For every neutral article I get to write in regards to another team; there are a few times a year that I get to be salty. That's when I get to write about Baylor. By no means is any fanbase perfect, and if you look hard enough, you'll find a suckhole at just about any tailgate in the country. But after the co-Champions debacle, which has since been fixed, no football team--maybe with the exception of Florida State--pissed off the internet like Baylor. Maybe it's because their burgers are overrated, or maybe it's because they took offense to Anthony Bourdain wanting to film an episode of Parts Unknown in Waco... or... maybe it's this guy:
If you're keeping up, we've talked about how TCU's key attribute is their resiliency. Now having lost 9 straight games, there's no doubt that the Baylor Bears are a struggling team. I've also heard a rumor that if you Google or Apple Map Baylor's baseball stadium--aptly named "Baylor Ballpark"--Siri will respond "I can't seem to find what you're looking for ___". It's like Will Smith's Agent K neutralized North Temple with blatant arrogance. I'm justified in hating Baylor--as any fan is justified in their hate of their rival. So, to sweep this team, regardless of their season fading away like a Back to the Future photograph, felt amazing...
Aside from possibly Keaton's Jones' bat, there's been no better surprise than Mitchell Traver. The 6-7 leviathan emerged as the perfect Friday night starter--and just like we were graced with Brandon Finnegan last year, having a power pitcher on Friday is the ideal situation. Traver's partner in crime, Preston Morrison, could probably be effective in a Siberian snowstorm, but when you have a power pitcher like Traver, it's just smart baseball to throw him on a Friday. On Friday, Traver went seven innings, allowing a single run on four hits, and striking out six against one walk. Other than a solo shot by Dodson, the Bears never even threatened against the big guy.
While it wasn't his best game, Saturday was a definitive Preston Morrison outing. After an uncharacteristic 1st inning, in which he hit the leadoff hitter, and a couple of hard hit balls to Crain and Keaton Jones--both arguably could've been outs--Morrison gave up 2 runs in the first inning. It was only the second time this season in which the Frogs have given up a first inning run. But Morrison, possibly the the posterchild for TCU's resilient narrative, was absolutely brilliant the rest of the game: retiring 17 of the last 20 batters he faced. Morrison also finished with more strikeouts than usual with nine, and was all around cool and composed. The latter was especially important considering how wonderful Baylor's Connor Castano pitched. Castano, from a little west of my hood--Lake Travis--kept the Frogs in check (seven hits in six and a third) until they broke the game open in the 6th. Hats off, Castano.
Keeping up with Joneses:
Offensively, and to a degree defensively, we (the royal we) don't give Cody Jones enough credit. C. Jones' BA was up to .373 going into Sunday's finale and Cody's spiritual brother, Keaton, has also been dynamite--hitting .309, which seriously is about triple as to what he was hitting at points during his freshman and sophomore year. King Keaton has also already been a hero in a coupe games this season, including Friday's win. The breakaway in Saturday's game was kicked off by a Cody Jones single, then a sacrifice by Keaton, and Garrett Crain knocking a run again--to which Dane Steinhagan, who's also been one of TCU's best weapons at the plate, blooped a single to bring TCU within one. And has there been anything weirder than this season than TCU being the beneficiary of catcher's interference? Evan Skoug has two in the past week that otherwise would've ended an inning, but instead gave the Frogs their go-ahead run. This was shortly after Baylor's catcher missed a routine pop-up that should've ended the threat so - maybe you the real MVP.
Slumps are a pain in the ass.
But first, let me issue an apology. On behalf of me, and my good friend, Jonathan, we apologize (somewhat) the birth of Woo Birds. If you're joining us post the 22-inning marathon against Sam Houston, the Outkast song "Slump" was how it was born. In like the 18th inning, delirious, and Chicken Express sweating we just started shouting "hootie hoo" when we saw the stadium cop. This was echoed by a stranger, who I'd love to meet someday, and thus the "woo" was born. I bring this up because of Derek Odell.
Odell's 1-19 slump going into Sunday's game has mostly been a result of bad luck. Lupton, which is a batter's nightmare cloaked in a pitcher's dream, is about as bad of a place to break a slump. It looked as if Odell was finally about to breakthrough, but each of his hard hit balls seemed to find a Bear's glove. I still think Odell is more comfortable batting post-Skoug, wherever that may be; 5, 6, 7, 8--but not 9. For years, Odell's been a rock solid third basemen, but has been underwhelming at the plate since his freshman year. Schloss' shifts in the lineup have more to do with swapping Skoug and Plunkett than it does anything else, but if I could make a request, it'd be putting Steinhagen in the 3 spot for a couple of weeks, and see how it goes.
Not talked about enough: Trey Teakell has been such a big part of TCU's success this year. Because he's a setup man, we don't get to talk about him as much as we can/should. Teak's best moment came Saturday when after Morrison left the game, with one out and one man on first: without blinking, he retired the next two Bears, stranding the runner on first and thus preventing the tying run.
Closing it Out:
There's something every baseball fan should love about the Sunday starter. Relatively speaking and to what he does: the Sunday starter in the professional or college baseball get the least amount of credit for what they do. This season, after the core three shift: Finnegan going to Kansas City, Alexander briefly moving to Saturday, Alex Young has adjusted to the Sunday role and then some--and arguably becoming the best Sunday guy in the country. The only lefty in TCU's weekend arsenal finished Sunday with 3 hits allowed, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts in 6 innings of work. He also retired the first 10 batters he faced and then after Baylor scored their only run of the game, Young then retired the next 9.
The Joneses continued to work on Sunday; Keaton broke open an early 2-0 lead--followed by a homerun from Jeremie Fagnan. And at one point in the game Sunday, Cody have reached base safely for the 11th time in the row--perhaps proving that there's no better leadoff man in the Big 12 currently.
- Are Plunkett and Skoug doing Rock IV training montages? My friends who I watched the game with, some TCU fans, some not--and who've never seen either of them, made note of how herculean they are
- Garrett Crain's walk-up song is "Midnight Voyage". Why did no one tell me this? side note: If you have some sort of WordDoc, GoogleDoc, or napkin with all the walkup songs, please, please send it to me
- ChickenE sweet tea is the best sweet tea--there's the door if you don't agree
- Are the purple uniforms TCU's best look?
- If a tree falls in Waco, and no one's around to see it, do Baylor fans complain that it didn't get enough credit?
This week and weekend will be fun. Wichita State, while not near the powerhouse they once were, but is certainly a fun and intriguing matchup because of it. The Shockers fired legendary coach, Gene Stephenson, after a few down years--which would almost be the equivalent of TCU firing Gary...almost. Since then, they haven't been much better-- ---...shocking.