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TCU Baseball: Q&A with Michael Baumann

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In honor of the College World Series, Michael Baumann of D1Baseball.com and Grantland stops by to discuss TCU baseball, what to do with Riley Ferrell, why we should all be scared of LSU, and we should all love Preston Morrison.

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The College World Series kicks off tomorrow, and as someone who wrote about a team that played in last year's series, I can say pretty confidently that this year's series scares me much more than it did in 2014. In part, because TCU were quite familiar with two of the teams last year; Texas Tech and Texas. In 2015, the Frogs return as the only Big 12 member, whereas last year they were one of three, and nearly one of four.

To honor this wonderful tournament, and  most under-appreciated American sport; we sat down with D1Baseball and Grantland's Michael Baumann to talk about this wonderful thing we call College Baseball.

Because his pitching style compliments the day, Preston Morrison, has been a long time "second" starter. Second starter for TCU, especially in Morrison’s case, doesn’t mean second best. However, mostly of fault other than his own, he’s winless in the postseason. What is it about second games in tournaments that make pitchers so vulnerable, and if you’re Schlossnagle, do you let him throw first against LSU and let Morrison jam the Tigers up?

I think that's mostly luck--he's started a few games that ended in walkoffs or extra-inning games, plus had a couple bad matchup breaks, like when he caught Aaron Brown in the super regional last year. He's never pitched poorly, though, and I'd trust him as much as anyone on the staff. Maybe there's something to the second game coming in the winner's bracket, but I really think that's looking for a reason when one might not exist.

I think Morrison's TCU's best pitcher, so I'd start him against LSU. I worry a little about how his stuff matches up against that lineup, but it's likely that if TCU wins Game 1, Vanderbilt likely awaits in Game 2 and is just as scary offensively, so maybe it's worth saving Alex Young for them. Either way, I don't think either is a bad option.

I know you’ve kept up with Riley Ferrell these past few weeks. In your most recent D1Baseball column, you say it better than anyone. So maybe if Trey Teakell stays in on Monday night, you don’t play a 6-hour game. What situation do you let Ferrell come in during the CWS? Which do you not?

That's tough. It depends on whether you think this just a couple bad outings clustered together, or if Ferrell's tired or hurt. If it's the former, maybe you lean on Teakell a little more, but Ferrell remains the closer. If he's tired or hurt, not only is there a moral imperative (that college coaches always ignore) to keep the kid out of situations where he could suffer a serious injury, but that means he's not just going to bounce back and might not be trustworthy at all. I'd limit him to one inning at a time until he gets back on his feet, but this is a bad place to suddenly not be able to trust your closer.

Aside from pitching, is there anything the Frogs do better than the other teams that are in Omaha? Anywhere they hold an advantage?

Not really. Pitching is TCU's strength. The offense is good, but Vanderbilt, LSU and Miami are on another level. The defense is fine, but not as good as Florida's. They run well, but not as well as LSU. Though having the best pitching staff in this field is no small advantage.

Should the Frogs get past LSU in that first game, how do you like their chances from there?

Better than if they lose to LSU, but they'll still have ton of work to do. TCU probably has the single toughest path to the final of any team in Omaha, so you can't really feel good unless they beat LSU and Vanderbilt loses, either in the opener against Fullerton or in the second game against (presumably) TCU.

What’s their most realistic shot?

The scenario I just described: Win the opener, hope Thomas Eshelman beats Vandy, then beat John Gavin in Game 2. TCU's pitching advantage is in the back end of the rotation: I think Morrison and Young can hold their own against any 1-2 rotation combination in the field, but they're not clearly better. I would absolutely take Traver and Alexander over the back end of Vandy's or especially LSU's rotation.

Which TCU player are you most excited to see play?

Morrison. I went into this in my last column, but he's a kind of player I love to watch, but doesn't translate to the pros, so knowing any game could be his last sort of ups the stakes.

Regardless of genre, what song do you think defines TCU?

"Du E för Fin för Mig" by Dungen. It's really three or four songs rolled into one, spanning several genres, and part of it sounds like Preston Morrison pitches, part of it sounds like how Alex Young pitches, part of it sounds like how Mitchell Traver pitches, and part of it sounds like how Riley Ferrell pitches.

If you can, give me your pick for the Title?

LSU. I think they've got the best team, though having a tougher draw than Florida might mean more than the difference in quality between the two teams. The offense, 1-9, is just so good that I'll pick them and wait and see about the back end of the rotation.

Really, I think there are three groups here: LSU, Florida and Vandy, which I think are the three best clubs; then Miami and TCU, who aren't close behind and wouldn't shock me at all if they won. Then there are Arkansas, UVA and Fullerton, the outsiders. I don't think any of those teams winning would shock me as much as UCLA winning it all in 2013, but it's not likely.