The No. 11 Horned Frogs have a “super” opportunity Tuesday night in College Station. If the TCU team bus leaves Aggieland whoopin’ and hollerin’, the positive consequences will be paramount — as in Super Regional paramount.
A win tonight for No. 11 TCU over No. 6 Texas A&M rectifies the faceplant the Frogs pulled a week ago in Norman.
A 13-6 loss to Oklahoma, ranked as high as No. 11 and as low as No. 17 in the NCAA Division I Baseball polls, could have been demoralizing to a TCU team parched with inconsistent play this season. To the Frogs’ credit, the team rebounded to sweep conference foe San Diego State on the road this weekend, setting up a top 10 clash — at least according to two of three major top 25 baseball polls — of two baseball titans in the state of Texas.
The biggest positive from the past week has been the re-emergence of TCU’s best hitter, junior left fielder Jason Coats. Coats’ batting average has risen to .310 during a 16-game hitting streak. He has driven in 18 runs and is hitting nearly .400 during his current tear. His presence in the lineup has been missed, and his offensive revival should pay dividends tonight as the Aggies boast a top 10 team ERA of 2.25.
If freshman pitcher Andrew Mitchell (2-0, 1.24 ERA) stays composed, the Frogs can hang with A&M sophomore starter Brandon Parrent (1-3, 3.55 ERA). Parrent didn’t allow an earned run in six innings pitched in his last outing against No. 22 Rice despite being credited with the loss.
A win in College Station does much to rebuild the résumé and national credibility of a team that went from being a Cinderella in the 2010 College World Series to preseason No. 1 darling to start the 2011 season. The Frogs fell in the rankings fast after dropping three straight in late February with two losses to No. 8 Cal State Fullerton and a loss to Dallas Baptist and have slowly made up ground despite a handful of inexcusable letdowns and one-run losses down the stretch.
None of that matters now. TCU can turn a corner on the season with a signature win tonight and ride a four-game win streak into the weekend home series against UNLV, currently second to last in the MWC, before a home rematch against the Sooners a week from today.
As the regular season winds down and the MWC Championships near, TCU needs to take advantage of every opportunity it can to impress the NCAA Selection Committee when the eight national seeds are awarded. The No. 1 to No. 8 seeds will be awarded a Super Regional site if the nationally seeded team advances from the Regional round.
The committee will consider attendance and revenue generated from the home team, so pencil in seventh-ranked Texas for a Super Regional bid as long as head coach Augie Garrido’s squad keeps to its pedigree. It isn’t unheard of for two teams in the same region to be awarded national seeds — Texas and Rice both have been given the chance to host a Super Regional in the same season four times since 1999, while Baylor, Rice and Texas A&M all were awarded national seeds in 1999.
This season, TCU’s chief competitor for a second national seed in the state likely will be A&M, and a win tonight will go a long way in separating the two teams when the selection committee awards national seeds. TCU has the edge on attendance over A&M — TCU is ranked ninth by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, while Texas A&M is ranked 12th.
TCU truly earned its 2010 CWS berth after taking two of three against the Longhorns at the Austin Super Regional. Playing a Super Regional at UFCU Disch-Falk Field is as rocky a road to Omaha as there is in college baseball.
If TCU can avoid playing a best-of-three series in Austin in favor a best-of-three series in a Fort Worth Super Regional, the Frogs have a far better chance at getting a second straight summer vacation in Omaha. TCU can begin bettering its CWS odds with a win in Aggieland Tuesday night.
Sports editor Ryne Sulier is a senior news-editorial journalism and political science double major from Plano.