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TCU Baseball: Wichita State Weekend Preview

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After a series loss last weekend, the Frogs look to bury their omens against one of College Baseball's most historic teams this weekend at home.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

If TCU and Wichita State have one thing in common, it’s that Oklahoma State snapped their recent wins streaks. The Shockers lost in Stillwater on Tuesday; and as we all know, Oklahoma State handed the Frogs their first series loss of the season over the weekend. Both should be pretty salty entering the weekend series.

The Shockers are an absolutely fascinating program with a rich history that includes: 20 Conference Championships, 18 Conference Tournament Championship, and 7 College World Series Appearances--in which they were the runner-up thrice, and Champions once in 1989. This all had to do with legendary coach Gene Stephenson, whom Wichita fired in 2013, because that’s apparently what you do in a year in which you make the NCAA Tournament and win your conference tournament. Like Aaron Fitt said in his 2013 article when Stevenson was fired, it’s complicated. Most of this complication was because he left to be Oklahoma’s head baseball coach for one day, but because of some super cool NCAA violations, was unable to remain with the Sooners. Oh yeah, Stephenson is still the second-winningest coach in college baseball (Division I) history.

Second most famously, depending if you’re more of a college baseball fan than you are an MLB fan, is that legendary Blue Jay Joe Carter spent his college days there. So here’s a video of Joe Carter’s awesome home run during the World Series.

The Matchup:

Pitcher

Record

ERA

K/9

BB/9

Friday

Mitchell Traver

3-0

1.07

9.22

1.90

Sam Hilliard

0-2

6.08

6.59

4.27

Saturday

Preston Morrison

5-0

1.62

7.62

1.85

Jeb Bergfeldt

2-0

2.16

7.22

1.11

Sunday

Alex Young

4-1

1.21

8.94

2.16

TBA

Once again, aside from Sunday’s game--which was a brilliant performance by Michael Freeman--hitting hasn’t been TCU’s problem. And statistically, neither has their defense. But of TCU’s four losses, three have more or less been because of defensive errors; Tyler Alexander taking one of the dome in Tempe, Mitchell Traver trying to see if he could hit one of the houses on University, and Derek Odell thinking Elliot Barzilli magically grew 4 inches in the span of a half-inning.

But this is a new weekend. And throughout the season, TCU’s shown that they’re the best defensive team in the league. Despite giving up more runs than expected, and letting errors cost them two games, the Frogs still lead the Big 12 in ERA (1.77) and Field Percentage (.982). While it was far from his best outing, Preston Morrison was the only one of TCU’s Fantastic Four who wasn’t out of character this past weekend. That being said, an off day for Mitchell Traver and Alex Young is not that same standard as 95% of starting pitchers in college baseball, and since their appearances were both far from bad, I expect both to regain their expected form this weekend.

The Shockers haven’t had the fortune TCU’s had on the bump, but there are still some hidden gems in this rotation. With a guy with a 6.00+ERA going Friday, and the question mark for Wichita State on Sunday, the Frogs’ toughest match-up is Saturday against Jeb Bergfeldt. Who, in addition to having an A+ name, has been his team’s best pitcher--despite pitching just over 16 innings so far in 2015.

To combat TCU’s pitching, the Shockers are a team who’ve been averaging 11 runs over their past six games. Like the Frogs, they’re strong on the base paths and will test freshmen catchers Evan Skoug and Zack Plunkett plenty with their aggressiveness. Elsewhere offensively, be on the lookout for junior outfielder Daniel Kihle who leads the team in hits (28), runs (17), RBIs (17), and total bases (17). In addition to Kihle, look out for Mikel Mucha, who leads the team in BA (.324), and Ryan Tinkham, who leads the team in doubles (11) and OBP (.434).

Like we said above, good pitching performances from opponents happen. So, again, putting up only 2 runs last Sunday doesn’t bother me. As we’ve also said so many times this season, this team is so dangerous--much more so than last year--at the plate because they’re dangerous at every spot. And while they’re still leaving too many runners on base--they’re advancing runners really well and currently lead the Big 12 in stolen bases with 45. The Frogs, and specifically lead-off man Cody Jones, are so good at running the bases in fact, that they have 15 stolen bases in their last 16 attempts. The Wichita State catcher should peak that stat before the series begins.

Keeping Up with the Joneses:

In this week’s edition, we’re going to talk a lot about Cody. It’s hard to believe Cody Jones was a sub-.300 hitter last year. Always a great baserunner and fielder, Cody adding a bat to his game has made him the team MVP thus far for 2015. Not only is he hitting better, his OBP is absurd (.565), and he’s reached base safely in his last 10 games. It’s been nothing but heroics that last few weeks by the senior from Round Rock--and Jones’ home run against the Sooners to give TCU a big Tuesday night win should have positive repercussions that will carry into this weekend.

Prediction:

I can’t say TCU will sweep until the next time it happens. So I’ll play it safe and say the Frogs get out the weekend with a much needed series win, with the lone loss coming from the bullpen.