2021 Frisco Classic Preview
March 2, 2021
5th Annual Frisco College Baseball Classic returns Thursday to Dr. Pepper Ballpark
FRISCO, TEXAS – Peak Events, in conjunction with the Frisco RoughRiders, welcomes Dallas Baptist University, the University of Arizona, the University of Missouri, and the University of Oklahoma this week to the 2021 Frisco College Baseball Classic, an elite collegiate baseball competition featuring eight games over March 4-7, 2021 at Dr. Pepper Ballpark.
This year’s tournament features teams with seven combined national championships, as well as one former Frisco Classic champion. The Arizona Wildcats won the inaugural Frisco Classic in 2017, and they will join 2018 and 2020 entrant Texas A&M as the only programs to date with multiple Frisco Classic appearances. If the Wildcats were to win the tournament this year, they would become the first program to win multiple Frisco Classic titles.
Dallas Baptist University’s participation marks the first time a Dallas-area team will represent the Lone Star State in the Frisco Classic. They are the fifth different school from Texas to take part in the Frisco Classic. Meanwhile, Oklahoma is a first-time participant at Frisco, though they also were a part of last weekend’s Round Rock Classic, another Peak Events event. Missouri is the fourth different school to represent the SEC in Frisco, and the first school from the state of Missouri to play in the tournament.
A tournament schedule is listed below, and individual team profiles are included on subsequent pages. More information on the 2021 Frisco Classic, including ticket information, is posted at FriscoClassic.com. Questions related to media coverage of the event and credentialing can be directed to media relations coordinator Tyler Springs (firstname.lastname@example.org); all other questions should be submitted to Vice President of Peak Events Nathan Wooldridge (email@example.com).
Tournament Schedule (Gates open 60 minutes prior to first pitch)
Thursday, March 4
Game 1 Arizona vs Oklahoma 2:00PM
Game 2 Missouri vs DBU 8:00PM
Friday, March 5
Game 3 Oklahoma vs Arizona 12:00PM
Game 4 DBU vs Missouri 6:00PM
Saturday, March 6
Game 5 DBU vs Arizona 1:00PM
Game 6 Missouri vs Oklahoma 7:00PM
Sunday, March 7
Game 7 Arizona vs Missouri 12:00PM
Game 8 Oklahoma vs DBU 6:00PM
2021 Frisco Classic
Tournament field preview
Arizona Wildcats (6-2, 0-0 Pac-12)
Head Coach Jay Johnson
The Wildcats arrive in Frisco after sweeping Southeastern Louisiana and splitting with Ball State in eight home games over the last two weeks. They’ve won in multiple ways, with final margins in their last three victories coming in at 13-11, 4-3 and 14-2, demonstrating the strength of a young but talented roster.
“We really like our freshman class,” Arizona head coach Jay Johnson said. “There are some guys in some really key spots that, talent-wise, were ready to make a positive contribution. Now transitioning from high school baseball to Division I baseball, I believe, is the biggest jump a player ever makes in their career. And so there’s been some learning curve and some experiences, but particularly this [past] weekend, those guys’ talent really started to show up as they’re settling into games.”
Baseball America rated Arizona’s incoming recruits back in September as the fourth-best class in the country, leading the Pac-12 Conference and outranking all other programs west of the Mississippi River. Five of the newcomers were among the Baseball America Top 500 prospect rankings ahead of last year’s MLB Draft, and four of them are off to hot starts. Freshman Daniel Susac and Jacob Berry have combined for five doubles, a triple, two home runs and 12 RBI through the season’s first eight games, with Berry batting an even .400. Pair those contributions with the production of Branden Boissiere (.483, one double, one triple, two home runs, 10 RBI) and Top-100 draft prospect Ryan Holgate (.452, four doubles, one home run, 11 RBI), and 7.6 runs per game for the Wildcat offense starts to sounds like par for the course.
On the hill, freshman TJ Nichols and Top-100 prospect sophomore Chase Silseth --- both first-year players in the program --- have piled up 26 strikeouts across their first 23.1 combined innings while holding opposing hitters to a .212 batting average. Arizona’s bullpen is well-stocked, too: Seniors Preston Price and Vince Vannelle have punched out 16 batters without allowing a run in their first eight outings, and third-year sophomore Quinn Flanagan picked up a two-inning save in the Wildcats’ 4-3 win on Saturday.
