The Frogs advanced to the Fort Worth Super Regional by mounting an impressive eight run comeback against NC State after coming out of the loser’s bracket due to a devastating loss to the Wolfpack just two days prior.
While last weekend showed that the Frogs will not go down without a fight, there were also some weaknesses that we’re exposed as well.
Here’s the take-away:
1. TCU has a very, very, deep pitching rotation and bullpen
From the starting rotation to the bullpen, there isn’t a more effective group of pitchers in college baseball right now than those wearing purple and white.
Though Preston Morrison showed why he’s an All American on Saturday night against NC State by striking out 10 and allowing just three runs on four hits over eight innings, perhaps Tyler Alexander was the real hero for the Frogs during the Fort Worth regional.
Alexander saved a lot of arms in his complete game performance against the Wolfpack on Sunday, a game where he began by pitching six perfect innings. Alexander’s complete game was important because it saved TCU from using possibly-tired arms out of the bullpen after using Brian Howard, Preston Guillory and Travis Evans that afternoon against Stony Brook.
Other than Riley Ferrell, no TCU reliever gave up an earned run during regional play.
2. Riley Ferrell is struggling
While TCU’s bullpen came up big for the Frogs last weekend, TCU’s All-American closer Riley Ferrell struggled.
For most of the regular season, Ferrell, who had a team low .67 ERA, was nearly un-hittable coming out of the bullpen as opposing batters were hitting a meager .082 off the right-handed flame thrower. But last weekend, Ferrell saw his ERA climb to 2.22 and his opponent batter average go up to .109.
So far this post season, Ferrell has blown save opportunities against Baylor in the Big 12 Tournament and NC State when he gave up a game winning homer in ninth inning that sent the Frogs to the loser’s bracket. Then in Monday’s final game against the Wolfpack, he gave up four runs in the top of the eighth inning and had to be pulled after only recording one out.
While head coach Jim Schlossnagle says he still trusts his closer, it’s apparent that Ferrell is going through a rough patch as of late, and it is important that he finds his groove in the Super Regional against Texas A&M.
3. Alex Young can have a bad game
After being named an All-American and receiving multiple Big 12 Pitcher of the Week honors, TCU starting pitcher Alex Young finally had his first rough day on the mound in weeks.
The last time the junior didn’t make it out of the fourth inning was against Kansas State on April 11th. Before that, it was against Big 12 runner-up Oklahoma State on March 22nd.
In the third and fourth inning on Monday, Young gave up four runs, but it could ahve been more as NC State hit several balls to warning track that ended up being long outs.
But after his poor against Oklahoma State, Young shutout Wichita State over seven innings of work. He also followed his lackluster start against Kansas State by giving up just two runs to Santa Clara during a just over six inning outing.
If Young is called to pitch against Texas A&M on Monday, he’ll most likely have to put together another good follow-up showing in order for the Frogs to advance to the College World Series.
4. TCU’s clutch hitting has not cooled off
Though it seems Ferrell hasn’t been able to come through on the clutch in his last three appearances, TCU’s offense has.
The hit of the regional that TCU fans will remember will be Elliott Barzilli’s pinch hit RBI single to complete the comeback against NC State to send the Frogs to the Super Regional.
But Barzilli’s walkoff was just one of many clutch at bats this weekend. In the bottom of the eighth inning of the regional championship, all of TCU’s six runs scored with two outs. Nine of TCU’s combined 18 runs against Sacred Heart and Stony Brook were driven in by two-out hits.
Clutch hitting continues to be a mark of college baseball teams who make deep post season runs. The Frogs will need to continue their hot hitting to keep up with a Texas A&M offense that features a line up consisting of six batters hitting above .307 and a pitching staff with a combined 2.95 ERA.
5. Lupton will be loud
More than 4,000 fans were in attendance for each of TCU’s regional games and it was apparent, especially Monday night. After his team blew a 8-1 lead late in the game, NC State’s head coach Elliott Avett said the crowd noise very well could have played a factor is his team’s collapse.
None of TCU’s regional opponents brought many fans to Lupton Stadium as all three Universities are located on the East Coast. But College Station is a less than a three hour drive away from Fort Worth and many Aggie alumni reside in the DFW area.
It will be interesting to see how the Woo Birds and the Aggies get along.