Top college teams set to descend on Minute Maid Park

Houston College Classic to be held at Astros' home from March 6-8

Top college teams set to descend on Minute Maid Park

HOUSTON -- The college baseball season begins this weekend, which means the 15th annual Houston College Classic will be returning to Minute Maid Park soon.

The tournament, which will be held March 6-8, this year will feature several of the top college teams in the country, including second-ranked LSU and No. 3-ranked Houston -- two teams that met in last year's NCAA regional, won by the Cougars.

This marks the first time in tournament history that it will host two of the top three teams in the country. The rest of the field includes Texas A&M, Baylor, Nebraska and Hawaii. LSU is making its first appearance in the tournament, and Nebraska is coached by former Astros player Darin Erstad.

"It is a big deal for a college baseball player to go and play in a Major League stadium, especially a great facility like Minute Maid Park," Houston coach Todd Whitting said. "That tournament alone is really big for college baseball in general and the city of Houston. It generates a buzz for the sport and gets a lot of people interested. There is no better college baseball tournament out there."

The Houston College Classic has hosted the No. 1 team in preseason polls six times in tournament history and has hosted two eventual College World Series champions. Several current Major League players have played in the College Classic, including David Price, Michael Bourn, Gerrit Cole, Mike Leake and Anthony Rendon.

Houston and LSU will play at 7:05 p.m. CT on March 6 in a rematch of last year's Baton Rouge Regional. LSU will face Baylor at 3:35 p.m. March 7, and the Aggies and Cougars follow at 7:05 p.m. There will be three games each day of the tournament.

Houston, which returns all of its starting rotation and six of nine offensive players from last year's team, opens its season Friday with a three-game weekend series against Minnesota.

"Throughout the year, you're always battling distractions, and we're starting the season with a big one being ranked in the top five," Whitting said. "I don't view it as a negative at all. It's a positive any time you have that kind of respect throughout the country from that many publications on projection of how your team should be, but that's something once the first pitch is thrown everyone has to forget about it and get back down to business."

Select student and adult daily tickets and three-day tournament passes are now available for purchase online at astros.com/CollegeClassic. Tickets can also be purchased at the Minute Maid Park Box Office (during regular business hours).

Adult tickets purchased in advance are available for a $16 daily admission, as well as a $36 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.

Season-ticket holders (27-game packages and up) are offered a $10 daily ticket and a $24 tournament pass. To purchase general admission group tickets for groups of 20 or more, please call 713-259-8381. Luxury suites can be purchased for the entire tournament or on a daily basis by calling 713-259-8843. Diamond Club tickets are available for purchase by calling 713-259-8333.

Select parking in the Astros' controlled lots will be sold for $15 (Diamond Lot) and $10 (Lot A, B).

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.