The Tucson crew is rolling as they hit the road for the first time, and Johnson couldn’t be happier to see Frisco. The Wildcats are back in the Classic for the first time since 2017.
“We went out there in 2017, the first year of the event, and won the event,” Johnson recalled. “And I just couldn’t have been more impressed. You know, Nathan Wooldridge and Ryan Holloway and those guys do a great job. It really felt like the NCAA Tournament. I mean, we’d just come off being in the College World Series in 2016, and that event felt like the NCAA Tournament to me. Being a West Coast team, it kind of felt like we were in a hostile environment against Arkansas and Oklahoma State, just an environment you can’t put a price on. Just seeing how well it was run, how well our team was taken care of, I immediately hooked up with them and said, ‘Let’s get back.’ And the earliest opportunity was 2021. It’s honestly this year the only thing on the schedule that has remained a constant.”
2021 Frisco Classic
Tournament field preview
Dallas Baptist Patriots (5-2, 0-0 Missouri Valley)
Head Coach Dan Heefner
The Patriots will make the 35-mile trip north from their campus on Mountain Creek Parkway to Dr. Pepper Ballpark for their first Frisco Classic experience. They swept Austin Peay to open the year before splitting a series this past weekend with Gonzaga. Saturday’s 8-7 win over the Bulldogs was DBU’s first win of the season to be decided by fewer than nine runs.
“Honestly, [the split with Gonzaga] was probably good for us,” DBU head coach Dan Heefner said. “We had some really close, competitive games, and I think we needed that. It showed us some areas that we need to improve at. But we like our team a lot.”
And for good reason. DBU racked up six consecutive 40-win seasons before last year was cut short by COVID-19, and that pedigree has made the program an enticing draw for both veterans and newcomers. Only two of DBU’s starting nine against Gonzaga on Sunday have been with the program since their freshman collegiate seasons, but they defended Horner Park to the hilt, scoring five runs over the final four innings to rally for an 8-7 win. The walk-off RBI single came courtesy of redshirt sophomore catcher Ryan Wrobleski, a Top-100 draft prospect with a four-game hitting streak and a pair of home runs already on his card.
Wrobleski is hitting .250 at the moment, but six other hitters in the DBU lineup are hitting over .350.
The top third of the order packs a particular punch: sophomore lead-off man River Town (.429) has scored a team-high 11 runs, while seniors Jackson Glenn (.387) and Austin Bell (.429) have combined for four doubles and four home runs. And that’s before you even get to freshman Jace Grady (.409), whose team-high 12 RBI have come with the help of three doubles, a triple, and a homer. Starting third baseman Andrew Benefield (.387), a Louisville transfer, has also proven to be a key addition, notching three doubles and a home run with six runs driven in. Andres Sosa (.333), Sunday’s designated hitter, may be the most important of the bunch, someone that Heefner calls “a glue guy” with extreme reverence for his performance in clutch situations.
On the hill, the Patriots’ rotation got a boost from Houston graduate transfer Jared Pettite, whose 1.35 ERA leads all starters. He and top-100 draft prospect Dom Hamel (2.53 ERA, 10.2 IP, 17 K) should be good cornerstones for the staff, but veterans Ray Gaither, Kragen Kechely, and Peyton Sherlin are bullpen arms that Heefner leans on for setting the tone.
“We’re really excited to be a part of the tournament,” Heefner added. “It’s a great field. If you want to be the best, you’ve got to play the best. We love playing these teams, playing in this environment against great competition away from home. That’s who we are and what we love to do.”
2021 Frisco Classic
Tournament field preview
Oklahoma Sooners (4-3, 0-0 Big 12)
Head Coach Skip Johnson
A 4-3 start to the year isn’t quite what it may look like to people tracking the Sooners. Skip Johnson’s club has faced six different opponents over their first seven games, including three Power-5 opponents. Just as important, they have played five straight games away from Norman, all in MLB or Minor League Baseball stadiums, including three games in this past weekend’s Round Rock Classic, another Peak Events event. Johnson likes the way the stiff competition keeps his team honest.
“Playing in these Peak [Events’] events has been really good because there’s been high caliber competition, and I think it’s really going to help us down the road,” Johnson said. “[These teams we’re facing] are really fundamentally sound, and they will exploit things that we need to continue to grow in and work on and get confident in.”
