Remember a few days ago when that team beat us by 10 runs? That was pretty upsetting. I'm even willing to bet that in three weeks I'll still be pretty upset about it. Well on Tuesday night TCU gets the chance to play a team that they run-ruled to the tune of 10-0 about three weeks ago. We also have to travel to Houston, to their home stadium, to do it. Following a loss, it's not an ideal situation. The prospect of losing two in a row looms heavy and Rice is a good team. Losing a game here and there in baseball isn't a big deal. It might even get you moved up in the rankings. Losing two games in a row though, that's not something that elite teams are supposed to do.
So here we are. We just had a nice big slice of humble pie and now we're heading four hours south to face a team that has a personal grudge against us. The Owls, only 8-7 on the year, have won their last two series. The weekend of March 4th-6th they took a 2-1 series victory over UCF. Just last weekend they took two of three from East Carolina, who was ranked in the top 15 at the time. They also didn't play a Tuesday game last week, which makes the questions of who will start this Tuesday tricky, as per usual.
The way things look, I have to assume that the Owls are going to start Willy Amador. Neither team has announced who they will be starting as of my writing this. The Owl's best mid-week starter is J. Parthasarathy, but he pitched a three-out save against ECU on Sunday so they probably won't roll him out. Willy is the only other guy on their roster who has started a game. He only went 3 2/3 innings, but he didn't give up any earned runs and he had four strike outs in that outing. The pitcher that you really don't want to face from Rice is their bullpen guy Glenn Otto. Glenn saw 3 1/3 innings of work on Saturday though, so we shouldn't have to face him either.
TCU will most likely be starting Dalton Horton, who put together a really nice five innings of scoreless baseball last Tuesday against UT Arlington. He also started the game the previous Tuesday against UT Rio Grande Valley. Other than those two starts he has just one bullpen appearance, when he relieved Devon Roedahl in the first Tuesday game of the year against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. UTA was a really good hitting team, so being able to go five innings against them in his second start is not too shabby.
Slash Line: (BA/SLG/OBP)
Okay, so i'm just going to say don't get too excited. Yes, we look to be clearly better than them by every offensive statistic shown in the table above, but our offense looked pretty good against USC on paper too. Forget about the fact that this team no-doubt really wants to pummel us after we run-ruled them in front of their home town crowd. Sometimes, a team that hasn't been all that lucky when it comes to their run production is just due. That's especially true this early in the season. Sometimes a team just matches up really well against one, particular opponent. I'd have to say that both of these were in play against USC this last weekend.
The Owls best hitter this year has been Ford Proctor (.353/.451/.431) a freshman phenom who leads the team in hits and extra base hits. After Proctor they have another freshman, Dominic Dicaprio (.324/.382/.361), hitting over .300 and these two young men have been carrying the offensive load for the Owls. Their third best hitter is Dayne Wunderlich (.295/.386/.367), a guy who they no doubt call "Mr. Wonderful". I mean, if they don't, they should. Wunderlich leads the team in RBIs and is tied for the team lead in home runs with one.
The Frogs are still led offensively by Elliott Barzilli (.431/.690/.462). Barzilli has fallen far from his week one batting average of .700, but he is still the guy that you feel most confident in to get that timely hit. A close second, and the guy who is really on the upswing right now is Evan Skoug (.380/.660/.492). Skoug had a relatively quiet beginning of the year, overshadowed at times by the scorching hot bat of Barzilli and the overall hype of Luken Baker. So, while we have been looking elsewhere, Skoug has quietly been one of the best hitters on the team, and arguably the heart of this young roster. At least he was quiet, until this last week. Over the weekend Skoug reached a stretch where his last 11 hits all went for extra bases (one HR and 10 doubles). That streak is still on. The "other" guy in TCU's big three is the biggest of them all, Luken Baker (.340/.520/.484). Baker has just been everything that we hoped he could be. Not only is he a good hitter, but he doesn't just hit for power. He can punch one through the gap for a single when he needs to and has a really patient approach at the plate for a freshman (team leading 13 walks).
This will be TCU's first true road test of the year. We went down to Houston earlier this year for the Houston College Classic, but this will actually be the first time this year that the Frogs have played away from home in a truly hostile environment. You have to figure that the crowd at Rice will be good on Tuesday just based on the Frogs' top ten ranking and the recent history between these two teams. It will be interesting to see how this young team responds. Last year, we usually knew what to expect. This year, not so much. Especially after this weekend. But this young team is nothing if not for talented, and that's made for a fun season so far.