In a rather unlikely of scenarios, TCU faces elimination Sunday night. By all means, I am not trying to take any credit away from NC State. They played pretty much perfect baseball last night, from every aspect of the game; however, TCU stuck to their own narrative, played the way they have all season, didn't get bogged down, and put themselves in a strong position to win with 2 outs in the 9th.
The Frogs not winning the series outright, wouldn't have been a surprise. The surprise is that it happened Saturday with Preston Morrison and a team coming off of a 10-0 shutout, only for the one of the greatest closers in the Big 12's history to blow the game...that was the surprise
Are You Not Entertained: Saturday Recap and Battling Back
If you were a neutral fan watching last night's game, you were pretty lucky. The boxing match between TCU and the Wolfpack left little room for relaxation. True to their darker form, the TCU defense (Morrison included) had one lousy inning early in the game, which allowed NC State to get 3 runs. Garrett Crain booted a very playable ball, which would've resulted in a double play, and thus would've given the Frogs the upper-hand and a high-flying Morrison 2 outs to work with.
The opposite happened, and yet...all thing's considered...TCU got out of the inning with somewhat minimal damage. What he lacked in defense, Garrett Crain made up for at the plate, as his 9th spot heroics helped the Frogs maintain offensive momentum. Also keeping the TCU momentum was the crowd at Lupton. Despite a brilliant game, the Wolfpack's freshman left-handed Wunderkind came to play, Brian Brown was taken out of the game after becoming erratic, and the Frogs were quick to take advantage of NC State's underwhelming bullpen.
And speaking of bullpens, despite having arguably the best in the country--this just isn't me saying this--it, it being Riley Ferrell, folded like a suit from McCart in the 9th. All things considered, and one bad inning aside, Saturday's game was probably one of the best games I've ever seen Preston Morrison throw. This wasn't so much Morrison's season high strikeout total, it was that plus a command that could only be accumulated by 4 years of being the greatest and most decorated pitcher in TCU history. However, to everyone's surprise, it was Riley Ferrell who ruined the moment.
Even getting a quick out, Ferrell looked uneasy. Getting behind in the count, Ferrell, with a bit of help from the homeplate umpire, who in his own right was equally erratic Saturday night, was able to make things work early in the inning despite it looking far from even Ferrell's more modest of outings. And then it happened with two outs, and a man on, we saw what's possibly the longest home run to leave Lupton in a long time, perhaps ever, and the Wolfpack took a 5-4 lead.
TCU didn't help themselves, even after a huge lead-off double from Nolan Brown. A terrible--yes, let's call it terrible--bunt from Keaton Jones ruined Brown's double. Equally as terrible was Brown's eagerness and read on the Keaton's bunt, and it was there that TCU's chances of a comeback were suffocated--as the Frogs only had the bottom of the order remaining.
I don't know--or maybe I actually do--know how TCU makes so many enemies baseball wise. It doesn't happen so much against the great programs like UCLA, Texas, Virginia, or Vanderbilt; but more so the chippier programs like Sam Houston State, DBU, and as we learned last night, North Carolina State. I'm all for energy in a game, but I felt like their catcher threw his helmet down immediately after the win like he was trying to collect on a soon-to-expire warranty was bit much. That's the kind of thing you save for winning a Regional, and probably not your second game. But by all means, you do you. We all have our moments.
The good news for the Frogs, and conversely bad news for NC State, is that the Frogs still have Alex Young and Tyler Alexander left, whereas NC State's best pitcher, and killer lefty, has already pitched. Still, it doesn't really change that the Frogs are 2-3 in their last 5 games.
Last night should've been a lay-up post TCU's comeback in the later innings. Morrison was on fire, and Riley Ferrell like sweet and salty ice cream, he's the perfect opposite to Morrison. Until last night, Ferrell had only blown one save of his 34. Furthermore, until last weekend, he'd never done so. But despite his mishap last week, common logic would've told you that Ferrell closing out and crushing the Wolfpack's dreams were all but certain (especially with Morrison just coming out of the game).
So what do they do tonight? Is it Alex Young or Tyler Alexander? It's game theory at its best. Maybe had TCU won last night, it would've been logical to throw Tyler Alexander in order to have a little more breathing room, and maybe if it went well, throw Young a few innings just to keep him loose. Then let the always brilliant Trey Teakell throw a few innings, and even possibly let Ferrell get his groove back. But the win Saturday didn't happen, and the Frogs face the dilemma of having to choose between having to choose between two stellar, albeit different, lefties.
There's benefits to both, obviously; Alex Young has been better this year. He's not miles better than Alexander by any means, but Young, more than likely, gives TCU a better chance to win in Sunday night's game. But Tyler Alexander isn't too bad either, and he has been terrific as of late--plus we saw just how superb he could be last year. Then, you have Young for tomorrow. This decision, the more you think about it, can drive you insane and is why 99.99% of us would be terrible head coaches.
Offensively, TCU should be fine. Again, the Frogs saw one of the best pitchers from the ACC last night, and still managed to do their job, until 9th inning. TCU's defense is what everyone should be worried about. The paradox of TCU being such a strong defensive team statistically, but also being the cause of the majority of their losses this year, will have me breathing into a paper bag through Sunday night's game. The strong numbers help ease my nerves, but Crain booting the double-play echoed by darkest fear about this team throughout the year cause me issues as well. Doing everything right, but losing because they booted an easy play.
The Frogs are from out, and by all means, should win the game tonight. It's not the end of the world losing your second game in a regional; and TCU's arsenal of arms is certainly capable of playing two extras games in a weekend. Numbers, and fun statistics aside, above everything else: it'll build character. Should the Frogs get past this weekend, it'll keep them salty for next weekend, and hopefully, for our sake'--they'll get to remain salty after that.