You do not need to fan the flames of this rivalry. Whether it's football, basketball, or baseball, there have been enough crazy finishes and controversies over the last year to ensure that there is no love lost between these two teams or their fans. In fact, it's hard to argue that this isn't the greatest and most contentious current rivalry in the conference across the three major sports.
But only one college sport is still being played right now, and these two teams are playing in it. So let's start looking forward, and stop looking back.
It will be the battle of young pitchers Sunday afternoon, as both TCU and Tech will send arms to the mound in their fist year of active service. For the Red Raiders, Steven Gingery will be the man on the mound. The 6'1", 210 pound true freshman lefty from Southern California has looked the part of ace this season, especially late in the year. 13 of his 14 appearances have been starts, and he averages almost five frames per.
Jared Janczak took a different path to this point, starting his season in the bullpen before earning a starting role late in the year. He hasn't looked back since, and after introducing himself to the world in a standout performance last Friday night in College Station, he has the confidence in himself and of his teammates. After seeing limited action against the Red Raiders in their series earlier this year, he is a bit of an unknown to Tech, while Gingery has a start against the Frogs under his belt already.
Players to Watch:
Call it a hunch. I just have a feeling that today is Elliott Barzilli's day. After starting the season absolutely on fire, Barz cooled off considerably as conference play began, and was eventually overshadowed by his younger teammates - namely Luken Baker. But Barz is the heart and soul of this team, and as one of the rare guys who actually played regularly in 2015, he's the one that can take them to that next level. Even when he's struggled at the plate, Barzilli has a knack for getting the big hit in the big moment. That's something Omaha was made for.
On the other side, Texas Tech's Gute is a big slugger in the middle of the lineup. After struggling through an 0-16 slump that spanned both the Regionals and Supers, Gute got the game winning hit to force a game three and had a massive offensive output in the clincher. He got hot at the right time, and looks to continue his streak in the CWS.
It will be on more than just those two players to get things done of course, and there are plenty of other bats that can fill that role. Tyler Neslony has ten home runs and 58 RBI for the Raiders, who also got double-digit dingers from Stephen Smith and 53 RBI from Cory Raley.
For TCU, the bar is set high for Luken Baker of course, but in order for the big guy to get anything good to hit, he's going to need some help. Austen Wade has been an excellent table-setter for TCU, and will need to get on base ahead of the big bats to help the Frogs get on the board early and often. But it's going to take production from the bottom of the lineup - Josh Watson, Dane Steinhagen, Ryan Merrill, or Landestoy/Wanhanen are going to need to find their strokes at the plate and find a way to be productive at the end of the order.
By the Numbers:
336 - Number of walks Texas Tech has drawn, best in the CWS field
305 - Number of walks TCU has drawn, second best in the CWS field
54/51 - Home runs hit by Tech and TCU and TCU, respectively
.488 - Luken Baker's OBP, which is slightly ahead of Tanner Gardner's .485
95 - Bases stolen by the Frogs this year. On the other side, Tech has taken 69 and allowed 81. Expect the Frogs to be aggressive on the base paths if they can get the leadoff man on in an inning.
124 - Errors committed by the two teams combined this season, split almost equally. The team that plays clean baseball has the leg-up in what is an otherwise almost equal matchup.
This has the chance to be the best game of bracket play, as these are two evenly matched teams who know each other well. In a one game scenario, it often comes down to one or two players rising up and playing out of their minds, and both of these teams have multiple guys who can do that from multiple roles. It simply becomes a question of which player steps up on the big stage, and like Schloss says, it will be whoever plays the best baseball in that moment.