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TCU Baseball 2016: Gonzaga Preview, "Stars and Barz"

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TCU Baseball looks to continue its winning streak in this weekend's series against Gonzaga.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the new 'Fantastic Four', starring Elliott Barzilli as the Human Torch. Barzilli currently leads, or is tied for the lead in the following categories: hits (17), slugging (.900), OBP (.594), RBI (9), HR (T1, 2), 2B (T1, 2) and TB (27). Not only is the California-native and Georgia Tech transfer swinging a hot bad, his defensive skills are worthy of equal praise. Beyond both of those things, however, Barz has proven to be that jerk we've talked about–a term I use in the most endearing way possible.

This isn't to say he's a dirty player, or even Tanner Mathis-esque loudmouth, but he possesses a certain flair I haven't seen on the team since Matt Purke in 2010, or even Riley Ferrell's 2014 spark. Do we miss guys like Preston Morrison and Cody Jones? You bet. But you don't often get anywhere simply trying to recreate the old. Sure, Schlossnagle teams will always be Schlossnagle teams- low key, intelligent, and clean. All I'm saying, and all I hear other people saying, is that it's refreshing to have someone like Barzilli.

Luken Baker is as good as advertised and the transition from high school to college hasn't shown any real signs of a struggle. Not unlike basketball, when you're playing baseball and you're trying to go to college or beyond, you're playing year around. You're not alone, either. You're playing year-round and playing against top-level, equal talent you'll see in the near future. That's why players and wunderkinds like LSU Men's Basketball star, Ben Simmons, don't really struggle in college. I realize that's basketball, but it's not much different for Luken Baker.

Gonzaga Preview:

The Zags come into Lupton with a 4-4 record, fresh off a tournament in San Antonio where they went 2-2. They have five players hitting over .300, most notably infielder Patrick Chung (.448) and outfielder Sam Brown (.441). Brown also leads the team in runs (11), hits (15), Slugging (.647), OBP (.537), TB (22) and doubles (4).

Pitching Matchups:

Friday- RHP Brandon Bailey (1-0, 2.45 ERA) vs. RHP Luken Baker (2-0, 0.00 ERA) 
Saturday- RHP Justin Vernia (0-1. 2,70 ERA) vs. LHP Rex Hill (0-0, 4.32 ERA) 
Sunday- RHP Eli Morgan (1-1, 5.84 ERA) vs. RHP Brian Howard (2-0. 0.69 ERA)

Prediction:

I think it's fair to say the Frogs take at least two from this series. Gonzaga just doesn't have the pitching to take more than a game from TCU–barring they shoot themselves in the foot. It's also very possible TCU gets a huge spark from Luken Baker moving into the Friday role and that momentum carries through Sunday. Unless they give me, and everyone else a reason to think otherwise, if TCU can score nearly 30 runs against ULL, Rice, and Houston, I don't see why it will be any different against Gonzaga. 

Josh Watson, Barz, Baker and the TCU bullpen are just simply too much for Gonzaga. Frogs sweep.

Notables (via: GoFrogs.com)

TCU NOTABLES

• After sweeping through the Shriner's Hospital for Children College Classic, TCU defeated UTRGV 13-0 to push its winning streak to seven games.
• TCU has outscored its opponents 40-2 in the last four games and 63-5 during the winning streak.
• TCU picked up its fourth shutout of the season, upping its shutout total to 28 games since the start of the 2014 season, a mark that is tops in the NCAA.
• TCU leads the Big 12 in hitting with a .328 average, a 0.93 ERA and a .980 fielding percentage.
• The TCU bullpen has yet to surrender an earned run in 27 2/3 innings pitched this season.
• With three stolen bases against UTRGV, TCU improved its league-leading total to 15.
• Luken Baker, Brian Howard and Dane Steinhagen each earned a spot on the All-Classic team.
• Cam Warner joined Luken Baker, Dane Steinhagen and Josh Watson in hitting his first career home run on Tuesday.
• Elliott Barzilli and Luken Baker have reached base safely in all eight games this season.

GONZAGA NOTABLES

• Gonzaga is making its second straight trip to Texas after playing four games in San Antonio last weekend.
• The Bulldogs have gotten off to a 4-4 start this season, going 2-2 in each of the first two weekends.
• In three of their four wins this season, Gonzaga has scored 11 or more runs.
• Patrick Chung (.448) and Sam Brown (.441) lead the offensive charge in terms of getting on base, while Jeffrey Bohling is the top run producer with 11 RBIs.
• Gonzaga ranks third nationally with 27 doubles led by Taylor Jones' six, which is fourth in the NCAA.
• The Bulldogs have the rare distinction of drawing more walks (44) than they have struck out (38).
• On the mound, Gonzaga has a 4.12 ERA and are allowing opponents to hit .264.
• Gage Burland and Eli Thornquist are the go-to guys in the bullpen with three appearances each.
• Defensively, the Bulldogs have committed 10 errors this season, leading to eight unearned runs.