A week ago, I don't think many of us expected to be in this position... playing on Monday in a winner take all game against the Wolfpack. Both team's aces turned in stellar performances Saturday; however, the Frogs fell a run short. Thus, NC State super freshman, Brian Brown, out-dueled TCU senior All-American, Preston Morrison, to force the Frogs to win two on Sunday. Fortunately, big bats and exceptional pitching overwhelmed Stony Brook in the afternoon and the Wolfpack in the evening to give the Frogs a chance to face off with NCSU once more on Monday night.
So what will it take for TCU to win three straight games and advance to the Super Regionals; where they would have the chance to host the winner of a Cal/A&M game that will start 30 minutes after the Frogs and Pack take the field? Well, the good news is that Brian Brown won't take the mound for the Pack, and TCU will have junior Alex Young available, a lefty who has pitched his way to a 9-2 record and 2.05 ERA on the season, with 77 strike outs in 79 innings this year. Skipper Jim Schlossnagle will also have a completely fresh Trey Teakell available, who has been as steady and reliable as they come out of the bullpen this season. The Frogs will have superstar closer Riley Ferrell in the pen as well, who has struggled mightily in his last two outings, but has a proven track record as the best there is with the game on the line in the previous three years (past two weeks non-withstanding).
Frogs Beat N.C. State 8-2, Force Monday Matchup
TCU rode Tyler Alexander's stellar performance to a victory, forcing a decisive final matchup against N.C. State on Monday night.
For NCSU, it's a bit of a different story -- With Brown, Williamson, and Wilder unavailable, the Monday starter's spot probably goes to sophomore Joe O'Donnell or freshman Tommy DeJuneas. O'Donnell is 7-3 with a 2.08 ERA in 52 innings over 25 appearances, but has yet to start a game. DeJuneas has a 2.00 ERA, but has only 39.2 innings of work. The only other pitcher with significant experience as a starter is Johnny Piedmonte - a redshirt sophomore who stands 6'8", but is only 1-2 in 11 starts and sports a 3.33 ERA. Wilder's exceptional performance out of the pen Sunday night saved some arms, but probably burned their next best option to take the mound Monday night in the process.
From an offensive standpoint, the TCU bats came alive on Sunday, as they put up a pair of snowmen, scoring eight in each game. Though they left a ton of men on base (eight against Stony Brook and six against NC State), the Frogs kept the pressure on with aggressive baserunning - including an attempted steal of home in the nightcap (HE WAS SAFE) - patient at bats, and a few balls that either went off, or over, the outfield walls. Connor Wanhanen was the hero in the afternoon tilt, with three hits and two RBI's against SBU, complementing an Evan Skoug long ball, as the freshmen made their bats heard. In the evening, it was the senior's turn, as Cody Jones had three hits and Derek Odell had three RBIs to back Alexander's incredible pitching performance. Odell has also been an absolute rock at third, making plays with consistency and flair. He put in some extra work during the time off, and it seems to have paid dividends.
NCSU went without a baserunner into the seventh inning Saturday night, as it looked like Alexander just might throw a perfect game for TCU. But any threat that was made was quickly squashed, and the dangerous bats of the Wolfpack were silenced until it was too little, too late. Usual suspects Logan Ratledge and Preston Palmeiro did the damage for the Pack - Ratledge hit a long ball late, and Palmeiro knocked in the only other run for NC State in the eighth with a single - however, it wasn't enough to change the outcome. Keeping those two bats in check will be key to Young controlling the game and getting the win on Monday night.
|Regional Performance||Runs Allowed||
|TCU (4 games played)||10||36||29||27||41||30||9||4||2|
|NC State (3 games played)||12||25||24||16||15||10||1||2||1|
For TCU, whose status as a National Seed was called in to question when the Regionals were announced, and then further examined after the Frog's fell to NC State Saturday, Monday's game comes with something extra to prove. The Frogs were built for post-season play, with possibly the best pitching depth in the country. Additionally, they're playing in their home ball park (where they have only lost three times all season). Taken together, then, the opportunity to buck the trends and come from behind to win the Regional Tournament is certainly there. The question becomes, who has the pressure on them? The team who stumbled early and fought back? Or the team that has success just within their grasp but can't close the deal? TCU fans hope it's the latter that stumbles, and the Frogs prove their worth with it all on the line.