tradition and significant following. We're excited about having the Illini here for the first time, as well. And, it's always meaningful to welcome back a club, like Missouri, that's been to Corpus Christi before and enjoyed a positive experience."
Friday, February 24 (gates open 1 p.m.)
Houston vs. Missouri, 2 p.m.
Illinois vs. Islanders, 6 p.m.
Saturday, February 25 (gates open 1 p.m.)
Illinois vs. Houston, 2 p.m.
Missouri vs. Islanders, 6 p.m.
Sunday, February 26 (gates open 10 a.m.)
Missouri vs. Illinois, 11 a.m.
Houston vs. Islanders, 3 p.m.
Tickets for the 2017 Kleberg Bank College Classic go on sale Wednesday, February 1, at cchooks.com and the Whataburger Field Box Office. The Hooks will also take phone orders at 361-561-HOOK (4665).
Tournament package pricing remains unchanged at $26.00 for adults and $13.00 for youth ages 4-12. Daily ticket pricing is $11.00 and $5.50. Children 3-and-under are free.
Coached by Todd Whitting, Houston is coming off a 36-23 campaign (11-12 American)… UH fell to UCONN in the conference tournament finals… All-conference outfielder Corey Julks (.332/3/28) and first baseman Joe Davis (.331/14/58) are the top returning offensive players… All-conference utility man Connor Wong (.304/5/30) also topped .300… Lefty Seth Romero (6-4/2.29), Mitch Ullom (7-4/2.88), and southpaw John King (6-4/3.51) combined for 35 starts as the Cougars posted a league-best 2.48 team ERA… Romero struck out 113 over 94 innings… Spot starter and left-hander Trey Cumbie (5-2/1.29) is a key man out of the bullpen... The Cougars have made 20 NCAA Tournament appearances and twice advanced to Omaha.
The Illini were 28-23 overall and 12-12 in Big Ten play last spring… Dan Hartleb enters his 12th season as head coach and 27th overall in Champaign… He owns two conference championships (2011/2015) and has made three NCAA Tournament runs in the last six years, including a Super Regional appearance and school-record 50-win season in '15… 1B/OF Pat McInerney (.301/7/27) paced the '16 club in home runs and conference batting average (.347)… Anthony Drago (.277/4/19) opened in 34 games as the DH… Left-hander Doug Hayes (6-5/3.58) topped the team in wins from his No. 2 rotation spot… The Illini have appeared in 11 NCAA Tournaments.
Missouri went 26-30 in 2016, 9-21 during SEC competition… Steve Bieser, who spent the last four seasons piloting Southeast Missouri, was named the Tigers' new coach on June 30… He guided the Redhawks to three straight Ohio Valley Conference championships, a league record, plus the 2016 NCAA Tournament, the school's first since 2002… Catcher Brett Bond (.219/7/28) and pitcher Tanner Houck (5-6/2.99) made the Kleberg Bank College Classic 2015 all-tournament team… Houck struck out 106 in 105 innings in 2016… Cole Bartlett was second in the SEC in appearances (31)… He won and saved three games… Mizzou has qualified for 15 NCAA regionals and six College World Series.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders
The Islanders finished 19-32 and 8-20 in the Southland Conference… Third baseman Dawson Yates (.298/3/12), second baseman Brett Burner (.272/0/11), and catcher Scott Balfantz (.312/0/7) will be counted on for infield leadership… Nolan Holland (2-1) led the Islanders in ERA (2.87) and saves (5)… Devin Skapura (3-8/3.64), Chris Cooper (1-3/4.35), and Aaron Hernandez (4-4/4.58) are veteran pitchers… The 2017 campaign will be Scott Malone's 10th at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.