Backup quarterback. Towel-waving 12th man. Assistant coach. Alternate. Middle relief.
There are a lot of roles in sports that can leave you feeling less than appreciated; jobs that have to be filled but rarely get the kudos. In baseball, there seems to be an abundance of such positions - whether you're Evan Williams and Elliot Barzilli waiting for your chance to swing the bat, or Travis Evans hoping to see that bullpen phone ring, baseball subs and relievers spend a lot of time wondering "what if". Even for the guys that get the call more often, there can be hundred of pitches thrown without much in the way of kudos to show for it.
For the Frogs, there is no better example of that than Trey Teakell. Being the middle reliever or the set-up guy is as crucial a role as there is in college baseball, where runs can be scarce and the liveliest arms and biggest bats tend to go the pro route sooner rather than later. The draft/scholarship setup makes it nearly impossible to build experienced depth - especially in the pen, as pitchers good enough to get drafted generally will, and often choose to go early in the hopes of keeping their pitch counts down and their injuries at bay. That's part of what makes Trey Teakell so special. Lightly recruited out of high school, Teak wasn't even considered a top 200 talent in the state. With only two years of varsity experience at Weatherford High, where he compiled a 2.60 ERA in 110.1 innings over those two seasons, but did strike out 115 opponents in 74 innings as a senior. Trey would redshirt as a freshman, and struggle his first year on the field, 1-2 in three starts with a 4.70 ERA in 46 innings. His opportunities were even more scarce as a sophomore, as his 33.0 innings pitched as a career low - partially due to injury - but you could start to see the flicker of the dominance to come, as he posted a 0.82 ERA, struck out 24, and walked only four batters.
Last year's Trey Teakell paved the way for this year's edition, as the 6'5" beanpole had streaks of dominance scattered across 26 appearances and 61 2/3 innings. Of those 26 appearances, 25 were in relief, and he help the opposition scoreless in 16 of those. Teakell added 41 Ks and two saves, just for good measure. 2014 was 'The Year of the Riley' though, and while Teakell shined, Ferrell's light was a blazing ball of fire in comparison... and that's what his pitches looked like to opposing batters. While La Flama Blanca was turning in an All-American season and making a case for himself as the most dominating closer in college baseball, Teakell was putting him in that opportunity by pitching an inning here, two there, or getting a crucial out in a tough spot to put Ferrell in a save situation. 2015 looked to be more of the same for Teak, who made a career high 30 appearances and became the most reliable, and frankly dominant, arm that Schloss could call in throughout the post-season. While Ferrell looked to be in danger of flaming out, Teakell went on a tear through some of the toughest lineups that college baseball had to offer. Trey has seen 193 batters in relief this year, far more than any other TCU arm out of the pen, and has struck out 47 while walking only eight. In the biggest games... post season tilts with the season on the line, Trey has been virtually unhittable: no hitting LSU for 4.1 innings in an elimination game at the College World Series Thursday night, no hitting Vandy in a 1-0 loss for 1.1 innings Tuesday, allowing a single hit and a single run in the final game of the Super Regional against A&M when he pitched the eighth frame of a game the Frogs led 4-1, three perfect innings that allowed the Frogs to come back against NC State and win the Regional that started this run.
Teakell has won two games this post season, and three in four years for the Frogs. He has pitched 29.2 innings of playoff baseball for TCU, and has 18 strikeouts and just one single walk in those efforts. In the College World Series (now everyone look around and make sure Schloss isn't listening) he has retired all 17 batters he has faced. 17 players, from two of the best clubs in baseball, have stepped to the plate against the righty; not a single one has reached base. He has pitched against the #1 and #2 overall draft picks this week, and neither has been able to figure him out.
Teakell will trade his purple in for blue and orange some time next week, as the fifth year senior heads to some low level affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, who drafted him in the ninth round earlier this month. He will join his opponent from LSU, catcher Cade Scivicque in the farm system, but likely hopes to be pitching to former Frog Bryan Holaday with the big club sooner rather than later, as opposed to his peer down in the minors. Trey could be joined by Tyler Alexander as well, who was the 65th pick of the club - the second time Detroit has selected the lefty. Teakell has a great shot to make it; though he has a lot of mileage on that arm as a four year player and fifth year senior, he has shown great control and the ability to mix pitches, throwing four well (low 90's fastball, change up, curve, and a hard splitter), and just seems to have "it" on the mound.
With Teakell's 4+ innings pitched Thursday night, he will likely not be available until Saturday at the earliest - that would mean the Frogs need to win at least one more game for fans to get another shot to see Trey in action on the mound. For this fan, I hope we get that chance... but I won't be content with one more appearance, I want to see him hold that trophy high, as he can, on the last day in Omaha. For the guy who Schloss calls "his most valuable pitcher, maybe ever", he's certainly earned the chance to do so.