Over the past ten years, it's hard to dispute that TCU and Texas have been the two best teams in Texas. Based off everything from top-level recruits, MLB production, to College World Series runs; these two teams are certainly the crem de la crem of collegiate baseball in Texas, if not the entire country. To honor this rivalry, we chatted with Dustin McComas of D1Baseball.com and Orangebloods.com to talk about this weekend's matchup, TCU's chances for a National seed, and whether or not Augie Garrido's seat is getting a little warm.
Texas gained some solid footing this weekend against Kansas, and are currently just behind TCU in the Big 12 Standings. Just how big is this weekend for Texas? Is it make or break if they want to keep their postseason hopes alive?
It's massive for Texas, and I think anyone that puts it into that "make-or-break" category is fair. This is Texas' last chance to play a top RPI opponent and really the last chance to truly make a statement that would make a resume sparkle, at least in one spot. Considering where Texas is right now in RPI, Big 12, and overall record, it feels Texas has to win this one.
Ignoring last weekend for just a moment, what's been Texas' biggest problem this year? Is it coaching, is it the lack or runs and/or hitting? A bit of everything perhaps?
Whenever the slump that Texas encountered happens, I think it's a little bit of everything. But the most baffling aspect of the hitting is that we've seen Texas pound the ball all over the yard consistently for chunks of the season. Heck, we've seen it the last two games the Longhorns have played. So, it's not like Texas isn't talented and the ability to rake as a whole isn't inside there somewhere. For whatever reason, the Longhorns just hit a stretch where they lost so many close games and the bats went silent. The stretch is reminiscent of last year during Big 12 play when Texas lost a lot of tight games to good clubs, and then eventually snapped out of it toward the end of the year before its postseason run.
What's the most realistic scenario for the Longhorns this year?
Until proven otherwise, the most realistic scenario is that they play pretty well down the stretch to join the "bubble" conversation, but don't quite do enough to make up for the middle of the season.
How do the Horns beat TCU this weekend and who should Frog fans especially look out for?
Texas has to beat TCU by pushing across some early runs, and executing the small ball, which Texas hasn't done nearly as much as normal this year, and hitting with two outs. The Longhorns simply can't afford to allow TCU's starters to settle in, and then play from behind with Riley Ferrell lurking in the pen.
Since TCU likes to run so much on the bases, keep an eye on freshman catcher Michael Cantu. He was a one-man highlight reel against Oklahoma thanks to his ability to throw out runners from his knees, and he's also been an on-base machine in Big 12 play. Also, Tres Barrera is starting to drive the ball to all parts of the field again, which is a sign he's locked in. Zane Gurwitz has finally started to come around at the plate lately, and Ben Johnson has been great all year.
Going off of that, what should give Texas the most trouble this weekend and vice versa? How do either beat each other?
Overall, both teams are really solid defensively and often don't boot the routine play. So, a game or two could really come down to an error here or there that gives the opposition one more chance to push a run across in what I expect to be some low-scoring games.
What would give Texas the most trouble is falling behind early, which could take away from the confidence it has regained over the last few games. When Texas has really struggled, it has normally been because quality pitchers can locate multiple pitches and get them to expand the zone. Obviously, TCU's rotation includes a few guys that can do that, and a couple that can really rack up the strikeouts.
As for TCU, its aggressiveness in the box could get it in trouble. This is a Texas pitching staff that likes to pitch to its defenses, and doesn't have overpowering stuff. TCU putting the ball in play early in the count could play right into what Texas wants.
This is going to seem like a silly question because he's more than likely the greatest college baseball coach of all time (sorry I almost choked)--if this season ends in Tulsa for Texas, is Augie on the way out; whether it be "retirement" or at the very least, the "hot seat"?
Texas athletics director Steve Patterson doesn't mess around, and Garrido's seat was a bit toasty before Texas' brilliant run to Omaha last year.
Let's jump to the Big 12 as a whole: is it still wide open for TCU, or even Texas?
Yeah, I think so. Oklahoma State is at Texas Tech this weekend, and still has to play Oklahoma. Oklahoma has a road series at Kansas State and still has to play TCU. We've seen the Big 12 get really, really weird at times this year. Wouldn't surprise me if it comes down to the final couple weekends with a few teams still in striking distance.
Can TCU still get a National Seed without a Regular season title? Perhaps just a Tourney Title ala 2014?
If TCU wins the Big 12 regular season or tournament title, I'd be surprised if it isn't a national seed. This week, D1Baseball.com projected TCU to be the No. 6 national seed. It has the stuff like RPI working in its favor.
What impresses you most about TCU this year? Texas?
The obvious answer with TCU is its pitching staff, but I've been very impressed by its defense as well. The Horned Frogs have committed just 27 errors, which is extremely good. Each night, it puts a talented fielding group on to the diamond behind one of the nation's best pitching staffs.
As for Texas, its bullpen has remained consistently solid all year thanks to guys like Kirby Bellow, Connor Mayes, and Ty Culbreth really emerging. Garrido likes to play the matchups down the stretch, and he has a bunch of quality righthanders and lefthanders in the bullpen to do that with. Also, I don't know if he'll be in the lineup at shortstop this weekend, but when Texas puts out a defense with Joe Baker at short, it usually wows the crowd with a great play once a game.
Alright, like bbqs and swim parties: Predictions are a Great American Pastime. Give us yours for this weekend?
Garrido and Texas players mentioned this week about hitting rock bottom in that Saturday walk-off loss to Kansas, and then responding with 16 runs the next day. They really do genuinely feel like that was a turning point for them, so I expect Texas to play well this weekend in all three games. But well enough to take a series on the road against TCU? Probably not. I think this comes down to a Sunday rubber game with TCU winning a hard-fought, well-played series.