Luken Baker hasn't been thrown a good inside pitch since the opening game in the College Station Super Regional. That was true until Robert Dugger threw him one in the 9th inning of Sunday's game, and Luken sent it half way to South Dakota to turn a 3-2 TCU deficit into a 5-3 Frog lead. While regular season Conference Titles are nice and everything, the Frogs have now won when it really counts.
Brian Trieglaff, and Luken Baker's long-time friend Durbin Feltman, were superb in relief for the Frogs, an area in which the Frogs have desperately needed improvement since their midseason slide - which coincidentally was at its worst with a home series loss to Texas Tech. Trieflaff retired 12 straight before Texas Tech put together a little rally which began with a Cory Raley single in the 8th. After Trieglaff intentionally walked Tech's star, and Big 12 Player of the Year Eric Gutierrez, Hunter Hargrove drove the go-ahead run in to put the Raiders up 3-2.
The aggressive base running also also continues to dominate TCU's postseason. And that aggressive base running can remedy what's gotten TCU in trouble the past two trips to Omaha; leaving way too many runners on base.
This win, however wouldn't have happened without Jared Janczak. The RS freshman's last two games have been so absurd; he left Sunday in Omaha only the 5th pitcher to throw 8 or more strikeouts in a 5 innings or less. Janczak made a big opening statement last weekend against Texas A&M, and he made another one Sunday afternoon in Omaha.
So now as it stands: four trips to Omaha, four opening wins. Can TCU finally get past the winner's bracket hump? Or is time a loop and they're doomed to repeat the same fate? Like I said in the College World Series Roundtable this morning, despite Luken's star power and his monstrous home run, it's going to take efforts like Cam Warner's then go-ahead home run for the Frogs to reach Omaha Valhalla.
The second game of the College World Series has always been a some sort of death sentence for TCU. In 2010, Trevor Bauer edged; in 2014 a Virginia squad barely got by them; and in 2015, National Champions Vanderbilt edged out a 1-0 win despite a brilliant performance from Alex Young. Now, after beating Texas Tech, TCU faces the same fate. So, again, is time a loop and they doomed to repeat the same fate they've been dealt in every College World Series they've played in? Or do they finally break the threshold?
For my money, Florida (should they win Sunday night) is probably the best team in the tournament. With a handful of a Major League talent, and their overall experience, it's just their tournament to lose. So, after playing UCLA, Virginia, and Vanderbilt in this same game in their first three trips, this actually could be the most difficult of the four given the circumstances. But it's not such a bad thing when you're continually defying your expectations.
Florida is a great team, but they're far from the best team ever. This isn't team USA from 1992 or 1996, or the string of tournament teams Spain's soccer dynasty put together from 2008-2012 which won every major tournament (2 Euro Cups and a World Cup) in that time frame. The Gators being the best team in Omaha isn't necessarily enough to say they're invincible. And even though they Ivan Drago, the Frogs punch very much like Rocky Balboa.