We sure have been spoiled this season. TCU pitchers have put on a master class in consistency this year - starters Preston Morrison and Alex Young have made even the best hitters look like little leaguers, and Trey Teakell and Riley Ferrell have made a habit of squashing hopes and dreams in the late innings. But with Ferrell and Young not looking like themselves, Coach Schloss went deep in the well to ensure the Frogs advanced to the Supers.
Schloss took some calculated risks this weekend as he massaged his rotation and pushed almost every right button. He opened with Mitchell Traver Friday night, and all Traver did was throw seven innings of four hit, shut out baseball. Brian Trieglaff got the call from the pen with TCU holding a big lead, and shut down the Sacred Heart hitters - two innings, five strike outs. The two combined to issue four walks, but the 12 strikeouts relegated any baserunners harmless, and the Pioneers stranded all eight players that reached base.
On Saturday, Schloss went to his most proven starter - senior Preston Morrison. Morrison would go toe-to-toe with a freshman wunderkind from NC State - Brian Brown - and the two pitchers would give the crowd an epic showdown from the mound. Morrison was salty - while he did have one rough inning (three runs in the fourth, two earned) he finished with a stat line that would be the envy of any pitcher at any level - eight innings, ten strikeouts, four hits, and only two walks. Brown battled him pitch for pitch in a 7.1 inning, eight strikeout, five hit gem of his own, but would exit in line for the loss after giving up his fourth run of the game. This is the point where Schloss made a call that would normally be automatic, but became the biggest turning point of the weekend to that point. All American closer Riley Ferrell came in for the ninth with a one run lead, in a save situation that has been a given for him the past two years - as he has notched 29 saves over that time period. But the Riley Ferrell that we all know and love, who seemed lost at the Big 12 tournament, hasn't quite found his way home yet, as he put the leadoff batter on with a four pitch walk, and soon thereafter surrendered a two run homer that would prove to be the difference in the game. Riley would have another rough go of it Monday night, but Schloss was clear in the postgame that Ferrell is his guy, and if there is a save situation against A&M in the Supers, he will get the call. I have semi-mixed feelings about this; I don't think we can win it all without La Flama Blanca shutting it down in the back end, but if he doesn't get back to being... well him... I don't think we have a chance of being in that situation anyway. I trust the kid and I trust the process - and, contrary to what Elliot Avent thinks - I believe baseball is a game of momentum, so Ferrell just has to get the positive mo back. Jamie will go more in depth with this later this week, but for now, it's probably the biggest question facing the coaching staff.
("No I do not, I do not think there is momentum in baseball")
The second biggest question for Schloss, Saarloos, and co is what the heck happened to Alex Young? Young, who had been brilliant this season, and saw his draft stock soar as a result, has also struggled in his last couple appearances - on Monday, the normally reliable Young gave up four runs on five hits in just four innings, putting the Frogs in a deep hole - that coupled with another Ferrell meltdown in the eighth (three earned runs on two hits, a wild pitch, and a badly mis-fielded bunt - in just a third of an inning of work) would necessitate the heroics to follow. Young is far from a lost cause of course; he has been a great pitcher in huge moments in the past, and had an incredible type season this year (9-2, 2.39 ERA, 81 strikeouts in 83 innings). He's just in a mini-slump of his own, and will need to find a way to get out of that along with Riley somehow, someway.
The good news to be gleaned out of all this negativity is the revelation that the TCU pen may be even deeper than previously thought - relievers Preston Guillory, Brian Trieglaff, and Brian Howard were exceptional in their roles. Howard, who had only started four games on the season, gave the Frogs a little breathing room in the back end, going 4.1 innings against Stony Brook while only allowing three ones on two hits. Preston Guillory would shine as he took over mound duty, going 3.2 innings of one hit ball as the Frogs took control of the game, earning him the W. Trieglaff would pitch four innings of one hit ball across two games, and was the winning pitcher Monday night after coming in and completely shutting down the Pack in the ninth and tenth innings. To think - the Frogs won four games, three that were elimination games - and only pitched Trey Teakell once for three innings - three, brilliant innings at that, Monday night.
We have gone all this time without mentioning the pitcher that I think was the most valuable of the weekend, Tyler Alexander. Alexander took the bump Sunday afternoon against NC State, in a situation where Schloss needed to save as many arms as he could for the next night. Alexander delivered in a big way, throwing a complete game three hitter, allowing only a single earned run (the Pack scored twice on the day), and striking out six while walking none. TCU's 8-2 win ensured they would live to play another day, and Alexander's ability to go all nine gave the Frogs a decided advantage as the game stretched on and they had arm after arm to go to. NC State melted down, but it appeared as if the TCU pitchers were heating up - the longer the game went, the better they looked. While Preston's performance was exceptional, Tyler's was transcendent, in my opinion. Both will be called upon next weekend, and both will need to replicate their heroics from this past one.
As I mentioned in the open, we have certainly been spoiled this season. We will talk more about who we expect to take the mound for the Super Regionals against the Aggies, but for now each guy needs to flush this past weekend; good and bad. #NoEndInSight