This week, I'll be breaking up the Monday Morning Manager into two parts; Recap Today, Stats and Awards tomorrow. There were many things to proud of if you're a TCU fan, and even better--very little to be worried about. It would've obviously been ideal to get out of Arizona with a sweep--and no shots to Southern Illinois--but that wasn't Southern Illinois. That was a very, very well rounded team, deserving of every Top 10 ranking they've garnered. With depth on the bump, especially in the bullpen, Arizona State was the first big test for the Frogs. And while they didn't light up the scoreboard necessarily, TCU certainly passed their first barometer test and left Tempe with two wins...
Even if going into deep baseball rabbit holes isn’t your thing, you should be thankful every time you get to see Preston Morrison pitch. There aren’t many like him left in college baseball, much less the MLB. As a quick side note, we are hoping to give you something more in depth on Morrison soon, but for now, all we have are numbers. The comparisons to Greg Maddux, while maybe a knee-jerk comparison early in his career, is now looking more and more like it could come to fruition. Morrison, who is now 29-9 in his college career with an ERA of 1.54, had one of the finest moments of his career on Friday, throwing an 88-pitch, 3-hit game, while surrendering just one walk.
Sticks wise, TCU did exactly what they needed to do to secure Morrison’s win. Maybe you could say that there were too many runners left on base, but given how good of a pitcher Lilek is--7 Ks despite the loss--I was really impressed with how they pulled off the runs. We touched on this briefly yesterday and Friday afternoon, but Keaton Jones’ emergence on offense has been crucial to the Frogs’ success thus far. Whether he’s in the 2nd spot, or the 6th, K. Jones has been a brilliant piece and co-leads the team with Wanhanen in RBIs with 5.
The Frogs nearly pulled off the comeback late in the game, but the Sun Devils edged them 7-6. Just like we talked about, the Saturday game was a big question mark for TCU. While the Alexander vs. Kellogg matchup was more sloppy than anticipated, it was still the closest game of the series. Everything was moving smooth for Alexander - until the 3rd inning after he let one go off his dome, loading the bases, which eventually led to ASU’s go ahead runs.
Once, again TCU was really solid on the base paths; reading the balls well in the dirt paid off really nicely. Elsewhere offensively, TCU played just fine. Zack Plunkett, filling in for Skoug defensively, was an absolute force on Saturday. The freshman from Hurst finished the game with two hits and three RBIs. For both teams, it was just kind of a sloppy game all around. Defensively, both teams made stupid errors, or near errors--like the near gaffe Cody Jones and Nolan Brown had in the outfield. Seriously, call the other guy off. Fortunately, no harm was done, but it’s a pretty inexcusable thing to let happen when you play in college.
You’re not going to win all your games in college baseball--and while two game series will get you far, losing Saturday games, or any second game in a series, are the worst. We are far away from hitting the panic button on Alexander, but he has yet to return to that groove he was in from late April through the Regional final against Sam Houston. And granted, he was in such top form that it’d be hard anyone to continue that momentum. The good news however, is that the tools are still there. 85% of Alexander’s game was great; hitting his spots, consistent command, and getting what he wanted from the hitters. But the brief lapses were a an uncharacteristic sample of how effective and resilient Young was on Sunday.
With Alex Young still getting used to his own role, Alexander’s performance on Saturdays is going to be extremely vital to TCU’s success over the next couple of months.
Alex Young continues to excite in the Sunday role, which historically can be a fickle beast. Once again, RJ Ybarra was trouble for TCU - leading off the second inning with a solo shot to center to give ASU an early 1-0 lead. However, unfazed by the solo shot and with a little help from his defense - great plays by Skoug and Nolan Brown - Young was able to battle back and get out of the 2nd inning without any significant damage. That’s just how it goes with Young and what makes him so promising in that role; short term memory.
Offensively, I’m still really impressed by this team’s patience at the plate - particularly Cody Jones, who continues to demonstrate his case for the best leadoff man in the Big 12. TCU, in addition to their meticulous base running, were able to benefit from Arizona State’s Achilles’ Heel of errors, and Derek Odell was able to drive in a run to even things early. Even though it was up in the air, it ended up being a good decision for the Sun Devils to start Darin Gillies. His command and pace kept the TCU hitters on their toes and made things really difficult most of the game. And giving credit where credit is due, and regardless of TCU’s ability to execute at times, Gillies was absolutely fantastic Sunday. Once he was taken out, the Frog offense started to gel, beginning with a big single from Skoug in the 6th. Thanks to another fielding error by the Sun Devils - an overthrow on a steal - Skoug’s single put in motion the tying run to make it 2-2 going into the bottom of the 6th. And speaking of Skoug, the freshman catcher saved the game for TCU with his defense. After Trey Teakell put runners on the corners with no outs in the 7th, Skoug bailed him out by making the first and third outs with a pickoff at 3rd and a throwdown to 3rd respectively.
Thanks to a cheeky play at the plate, in which Evan Williams kicked the ball out from the ASU catcher, TCU grabbed the 3-2 lead. This set up the first real Riley Ferrell moment of the season, and he didn’t disappoint, retiring three straight batters in the 9th to pick up the save. After two really good ones, and a tight loss, the Frogs definitely passed the barometer test this weekend. Are they perfect? Of course not. But despite some polishing they have to do around the edges, this team is for real and worthy of their high rankings.
So should we be worried about the Frog offense? Not really. They’re hitting and executing better than they did last year. They’re notoriously slow starters and are still trying to figure out this new lineup, but the Friday and Saturday games were an indication that this team can score runs against solid pitching. No matter who you are, you’re not going to go into a series against a legitimate Top 10 team on the road, and beat them by 5 or more runs every game. Arizona State is a great ball club, worthy of every Top 10 ranking they’ve received - the Frogs just proved to be the superior team.
"By the Numbers" and Awards tomorrow.