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TCU Baseball: Rice Preview

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After tenacious weather, TCU baseball is back! Mitchell Traver has been brilliant thus far, but he faces his first real test tonight in Fort Worth against a feisty Rice squad...

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Finally…we’re back to baseball. I didn’t get my wish, and in fact, I kind of got my nightmare: TCU didn’t play any games over the weekend, and didn’t get to ride off the momentum they built up in Tempe and last Tuesday against Texas Southern. And like Edge of Tomorrow, we are sort of resetting from where we last were; a Tuesday night game with the brilliant Mitchell Traver on the mound. This time, the Frogs just play a tougher opponent in Rice.

The Match-Up

Pitcher

Record

ERA

K/9

BB/9

Mitchell Traver

2-0

0.00

10.2

.6

Willy

Amador

0-0

4.05

11.61

2.9

Rice, despite their 8-5 record, are much better than the record suggests. The Owls have already played a four-game series against Texas, a weekend series against a really good Arizona squad, and most recently; splitting a four-game series with Stanford. There’s no guarantee that Willy Amador will be tonight’s starter; but Amador has started every Tuesday night for Rice thus far. However, with only 6.2 innings pitched in those two games, and a high ERA, it wouldn’t be surprising if Rice went a different direction tonight--but if I had to guess, they're still going to go with him. Elsewhere on that staff, the Owls' pitching, like Greg Focker's stock portfolio, is strong to quite strong. The staff have their opponents hitting a measly .232, have struck out 117, and have a team ERA of 2.28.

While it was a big question going into the season, the Owls are hitting much better than anticipated. Although he has 10 fewer at bats than the rest of the top hitters, Kirby Taylor leads the team with a .436 BA, second in hits with 17, and also leads the team in slugging and OBP (.538 and .463 respectively). The real bright spot for Rice however has been freshman centerfielder, Ryan Chandler. The Houston native out of Strake Jesuit leads the Owls with; 18 hits, 12 runs, 6 doubles, and 2 stolen bases--out of 3 attempts. Chandler has stepped right into a very hard role of being a centerfielder and a leadoff hitter his freshman year.

One walk. One walk is all Mitchell Traver has in 15* innings of work this season. Tonight, he faces his biggest test until Tournament season comes around. Like we said above, the Owls were supposed to be struggling at the plate this season, but have surpassed their underwhelming expectations. But despite having played Texas and Stanford already, Traver may in fact give Rice their biggest test thus far. He hasn't allowed a run all season, but the Owls have had a first inning run in 8 of their 13 contests (thanks to GoFrogs for that stat). Like we said above, hitting wasn't supposed to be Rice's strength, but they're batting .326 as a team, and collecting nearly 12 hits per game. Numbers wise--and honestly everywhere else--only Preston Morrison has looked as good/better than Traver thus far, but tonight will fall under the irresistible force paradox; Traver will either give up his first run, or Rice will be shutout for the first time this season--at least under Traver's watch.

Despite a similar record at this point last season, the conversation about this offense just feels better this year, right? Last year it felt like--and possibly more than felt like--Brandon Finnegan and Boomer White were anchoring their respective aspects of the game. This season, however, there’s a such a dynamic sprawl--and even more promising, a lot of this is coming from the freshmen. But lest we forget the brilliant senior core of Keaton Jones, Cody Jones, Garrett Crain, and, breathing life back into his game, Derek Odell. Odell has been as consistent as anyone on the team, but again, what’s most promising is that anyone in the starting lineup at any given time is capable of stepping up and making an impact. Everyone is dangerous. And that’s a beautiful thing. But the Owls' staff is deeper, possibly deeper than Arizona State's.

Player

BA

Hits

OBP

Runs

Derek Odell

.321

9

.457

6

Cody Jones

.323

10

.382

5

Keaton Jones

.258

8

.324

5

Evan Skoug

.250

8, (2 HR)

.294

4

Garrett Crain

.333

9

.419

5

I just want to see the baseball team execute tonight. I don’t need 10 runs. Even if it’s a loss, I hope we see the same smart baserunning we’ve seen as of late. Also, and I haven’t talked about this since opening weekend; plate discipline. Leaps and bounds improved from last year, this 2015 team has Miyagi-level patience, and with a pitcher like Amador (likely) throwing for the Owls tonight, TCU could really take advantage and force him to work the count. That being said; GET. YOUR. CUTS. IN. This is nearly contradictory, but with a balanced lineup, everyone is capable of knocking in runs and breaking the game open. I don’t care if it’s one the outstanding freshman, or the beloved seniors; let’s just have someone, or more, knock the ball to the wall and collect those insurance runs in true Iron Bank fashion.

TCU will be tested on both sides tonight, but should they win; they'll be in about as good as shape as possible for a very important weekend out in LA...

Prediction:

Couped up, the Frogs were just a few snowy days away from going insane, but go full Jack Torrance (yes, I used that same joke yesterday, but I wrote it here first, so…) on the Owls tonight. Traver is brilliant and Odell shines and feeds off the weakest of the Owls’ Power Four. TCU wins 3-1.

Elsewhere:

Thanks to Kevin (@auppl) of College and Magnolia for the weekly visual poll.