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TCU Baseball vs SFA Preview: Home Sweet Home

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After being on the road for most of the last few weeks, TCU gets a chance to return to the friendly confines of Lupton Stadium for a faceoff with the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks.

Drew Gooch is set to make his first career start for the Frogs
Drew Gooch is set to make his first career start for the Frogs
GoFrogs.com

It's been a long, hard road the last few weeks. TCU has played eight of their last 11 games away from Lupton and has lost two of their last three weekend series'. The trip ended on a good note, with a road sweep of Penn State, but a Tuesday night game at home will be a welcomed change before heading to Waco this weekend to resume Big 12 play against Baylor. Getting the sweep was big for TCU in their race to 40 wins, a consistent, annual goal for Jim Schlossnagle's teams. Sitting at 33 with exactly seven games left, it is still possible for the Horned Frogs to reach that mark before postseason play begins.

The Lumberjacks are on a role heading into Fort Worth this week, winning 10 of their last 12 games over the last month or so. That's the best stretch of the season for SFA since they opened up the season winning eight of their first 12 contests. They're 14-13 in the Southland Conference, but they have shown that they can compete against teams from the Power 5. Against the Big 12 this season they are 2-2, splitting two games a piece with Oklahoma State and Kansas State. Like TCU, the Lumberjacks are coming off a sweep this last weekend after beating McNeese State in Nacogdoches.

Projected Pitching Matchup

Starting Pitcher W-L IP ERA H/9 K/9 BB/9
Drew Gooch - LHP 0-0 18.1 1.47 10.8 7.4 2.5
Eric Polivka - LHP 2-2 35.2 6.31 13.7 6.8 4.3

Sophomore Drew Gooch is set to make his first career start today for the Frogs. So far this season and last season Gooch has made 21 appearances out of the bullpen. Last year, in his nine appearances as a freshman, he went 1-0 with a 5.87 ERA. He actually held opponents scoreless in seven of nine appearances, but his ERA was high due to a couple of instances where he did give up runs because he only pitched 7 1/3 innings. So far in 2016, he has shown that he is honing his craft, posting a 1.47 ERA in 18.1 innings pitched. Having another lefty that can be utilized as a reliable starter would be a nice plus for the Frogs heading into the postseason.

Senior Erick Polivka on the other hand brings plenty of experience into this Tuesday night matchup. He has made 12 appearances on the year for the Lumberjacks, starting in seven games on his way to posting a 2-2 record.  He is no stranger to the Tuesday night role, going seven innings to earn the win in his last start on 4/26/16 against Louisiana Monroe. He allowed only two runs on three hits while striking out five and walking two in that game. Though not as much as last year, the Frogs still continue to struggle against left-handed pitchers. So, it will be interesting to see how they fair against an experienced guy like Polivka.

Offensive Preview

Offensive Comparison avg r h hr slg% ob% fld%
TCU 0.309 341 478 37 0.465 0.404 0.970
SFA 0.304 341 507 37 0.396 0.373 0.959

While Luken Baker (41) and Evan Skoug (40) still lead the team in RBIs, it was Josh Watson that was the catalyst for the Frogs offense this last weekend against Penn State. In each of the last two games of the series, Watson had early two-run homers to get things going; he has 10 total on the season. That makes Watson the first freshman Horned Frog to reach double-digit home runs since Andrew Walker did it back in 2005. All but three players in the Frogs lineup are hitting over .300 as TCU still leads the Big 12 with a team batting average of .309. One of the three guys hitting below .300 is Josh Watson (.280), but that doesn't make him any less dangerous. When you're hitting .386 its hard to call anything a slump, but Elliott Barzilli had definitely cooled off lately from earlier in the season when he was hitting over .400. He came back in a big way over the weekend though, going 4-5 with two RBIs to secure the sweep on Sunday.

Stephen F. Austin is no slouch either offensively and they are led by another guy who has 10 home runs this year in Kyle Thornell (.369 BA). Thornell is second on the team in RBIs with 45 and also leads the team in slugging percentage (.673), doubles (15), walks (28) and strike outs (44). Not far behind Thornell are Conner Fikes (.363 BA) and Garrett McMullen (.362 BA). Fikes leads the team in RBIs with a whopping 52 and McMullen is second on the team in home runs with eight of his own. Like TCU, they have exactly 37 home runs on the year. Five of their nine regular starters are hitting over .300.