The Big 12 Tournament is dark and full of terrors; and Oklahoma State may have literally gotten Augie Garrido fired last night. If you listened to our podcast with Wescott Eberts earlier this week, or if you've just watched Texas baseball the last two years, you've probably seen the holes in the ship. Which, is also somewhat weird considering they're only two years removed from barely missing the College World Series finals. But what a bitter way to go; in Oklahoma City against the state's second most popular team.
So can crushing your rival give you that boost? If one of Baylor's big plans was to not let Luken Baker hit the ball, then Baker goes out and becomes only the fourth player in tournament history to get five hits--then yeah, I'd say that's a pretty nice boost. Somewhere between the #HotTakes--most of them understandable--of traits like grit and stats, that's where this youthful TCU team is right now and the timing couldn't be anymore perfect. The body language of Josh Watson after his home run exemplified that. Now, 20-something kids aren't really going to be fatigued; there's just something to be said when the guy who's basically holding the veteran baton right now is a sophomore catcher, even though Evan Skoug erased any doubt that'd he'd successfully succeed the strong bloodline of TCU's catcher a long time ago.
Tonight's matchup on the hill is certainly a big test for Mitchell Traver, who's still making steps to returning to his normal form. It sort of goes without saying that a strong Traver is not only a good thing for this tournament, but for TCU's hopes of getting back to Nebraska. If there's one winner's-bracket team that is perfect for Traver to get his feet wet to reenter the territory he was at last year's Super Regional, Oklahoma State is the perfect candidate. While the Cowboys have shown to be the second strongest pitching staff in Conference play behind TCU, with their (OSU) advantage being able to strike more batters out than the Horned Frogs, the Cowboys are significantly outmatched in every measurable offensive category.
That's the irony that's been the 2016 season for TCU. Sure, while the pitching staff hasn't been as elite as the past two years, it's (a) young and (b) still the best in the Conference. Everything from the Horned Frogs' run differential, to dominating the Big 12* in stolen bases (39), and either leading or coming up just short of Texas Tech in every major offensive category, is validation this a team that can go deep into June even despite their youth. Pepper this in with the fact they're leading the Big 12 in pitching, even though the numbers aren't to their typical standards, is a dangerous team.
Both TCU and Oklahoma State enter tonight's game with a winning streaks; The Horned Frogs made it six straight last night whereas the Cowboys, thanks to a massive 5th inning against Texas, extended theirs to four.
Losing a series in Austin doesn't matter anymore; nor does blowing one in Waco or even an underwhelming showing against Texas Tech at home. This is a team that generally plays well at home and has been generally outstanding on neutral sites. Both of those things bode well for this team this weekend as they're not only playing for a Regional, but maximizing their chances at getting to Super--hopefully against Texas A&M.