One of the more intriguing 2-seeds this year is TCU. The Horned Frogs were in serious contention for a host until an early exit from the MWC Tournament ended all such aspirations. A strong pitching staff has been the focal point of their success. TCU’s pitchers have held their opponent to 2 runs or less in 26 of the Frogs’ 55 games.
Regular season: TCU started off the season in the heat of the gauntlet with a set against Ole Miss, a midweek game at Baylor, and a series in Fullerton to break in the new year. It did not bode well for them as they got off to a 2-6 start, one that dropped them from the rankings. The club closed the season well though, going 21-4 in their last 25 games. Their final conference tournament saw two terrific games against San Diego State. The first saw the Frogs blow a 10-run lead in the 9th only to win the game in the bottom half by a score of 16-15. A loss to New Mexico matched TCU up with SDSU once more. The Aztecs got revenge in another final-pitch-nailbiter 12-11 to knock the Frogs out of the tournament.
Coach: In his 9th season at TCU, Jim Schlossnagle will be making his 9th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The 2010 National Coach of the Year took TCU to their first ever College World Series and brought them to within 1 game of the finals. Schlossnagle also reached a Super Regional in 2009, losing to Texas in 3 games.
Pitching: The Horned Frogs have the 27th best team ERA in the nation and rely on their staff to win games. Schlossnagle likes to use a variety of arms out of the pen. There are 6 different relievers for TCU who have thrown more than 20 innings in relief so far this season.
Andrew Mitchell and Andrew Crichton have been great all year and have records of 5-3 and 8-2 respectively. While it will likely be Mitchell on Saturday, Crichton is no slouch out of the 3.
The starter that Ole Miss will see on Friday is Preston Morrison. The freshman out of Waxhaw, NC has an ERA of 1.73 and is 9-1 on the season. He leads the NCAA in WHIP at 0.80 and has walked just 8 hitters in 98.2 innings. These stats are amazing since he is just a true freshman, but even more mystifying is the fact that he wasn’t even drafted last year. Morrison throws a mid-80s fastball and was passed over by every pro team and Division I team in his home state. He can throw a changeup and a slider to go along with his fastball, all for first-pitch strikes. His pitching idol? Greg Maddux.
Hitting: TCU is ranked 189th in the NCAA in hits, 154th in OBP, 136th in runs, and 124th in home runs. Not a team that boasts strong offensive firepower, they need to rely on their two big bats. Senior outfielder Jason Coats is batting .326 this season and leads the team in RBI’s with 45. Cleanup-hitter Josh Elander is batting .314 this year and despite being the catcher, leads the team with 12 steals. These two have combined for 14 of the team’s 24 home runs and are the catalysts for the success of this offense. Coats was 3-7 with 2 RBI’s against Ole Miss earlier this season while Elander was 3-8 with 2 of the hits coming off tomorrow’s starter Bobby Wahl.
Defense: The defense ranks 173rd in the country with a .964 fielding percentage. TCU has committed 78 errors on the season, 23 of which were made by the starting left-side of the infield in Wright and Jones. Only 20 of 64 runners were caught stealing by TCU, something that may haunt them as they will play running teams all weekend.
With the way that Ole Miss has hit with runners in scoring position lately and how TCU has hit all year, this one shouldn’t be troublesome for either ace. Wahl garnered his first win of the year against TCU in what turned out to be one of his worst performances. He pitched 5 innings, allowed 5 hits, 2 runs, and struck out just 2. As truth would have it, Morrison also won his first game of the season in that series. The freshman pitched 3.1 perfect innings in relief while striking out a pair. TCU opens up play tomorrow against #3 Ole Miss at 12:35 CT in College Station.