Oklahoma beat Auburn 4-3 last Friday with a walk-off Tyler Hardman RBI single that scored Tanner Tredaway, handing the 17th-ranked Tigers their first loss. Hardman and Tredaway are two of three Sooners to start in all seven games, but their best hitters have been Jimmy Crooks (.364, one double, two home runs, five RBI), Peyton Graham (.333, one double), and Conor McKenna (.320, one double, two home runs, and a team-high six RBI). McKenna’s growth has been especially impressive for a player that batted a team-low .196 through 16 games last year and didn’t crack .260 in 2019.
“Conor’s been really good,” Johnson said. “During the COVID break, he took advantage of understanding his swing. He was [primarily] a defender when he got here, and I think what helped him was understanding the one-thought process when he’s hitting.”
Despite losing four starters from last year’s pitching rotation, OU still has Top-100 draft prospect Wyatt Olds to lean on, and freshman left-hander Jake Bennett has opened the year with a pair of strong starts (1.80 ERA, 10.0 IP, 12 K). Johnson has also been able to tap into a bullpen with deep reserves. Jaret Goodman, Carson Carter, Jason Ruffcorn, and Carson Atwood have all made multiple appearances without conceding a run, and there’ still more room for progress.
“I think they play with a good team spirit,” Johnson said of his team. “There are some things we need to keep cleaning up: throwing strikes, playing defense, hitting with two strikes, just playing the game. [When you] Haven’t played in 352 days, just getting on the field, getting the opportunity to play is as important as anything.”
2021 Frisco Classic
Tournament field preview
Missouri Tigers (3-5, 0-0 Southeastern Conference)
Head Coach Steve Bieser
Like Oklahoma, Mizzou’s first home games this year were against the University of Omaha. The Tigers split a four-game series with the Mavericks this past weekend, scoring at least 10 runs on three different occasions. That was an improvement on their season-opening series against Grand Canyon, when the Tigers dropped three of four. But the up-and-down start isn’t strange for Steve Bieser’s club: they were 4-5 last year until rattling off seven straight wins, including victories over then-No. 22 Oklahoma and Texas.
“[That Grand Canyon series] was some of the ugliest baseball I’ve seen in a long time from our crew,” Bieser said. “But we’re not a program that makes excuses. We really found a lot of things that we need to clean up, and hopefully we can make that change this week before we get to the Frisco Classic.”
After two series, the lineup has been a feast-or-famine outfit for Mizzou, with four hitters --- Joshua Day, Chad McDaniel, Mark Vierling, and Andrew Keefer --- hitting over .300, while their other five primary hitters have all hit below .200. Luke Mann has also managed a team-high nine RBI on just five hits. Pitching-wise, there’s less of a track record to lean on. Spencer Miles, a Columbia, Mo. native, earned the role of Friday night starter this year despite just two starts as a freshman last year. Andrew Vail entered the rotation this year as a junior after working mostly from the bullpen, limited to just 25.1 innings in his first two collegiate seasons. Seth Halvorsen made four pitching appearances as a freshman before shifting to center field last year and not taking the hill; he’s back toeing the rubber this season. There’s a minor thread here that Bieser acknowledges – talented arms, but not yet proven.
“You know, Lukas Veinbergs is a guy who has really done a great job leading [our pitchers], but we just need to get more seasoning on the mound and work on the things we need to work on,” Bieser said. “We need to get a lot of games under our belt early and establish what things are going to look like for the rest of the year.”
When Mizzou has gone to its relief corps, their best performers so far have been Spencer Juergens (2.16 ERA, 8.1 IP, 5 K) and Ian Lohse (4.26 ERA, 6.1 IP, 9 K). But irrespective of who gets the ball, one thing Bieser appreciates is the chance to test his team in a high-level event like the one this weekend at Dr. Pepper Ballpark.
“The Frisco Classic brings in great teams, great competition, with a great venue,” Bieser said. “It’s a true measuring stick to prepare us for SEC play. As a tournament format, it’s a little different than a three-game weekend series. You’ve got three separate preparations to get ready for three different teams, and that does present challenges. But it also allows you to just go out and play to your strengths, make sure that your team is sticking to the standards you’ve set for the team. It’s going to be an exciting week of action with the competition, and I know our guys are going to be geared up for it.”