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TCU Baseball: Texas Friday Night Preview

Alexander looks to be great again as TCU begins a key Big 12 series for not only themselves; but one that could potentially end Texas'...

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE: The game is currently in a weather delay, and expected to resume at 7:30 p.m.

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The TCU-Texas baseball rivalry is quite an interesting one. In 2009 and 2010, the teams met each other in the Super Regionals--both of which were in Austin--to which the Longhorns took the series in ‘09 and TCU in ‘10 to advance to their first College World Series. I’ve seen a lot of college baseball in my day, and I’ve definitely seen more from those two teams than any other. To this day, I still haven’t seen a Super Regional as strong as those two.

Everyone can get hyperbolic on the internet, and believe me...I’m no different. However, I kid you not when I tell you that I saw a senior citizen in literal hysteria when Matt Purke struck out 16 Longhorns in game one of 2010 Super Regional. She was crying and yelling nonsense whilst berating the angle to which Matt Purke titled his hat. It was wonderful, but more importantly: hilarious.

The Matchup

The Longhorns come into this series with everything on the line. Getting swepped or even losing the series may mean that Texas will miss the postseason after nearly missing the CWS Final last season. But a salty Texas team is also a very dangerous Texas team. Conversely, the TCU series sent Texas into a slump, which they rebounded and played their style of baseball right up to Vanderbilt beating them in the CWS semi-final--making them the Big 12 team to go the furthest last season.

Name

Record

ERA

K/9

BB/9

LHP Tyler Alexander

3-2

2.92

7.85

.55

RHP Parker French

2-2

2.09

5.67

2.39

When we speak of their game, we’re talking of course about small ball. But it’s not even small ball, it’s the atom splitting microball that’s worked for Texas so well in the past, but has been their Achilles heel this season. They’ve slowed it down, however: or, um, sped it up I guess. They’re still second in sacrifices with 46--55 if you include sac flies.

But the most intriguing part of tonight’s matchup is how Tyler Alexander will operate tonight in his first weekend start since Arizona State back in February. Not throwing Traver and saving him for Dallas Baptist is a gamble the Frogs are able to take--especially given that they are playing a team with everything to lose. Going back to Alexander: the lefty has been subject to spotty innings, but he’s been on fire as of late--and he hasn’t been to talk anybody all year. This limits Texas’ usual approach, as it’ll be hard for them to play microball when the opposing arm isn’t giving up many walks. Last year against Texas, Alexander got a no-decision in the Trey Teakell win.

It’s an interesting test for Alexander, because as we’ve talked about, Texas has had trouble hitting all year. But that doesn’t mean they’re not capable. Ben Johnson (.341/.409/.557) is one of the best hitters in the Big 12, and Tres Barrera isn’t too shabby either (.303/.404/.503). And you can never count out the Texas’ spirit animal and confidant, CJ Hinojosa, who, despite his .223 average, there’s probably no other Texas player I’d fear more if the game were on the line for TCU. This has a lot to do with his low amount of strikeouts (19) compared to the rest of the starters. For instance: Colin Shaw and Bret Boswell have a combined 86 (44 and 42 respectively) strikeouts and there are five more Texas players with 25 or more as well.

It’s an interesting binary: Alexander and Texas’ offense. A lefty facing a team that has 7 players with 25 or more strikeouts. A lefty, who struggled early in the season and making his first weekend start since February, against a team that’s struggled offensively the majority of the year but is just starting to find their groove. Another interesting tidbit is the Johnson/Barrera/Hinojosa treble is that they have 14 home runs between them, which has been a major cause of Alexander’s slump.

The other side of the coin is interesting as well, and something you can read in the Q&A we did with Dustin McComas that went up early today. Parker French is a great, and has been great for Texas over the years--and gave up 2 earned runs on 6 hits last year whilst facing off against Brandon Finnegan. But French and Texas hasn’t seen this new offense for TCU. It’s one that runs the bases extremely well, and is dangerous at any point in the lineup. French faces a slightly easier task in the sense that he’s not going against a guy who got called up by the Royals this afternoon; but his specific role will be much harder than it was last year.

Prediction:

The crowd in Fort Worth comes alive like Frampton. There’s just something about orange coming to town that puts a little more sugar in their tank. Alexander, with some aid from Teakell and Ferrell get a big opening win.

TCU wins 4-1.