Preview of TCU’s College World Series opponents

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    TCU defeated Texas A&M on Monday night to earn a trip to Omaha for the third time in five years, but the Frogs are the only team in their side if the College World Series bracket without a national championship.

    Vanderbilt won its first last year, LSU won its sixth in 2009 and Cal State Fullerton won its fourth in 2004.

    Not only do these three teams have a lot of postseason experience, they’re also loaded with talented pitchers and hitters.

    Here’s a broad look at the three teams the Horned Frogs can hit in their bracket:

    LSU

    The No. 2 overall seed, LSU, is the highest remaining national seed in the College World Series since No. 1 UCLA was eliminated in its regional.

    So far, LSU (53-10) has breezed through the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers swept their regional by beating teams such as Lehigh and UNC Wilmington before winning their first two against UL-Lafayette.

    While the Tigers were battling the Ragin Cajuns in Baton Rouge, TCU faced a Texas A&M lineup with six players who were hitting over .300 in the Fort Worth Super Regional. LSU has eight players in their starting lineup hitting above the .300 mark and three who have hit nine or more home runs.

    While TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle compared LSU to some of TCU’s previous tournament opponents, he said the Tigers’ speed sets them apart.

    “I think the last couple teams we played, North Carolina State and Texas A&M, were very physical clubs. Somewhat similar to LSU,” Schlossnagle said. “The difference is the speed element. LSU is just very, very complete team. So there’s more than just making pitches to bigger physical players.”

    As a team, the Tigers are hitting .316, the fourth highest team batting average in college baseball as they get offensive production from just about all off their starters.

    LSU is led by Chris Chinea, who is batting .355 with a team-high 11 homers, and second overall MLB Draft pick Alex Bregman who is hitting .312 with 9 home runs and 22 doubles.

    But the Tigers are also dangerous on the base paths.

    LSU base runners stole a total 126 bases on 162 attempts this season, which is the fourth most in the country. For comparison, TCU is fifth in that category with 117 successful steal attempts in 159 tries.

    Though the Tigers may be known for their offense, they also have one of the best pitching staffs in the country that has the 10th lowest ERA in the nation.

    On the mound, LSU has a powerful one-two punch in starters Jared Poche and Alex Lange. Poche (9-1), a lefty with a 2.91 ERA will start against the Frogs on Sunday. Though Lange has been the Tiger’s ace, the Tigers going with a lefty could be seen as a wise decision by LSU head coach Paul Manieri as the Horned Frogs struggled against NC State southpaw Brian Brown and Texas A&M left-hander Matt Kent.

    “In terms of Poche, we know he’s really good,” Schlossnagle said. “We knew going into the season we were going to play a lot of left-handed hitters. Going back to the recruiting season, that was one effort we made the last two or three years to add more balance to our lineup. We’ve seen everybody’s — when in doubt, the other coach normally picks the left-hander. NC State did that, Texas A&M did that. We’ve seen it all year.”

    Vanderbilt

    The defending national champion, Vanderbilt (47-19), like LSU, is undefeated in the NCAA tournament.

    In fact, Vanderbilt has been on a tear in the postseason. So far in NCAA Tournament play, the Commodores have outscored their opponents 53-7.

    A lot of the Commodores success can be attributed to the lack of attrition from last year’s national championship team. Vanderbilt returned starters Dansby Swanson, Zander Wiel, Rhett Wiseman, Zander Wiel, Bryan Reynolds, Karl Ellison and Ro Coleman.

    Vanderbilt head coach said that his team’s experience has helped them defensively.

    “I think for the most part we’re experienced defensively,” Corbin said. “We have two new kids, one at third and one in left field, but they’ve transitioned nicely. Third baseman’s played very well actually as the season’s progressed. Swanson’s made the transition from second to short well, but I thought that would be the case. He would have been our shortstop his freshman year had he not gotten hurt. Zander Wiel and Tyler Campbell have played well on the right side. I think a little bit like maybe Paul and Jim, from what I know, is all three outfielders for us could probably play centerfield if they had to. So I like the athletic ability of them.”

    At the plate, the Commodores have no shortage of power hitters as both Wiel and Wiseman have hit 14 home runs, while the first overall pick in this year’s MLB Draft, Dansby Swanson, has homered 15 times. In the post season, Vanderbilt has hit nine home runs in its five tournament games.

    The Commodore’s starting pitching rotation features a pair of first round MLB Draft selections with Carson Fulmer, the eighth overall pick and Walker Buehler, who was picked 24th overall.

    Fortunately for the Frogs, Fulmer, who led the SEC in strikeouts, wins and ERA is starting against Cal State Fullerton on Sunday. But the Frogs would most likely face Buehler, who can pound the strike zone with his mid-90s fastball, curveball and slider. But Corbin could choose the left-handed Phil Pfeifer, who got the win in the Commodores’ 4-2 over Illinois in the Champagne Super Regional.

    Cal State Fullerton

    Cal State Fullerton, like many of the teams who made it to Omaha have been hot as of late as the Titans have won 17 of their last 20 games after a slow start to the season which included several road trips to the East Coast and a series in Hawaii.

    “We played all over the country,” said Cal State Fullerton head coach Rick Vanderhook. “We flew 26,000 miles before the Super Regional to play games in Indiana and Maryland and Hawaii and Tampa, Florida, to get some different flavor in the preseason. And then after that point, we pretty much stayed on the West Coast for a while, and they got to get in a little bit of a rhythm and a little groove, and we’ve learned how to play in one-run games.

    On Sunday, the Titans will send their ace Thomas Eshelman to the mound, which is perhaps good news for the Frogs since the 46th overall MLB draft pick has a staggeringly low 1.58 ERA and an absurd 131 strikeouts to seven walks ratio.

    Luckily for the Horned Frogs, they won’t be facing Eshelman if they were to play the Titans on Tuesday. But they would have to deal with a pitching staff that ranks eight in the nation with a 2.84 ERA.

    TCU could face two different Titan pitchers in their second game, as Connor Seabold and John Gavin have made 10 or more starts on the mound. Though Seabold has a lower ERA and opponent batting average, Vanderhook could give Gavin the start since he would be a lefty going against a left-handed heavy TCU batting order.

    At the plate, the Titans aren’t going to wow fans with home runs as thy have only hit 20 home runs as a team, 10 of them coming from designated hitter David Olmedo-Barrera. And the Titans’ team batting average of .265 is ranks 197th in the country.

    But Vanderhook said his team’s late season run can be partly attributed to being able to score the runs at the end of the game.

    “We’ve learned how to score late in the game,” Vanderhook said. “Those are things that you learn throughout the season. You can’t teach. They just have to figure it out and how to do it. I thought they did a good job with that. We started getting Eshelman more than one run a game, which helped him a little bit. And then we lost Garza, and we didn’t miss a beat. It’s all them. I didn’t do anything. Well, I did. I made them shave and get haircuts. That’s about it.”