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TCU Baseball: USC Preview

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The soaring Mitchell Traver makes his first weekend start as the Frogs look to continue their strong momentum against an undefeated USC team...

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Greetings, from Los Angeles. The Horned Frogs take a sabbatical from a DFW converted into Winterfell, and head West for a climate more along the lines of King’s Landing. Lucky for the Frogs, there are no murderous boy kings out here--at least not that I’ve seen--there are however, some really great baseball teams. This includes fellow traveler, and the team with the most No. 1 votes in the country, Vanderbilt. Tonight, however, TCU plays the West Coast USC--who along with Arizona State, Texas, and LSU--is one of the most tenured programs in college baseball history.

At 8-1, the Frogs have been more than wonderful thus far--and are living up to their Preseason expectations. I hate this term, but gutcheck wins against Arizona State, a series win, and a win against Rice last Tuesday have shown that this team can play at high level. But this weekend, the Frogs will play two teams who are unanimously in the Top-5, UCLA and Vandy, and a really good, undefeated USC team to kick things off. It's a telling weekend, but TCU have shown that they're up for the challenge...

To Live and Die in LA: Day One

Pitcher

Record

ERA

K/9

BB/9

Mitchell Traver

2-0

0.00

10.13

.56

Mitch Hart or

2-0

2.25

5.06

3.38

Brent Wheatley or

1-0

2.12

13.24

1.59

Kyle Twomey

3-0

1.33

8.5

2.69

The Trojans are chalked full of hitters, and their offense has been instrumental in USC’s 12-0 run. For whatever reason, they’re ranked in only two of the five major baseball polls, but make no mistake; this team’s for real. Pitching wise, we’ll might see Mitch Hart throw on Friday--assuming the Trojans try to mix things up and save Kyle Twomey for Vanderbilt. At 6-4, the right has good zip on fastball, which stays consistently in the low-90s and will hit the mid 90s fairly often too. Accurate too, Hart may have 8 walks on the season, but opponents are only hitting .193 against him, the second lowest of any starter, behind the phenomenal Kyle Twomey. Hart may have not beaten the best teams thus far, with wins over Fordham and Oakland, but he’s been more than effective in 2015. Against Fordham, Hart threw 7 innings, gave up 1 run on only 2 hits, walked 1 and struck out 5.

Conversely, we could see the typical Friday starter, Brent Wheatley--another 6-4 righty. Wheatley has a slightly better ERA than Hart at 2.12, and has significantly more strikeouts, 25--with which he leads the team. He’s prone to giving up hits however, and is averaging a hit per-inning and opponents are hitting .258 off him--with which he also leads the team. Whether it’s Hart or Wheatley, the TCU bats have a very good chance at handing USC their first loss. If they decide to throw Twomey however, that could be a different story.

Garrett Stubbs, the senior catcher from Del Mar, CA, is the Trojans’ impact player. And what better player to be an impact player than a senior catcher. Stubbs leads USC in; BA at .470, hits (24), total bases (25), and OBP (.526). Also to watch out for: David Oppenheim, who despite have only 25 at-bats, leads the team in slugging at .625, and outfielder Bobby Stahel who is second in BA (.386) and hits (17), also leads the team with 11 runs. The Trojans have a little bit of everything. They have guys like Stahel and Stubbs who can hit consistently and score runs, then they have guys like AJ Robinson and Timmy Ramirez, who don’t hit as consistently, but are both tied for a team leading 11 RBIs.

Derek Odell, who sat out Tuesday, should be back in full swing for this series--he had minor back* (not shoulder, although, is your shoulder part of your back?..we're going to need a doctor for that one) problems earlier in the week, and with four games big over the next 5 days, I’m glad Odell is rested. Aside from that, TCU’s been pretty much dynamite offensively. This is still very much a team that cuts its teeth on pitching and fielding, but the hitting is much improved than last year. That being said, they’re still probably leaving too many runners on base, and last Tuesday against Rice proved that. The Owls are a great ballclub, but their horrid defense gave TCU numerous chances to blow the game wide open early. Granted, Odell was out, and they’re still playing with the two-spot a little bit, but the Frogs could’ve easily won that game 6-1.

Morrison was the likely starter for Friday--and we’ve talked about why, in theory it’d be better for him to pitch Saturdays. But now it looks as if Mitchell Traver will start tomorrow night against the Trojans. I understand and accept why Morrison would’ve started tonight--and why he still may be the Friday guy from here on out, even though this pseudo-tournament weekend doesn’t really have to follow the procedures of a normal three-game series.

I’m still very hesitant to use the word "struggling" to describe Alexander’s season thus far, and the Lefty-Righty-Lefty rotation, and letting Alexander get his confidence back against a Trojan team whom he could definitely beat, would’ve been comforting, but as good as Traver has been, it’s understandable as to why he’d be the guy to kick off this series. So now, it’d probably be best to go with Morrison on Sunday. It’s not that Young is less capable, or that UCLA is any better or worse than Vandy right now early in the season, but Morrison just has more experience, and he’s the guy I’d want to close out the weekend. Plus, going Righty-Lefty-Righty then, potentially throwing Alexander, another lefty, on Tuesday, is just great baseball.