Texas reminded us what the Longhorns look like when they're playing for something.
Over the course of the regional, the Horns surrendered three runs in three games, saw dominant pitching performances from Brandon Workman, Chance Ruffin, and Taylor Jungmann, backed them up with awesome defense from Jordan Etier and Brandon Loy (Etier making one of the best defensive plays of the year against Rice for a key 8th inning out), and sprinkled in some timely power hitting from Mr. June Russell Moldenhauer.
Now the Horned Frogs stand between us and Omaha. As they did last year, when Texas beat them 2 out of 3 to advance.
The Frogs share many of our characteristics: a 49-11 record, dominant pitching, and power hitting. They cruised through an easy regional whipping Lamar 16-3, Arizona 11-5, and blanking Baylor 9-0. Unlike Texas, TCU's offensive statistics are particularly gaudy, with an absurd team batting average of .345, 90 home runs so far this year, and they average 9 runs per game. TCU also features three good starting pitchers in Winkler (11-1, 3.05), Purke (13-0, 3.40), and Maxwell (11-1, 2.51). Despite having the highest ERA of the three, the freshman Purke has the most dominant stuff, as 122 strikeouts in 95 innings pitched will attest. As a freshman, Purke also has a reasonable chance of crapping himself in a pressure environment.
TCU is probably one of the best eight teams in college baseball right now and, once again, the NCAA selection committee has done us no favors.
Interesting statistics of debatable meaningfulness follow:
- The Frogs are only 10-8 in games decided by one or two runs
- They're 6-9 when they score 4 or less runs
- They're 3-11 when trailing after 7 innings.
Conclusion: They enjoy slaughtering teams, but their Toad cloacas pucker up when you play them tight. So a blinding glimpse of the obvious suggests that tight low-scoring games, the ocean in which we effortlessly swim, is deep water for the Horned Frogs.
Like Rice last weekend, TCU should find out that offensive statistics racked up against the likes of Air Force and Houston won't help them against elite pitching, the best defensive middle infield in college baseball, a veteran squad accustomed to playing in pressure situations, and the home crowd advantage of 7200+ screaming fans. TCU's average home attendance is 3,126, on the road 2,093. I'm not a mathematician, but this suggests we'll have dozens more fans.
TCU manager Jim Schlossnagle had this to say:
Ever since the way things went down last year in Austin, we felt like we learned a lot from that experience. We’ll find out how much that helps us. The thing I said to the team at the end of the game is I feel we are right where we expected to be. We felt like we were deserving of a national seed, but it didn’t go our way. I know they (Texas) have a great club, but I think it’s going to be a little bit different situation for us this year than last just simply because we’ve been through it. Whether that means success or not, we’ll find out.
Yes, we will. I expect the Horns to take 2 out of 3 from the Frogs and punch our tickets to Omaha.