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TCU Baseball: The Monday Melee and Texas A&M

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With Omaha on the line, as predicted, the TCU-Texas A&M baseball series has gone to three games. The Frogs and Aggies are both no stranger to playing three games, and the latter have their starter for Monday night's game. For TCU, however, it's either Mitchell Traver or Alex Young...and we're losing our minds trying decide who should start

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

If you cut it down to size, one can make a very compelling argument that A&M should’ve gotten a National Seed, thus giving the State of Texas two of them. Maybe this is the committee subtweeting the notion of conference tournaments: that the regular season is damn important. TCU won their Power 5 conference; a conference that put 3, nearly 4, teams into Omaha last year. But even that is a similar trap that the SEC uses. The bottom line is that if you want to secure a place, rely on winning your conference, not its reputation.

This isn’t Pepperdine from last year. And that’s not a slight of the Waves as a team. I honestly have no idea if that team could beat the A&M team from this year. What I can tell you though, is that whether A&M is worse or better than that team, the stakes- and the atmosphere- have been unrecognizable from 2014. This [Texas A&M] is a team came into Fort Worth saltier than a Braavosi oyster, and now they get a chance at leaving with their head held high. Conversely, TCU not only has to prove itself worthy as a National Seed, it has to prove itself as an adversary. Yes, even after the 13-4 shellacking they put on the Aggies Saturday afternoon.

Preston Morrison, who somehow remains winless in his postseason career, and A&M’s Matt Kent dueled about as well as you’ll ever see in college baseball. TCU, late in the game yet again, nearly propelled itself a comeback. But in a true testament to the narrative of the game, the Aggies won on a sacrifice fly that was just as nearly an out at the plate.

So now, as predicted, it comes down to a third game and Jim Schlossnagle now has to make the difficult, yet paradoxically non-difficult decision for who starts this game. Do you start Alex Young, who had the best overall season but has been underwhelming as of late? Or do you throw Mitchell Traver, a kid who at his best was TCU’s most dominating presence on the mound in 2015? TCU’s pitching staff reminds me of that scene in Terminator 2 when the Connors and their cyborg friend travel to a rural California home that’s been hording an artillery fit for a small country's army since Sarah Connor was put in that pesky asylum. Both Traver and Young possess similar numbers: most impressively, aside from their high K/9, their opponents BA (.188 for Traver and .216 for Young). Traver has a lower ERA, but as a whole, has seen less talent than Young, and the big righty tends to walk more than his lefty teammate, which could get him into trouble with the feisty A&M offense. Still, with his ability to attack hitters and ability to force them into a low BA, proven K/9, and just simply being better right now, Traver would be my pick. But you know what’s good about having an elite arsenal? Should one fail you, there’s always a great backup.

Pitcher

Record

ERA

K/9

BB/9

Alex Young

or

9-2

2.68

8.78

2.06

Mitchell Traver

8-2

1.70

8.74

2.96

Tyler Stubblefield

0-0

5.14

6.43

1.29

If you’re a TCU fan, you wouldn’t be insane to be cautiously optimistic. You’re the home team, and even when the Aggies threw their best pitcher, you almost found a way to win. The same goes for Texas A&M as the Aggies have been quite competitive against the Frogs’ two starters thus far. Tyler Alexander was a little better than average Saturday, and kept the Aggies alive by throwing the ball where they could make clean contact. Saturday’s true MVP was Trey Teakell, one of the brighter diamonds in TCU’s lavish jewelry box we call a bullpen.

For the Aggies, throwing lefty Tyler Stubblefield is an interesting move. Granted, he fought back from injury, but the sophomore from Lufkin has only thrown 7 innings all year, and in those innings he’s racked up a 5.14 ERA. Maybe the Aggies really just want a lefty, or maybe there’s a longer con in their strategy and the Frogs could expect to see a handful of arms tonight. Whatever the case, Stubblefield proved in a strong outing against Cal, which he started and only allowed one run over 5 innings, that he’s rebounded well since his injury. Regardless, it doesn’t take away from the fact that Texas A&M is very dangerous at the plate.

The final should come down to what each team’s best at. For TCU, their starting pitching and bullpen, complimented by their air-tight, tactical execution both offensively and defensively. For the Aggies, it’s about how dangerous they are on offense. The Aggies aren’t terrible in defense, and by all means they were the best defensive team in their hosted Regional, but should A&M win this game, it’ll be because they outhit TCU. And that- TCU’s brilliant pitching versus A&M’s brilliant offense- is this series at its molecular level.

Now it comes down to a third game. Since 2009, the Frogs have played in 5 Super Regionals, of which they’ve won 2, and 3 of them have gone to a third game. Tonight follows suit. The Frogs are certainly no stranger to playing when backed into a corner, and as everyone learned last Monday against NC State, life for TCU baseball in 2015, as Ian Malcolm would say, finds a way.