Manager's Note: This Q&A took place before the pitching match-up between Phillip Pfieffer and Alex Young was announced. I think you'll be pleased with the accuracy, however...
If you're coaching tonight, who do you throw: Phil Pfieffer or Walker Buehler? Why?
Pfeifer was solid against Illinois in a Super Regional-clinching win last week, but I'd prefer to see Buehler here. Buehler has had his ups and downs in an injury-filled season, but he's got better pure stuff than Pfeif and a better command of the strike zone. Walks and wildness unraveled Carson Fulmer in game one, so I'd like to see Vanderbilt turn to their most accurate weekend starter in game two - especially in a game that projects to be a low-scoring affair.
Vandy and the Frogs met back in March; to which TCU just edged the Commodores out, 4-2. What's changed for the Commodores since then?
TCU shut down the batters outside the heart of the Vandy lineup, limiting hitters who weren't Rhett Wiseman, Dansby Swanson, or Zander Wiel to a 2-22 performance. Since then, players like Ro Coleman, Jason Delay, and freshmen Will Toffey and Jeren Kendall have developed into dangerous batters. Toffey and Kendall faced a steep learning curve in SEC play, but both have become rock solid offensive threats that give Vandy one of the strongest 1-7 lineups in the country. They'll give the Frogs much more trouble tonight than they did in March.
From a Vanderbilt perspective, what's the most intimidating aspect about playing TCU?
Every pitcher the Horned Frogs have is capable of being dominant. Vanderbilt had exactly one good offensive inning against Fullerton and their aces, Thomas Eshelman and Tyler Peitzmeier. The 'Dores were impatient at the plate and consistently swung at pitches that tailed out of the strike zone. If TCU's guys can throw similar junk they can handcuff an offense that scored 10.6 runs per game in Regional and Super Regional play.
Which Commodore is the most crucial for a win tonight?
The cop out answer is whoever is on the mound, so I'll turn to another obvious choice: Dansby Swanson. Swanson had a quiet day against Fullerton and put together his worst performance of the NCAAT. He's a tremendous middle-of-the-order threat, and he's blanketed by two guys - Rhett Wiseman and Zander Wiel - who can absolutely make things happen at the plate. Having the #1 overall pick generate extra bases in the middle of the order will lead to runs and help Vanderbilt return to the form they found while trouncing Illinois 13-0 last week.
How does Vandy beat TCU tonight, how do they lose?
They beat TCU if they stay patient and the plate and if Buehler/Pfeifer avoid walking too many batters. They lose if they jump after breaking balls and allow TCU's pitchers to keep their pitch counts low.