It is often said in sports that defense wins championships. If that concept holds true for college baseball, don’t be surprised to see purple and white in the College World Series.
The Frogs currently hold the nation’s lowest team earned run average (ERA) at a paltry 2.14, according to the NCAA. Two of TCU’s starting pitchers hold ERAs lower than 2.00.
Here’s the kicker, though: junior lefty Brandon Finnegan, who has struck out nearly 250 batters in three years and earned Honorable Mention All-Big 12 honors last season, is not one of them.
The Sam Houston State Bearkats seemed to run out of quality pitchers in Sunday night’s regional final to the Frogs. On the heels of playing 31 innings of baseball in less than 24 hours, who could really blame them?
The Bearkats played five pitchers who gave up 14 hits and six runs combined.
TCU, on the other hand, gave up only six hits and a run with one pitcher: freshman Tyler Alexander.
“My off-speed [pitch has] been a lot better, been keeping it low and in the zone,” Alexander said after Sunday’s win. “I’m just taking every pitch one inning at a time.”
Sunday was also the second complete game in a row for Alexander, who also pitched in the team’s Big 12 title win over Oklahoma State.
Furthermore, despite using a grand total of seven pitchers in the 22-inning game the night before, TCU’s Jordan Kipper, a junior with 12 starts and an 8-2 record under his belt, didn’t see the field over the weekend.
That’s called depth, folks, and we haven’t even reached the bullpen yet.
Part of the reason Kipper didn’t play over the weekend was the Frogs simply didn’t need him. Throughout the weekend, TCU’s bullpen combined for 15 strikeouts, eight hits and zero runs in 18 1/3 innings pitched.
Three Horned Frog relievers hold ERAs lower than 2.78 while no TCU pitcher has an ERA higher than 4.76.
The Frogs also have one of the nation’s top relievers in Riley Ferrell, who has earned 14 saves and a 0.75 ERA.
Combine Finnegan, Alexander and Kipper with the bullpen and you have an above average pitching team. Add Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Preston Morrison to that mix and you have a championship contender.
“They’re very good on the mound,” SHSU David Pierce said after losing to the Frogs.
“When you pitch and play defense, you have a chance to win…TCU will definitely be the front runner coming in [to Super Regionals] and I think they got a chance to do well in Omaha.”
TCU is 39-4 when they allow three runs or less this season. The last time the Frogs gave up more than three runs in a regular-innings loss was April 12.
Finnegan will likely make the start in TCU’s opening Super Regional game against Pepperdine with Morrison starting Sunday’s game and Alexander starting Monday if need be.
First pitch for the series opener is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. on Saturday afternoon at Lupton Stadium.