A day ago we had no idea how this Super Regional series was going to go. Then on Friday night, it went about as well as it possibly could have for the Horned Frogs. Game Two, as always, sets up an elimination game, and thankfully the only team at risk of elimination today is Texas A&M. Jared Janczak and Luken Baker, along with the rest of the Frogs, played inspired baseball last night for the win. That's the style of baseball that TCU been playing all postseason, winning 13 of their last 14 games on the way to a Big 12 Tournament Championship and a 3-0 sweep of the Fort Worth Regional.
The Aggies have been ranked higher, and regarded more highly, by the media all year. But they don't have Luken Baker. The Big 12 freshman of the year, together with much improved consistency from the pitching staff, has been the difference for the Horned Frogs over the last few weeks. The Aggies though, have shown to be resilient after a loss all season. The low point of their season was a four-game losing streak back at the beginning of April. The Aggies were swept on the road at Florida and then dropped an away game in Houston against Rice. But the next two weekends, they posted back-to-back sweeps of Georgia and Mississippi State, and the didn't lose another series for the remainder of the regular season.
The last time that Texas A&M lost was to Vanderbilt in the first round of the SEC tournament. The Aggies responded by winning out to claim the SEC Tournament Championship and earn the No. 4 National Seed. All I'm saying is, that TAMU is going to come out swinging tonight, and this series will be a battle until the final out is recorded and a winner is crowned. They absolutely still believe that they are the best team in the country and that they will come back and win this series. While the fans might be a little rattled by TCU's presence in Aggieland, don't expect the team to show the same lack of focus that they did at times last night.
Pitching Preview: Aces Wild
|Mitchell Traver - RHP||1-1||18.1||2.45||8.9||9.8||3.0|
|Kyle Simonds - RHP||10-3||92.1||2.73||7.5||7.2||2.2|
Mitchell Traver was named a preseason all-american on the back of the incredible four innings of scoreless baseball he pitched against Texas A&M in last year's Super Regional. It's only fitting that a year later, he has the chance to send the Aggies home again and pave the path for the Horned Frogs to reach their third straight College World Series. Out for most of the season with a back injury, he returned to action about a month ago and has slowly been working his way back to full strength. The five innings that he pitched in the Fort Worth Regional opener against Oral Roberts was the sharpest he has looked, and the deepest he has gone into a game so far this year. Over those five innings he allowed zero runs on two hits with four strikeouts and one walk. With the Aggies expected to swing away today, this will hopefully be the start where TCU finally unleashes Traver, and we see the dominance that he is capable of delivering for six or seven frames.
Kyle Simonds has been the Aggies' most reliable starter all year. After spending much of his sophomore year contributing as a very good reliever and a hit-or-miss starter, he took a big step forward in this, his junior season. Simonds has started 16 games for Texas A&M, the most of anyone on their staff, and came into this weekend tied with Brigham Hill for the most innings pitched as well. After the Aggies needed four different pitchers last night, Simonds will likely be looking to go the distance, to save TAMU's bullpen for a potential game three. He has delivered complete games three times this season already. One of those complete games was a no-hitter against Vanderbilt on May 7th to secure a series win against the defending national runner-up. That only required 83 pitches, but he is more than capable of going over 100, which he did the week prior in his complete game win over Arkansas.
Offensively the Aggies were quiet last night, managing only six hits with a third of those coming from Boomer White. Nobody else had more than one. Texas A&M didn't even manage a base-runner past second between the first and eighth innings. That was the brilliance of Jared Janczak's performance on the mound for the Frogs. It was not the Texas A&M team that they have been all year, and likely not the one the Frogs will see tonight. Boomer is still hitting .398, and last night would probably be considered a "bad" game for him. J.B. Moss leads the team with 65 runs and 16 stolen bases in 20 attempts, and he hits .325 himself. Hunter Melton, the Aggies leader in extra-base hits will also be waiting to make an impact after the home team was held two just two extra-base hits last night.
For TCU, the offense will be facing a much different, more finesse-focused, pitching approach tonight. That has been the thorn in the side of this TCU team all year. We can all just be thankful that Texas A&M doesn't really have a good soft-throwing lefty that they can roll out; at least not an established, reliable one. In last night's contest Warner, Skoug, Baker and Merrill all managed multi-hit games, while Steinhagen and Landestoy both managed a hit themselves. While the big three of Skoug, Baker and Barzilli are the engine that makes this offense go, Austen Wade leads the team in walks in the lead off spot, and the entire lineup has matured to show a lot more patience than they did earlier in the season. Anyone in this lineup can hurt you, and a victory tonight might just come down to an unlikely hero stepping up and seizing the moment. If that's what it takes, there's not many lineups in college baseball you'd feel more comfortable rolling with.
Go Frogs. #ToadToOmaha
Game Two will be broadcast on ESPN at 8:00p CST. Follow all of tonight's action in the comments!