Fort Worth Super Regional Preview: TCU vs. Texas A&M

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    Between TCU’s Monday night eight-run comeback against NC State and Thursday’s ticket controversy on Twitter, the Fort Worth Super Regional already has college baseball fans riled up for this weekend’s series.

    The No. 7 national seed TCU (47-12, 18-5 Big 12) is hosting Texas A&M (49-12, 18-10 SEC) in the Fort Worth Super Regional which begins on Saturday at 2 p.m. It’s a matchup that many wanted to see and could very well live up to it’s expectation of being the most exciting of the eight Super Regionals being played this weekend.

    The Horned Frogs and the Aggies both had to come out of the loser’s brackets of their respective regionals to make it through to the next round. Both teams lost their second game due to late game-winning home runs, but won three consecutive games to advance to the Fort Worth Super Regional.

    All the hype for this weekend’s series, which sold out before tickets went on sale to the general public, can be considered to be well warranted.

    TCU, who’s 2.38 team ERA is the second best in the country, is known for its talented starting pitching rotation and deep bullpen.

    During the Fort Worth regional, TCU’s bullpen did not allow a run, except for closer Riley Ferrell.

    Texas A&M, on the other hand, is known for its highly productive offense as the Aggies are batting .305 as a team, the ninth best batting average in the nation.

    The Aggies are led by their catcher Mitchell Nau, who has a team-high batting average of .377. Shortstop Logan Taylor, who leads Texas A&M hitters with 50 RBIs is also tied with Ryne Birk for the team lead in homers with 10.

    Though effective pitching may be the Frogs’ biggest strength while good hitting is the Aggies’ strongest asset, both teams can hit and pitch pretty darn well.

    While TCU’s line up isn’t known for putting up big power numbers, the Frogs led the Big 12 in hitting with a .288 average and hit .298 in their regional last weekend. TCU centerfielder Cody Jones is coming into the Super Regional with a .378 batting average, which is the highest of all hitter coming into this weekend’s series.

    It was apparent in the Fort Worth regional that TCU, a team with eight seniors on its roster, can continually come up clutch at the plate. The Frogs scored 28 runs with two outs last weekend, six of those coming in the bottom of the eighth inning to jumpstart their comeback victory over NC State on Monday.

    Texas A&M’s hitting has been a bit more consistent than TCU’s this season as six different Aggies are hitting above .300, but their starting pitching has also been both steady and effective.

    The Aggies’ ace is Grayson Long (9-0), a junior right-hander who is known for his mid-90s fastball. Long, who could potentially be a first round selection in the upcoming MLB Draft, gave up 10 hits, the most he’s given up all year in the Aggie’s second regional game against California. But he only allowed one earned run over 6 2/3 innings pitched.

    Texas A&M’s No. 2 guy in their typical weekend rotation is lefty Matt Kent (9-1), who can be compared to TCU starter Preston Morrison in the sense that he’s the type of pitcher who has a good command of the strike zone and likes to pitch to contact.

    Kent’s last couple of starts are perhaps the best two outings of the season. In the Aggies’ second game of the SEC Tournament, the junior held defending national champion Vanderbilt to just one run on four hits in seven innings pitched. Then in the regional championship game against California, Kent allowed only one run on five hits over seven innings of work and was named as the regionals most outstanding player.

    On Friday, sophomore lefty Tyler Alexander (11-2) will get the start on the mound for the Frogs after he pitched six perfect innings against the Wolfpack on Saturday.

    “Mainly, I just need to keep the ball down,” Alexander said. “With a team with as much power as they do, that will be big for me.”

    Preston Morrison (12-3), who is considered to be one of TCU’s best pitchers in school history, will get the start for the Frogs on Saturday. The senior threw eight innings in Saturday’s game in which he allowed three runs on four hits and tied his career-high with 10 strikeouts.

    While TCU’s starting pitching and bullpen was strong in the Fort Worth regional, the Frogs’ All American closer Riley Ferrell struggled on the mound as he gave up the game winning home run to NC State’s Chance Shepard on Saturday and allowed four runs in the top of the eight inning on Monday.

    But TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle said he still trusts Ferrell, who is perhaps the best closer he’s ever coached.

    “Riley is 32 of 34 in his career in saves,” Schlossnagle said. “It just so happens that last two were recently. There’s nobody I’ve ever coached in the last 25 years I would have on the mound with the game on the line in a super regional than Riley Ferrell. So, he’ll be out there Saturday if that’s the case.”