Here we are again.
It’s the fourth time in four College World Series appearances that TCU has found itself in the winners’ bracket after game one. An 8-1 thumping of Florida State put TCU in this position in 2010. A 3-2 win over Texas Tech did the same in 2014, and a 10-3 win over LSU made it happen again in 2015.
This year, a glorious 3-run bomb in the 9th inning, off the bat of the already-legendary Luken Baker, kept the recent trend of winning game one going for the Frogs.
Now, though, the goal is to break the recent trend of dropping game two and falling into the elimination bracket. UCLA, Virginia, and Vanderbilt were the culprits in previous years, knocking TCU down to the hard road, where the Frogs could never recover.
Meet the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
Coastal Carolina doesn't have a SB Nation Blog (YET), but a couple of people that know this team well were kind enough to answer a few questions about the Chanticleers ahead of TCU's matchup with them. Spoiler Alert: they aren't just happy to be here, they want to win it all.
By name alone Coastal Carolina doesn’t seem to have the same pedigree as the Bruins, Cavaliers, and Commodores, but don’t write them off because of their name and strange mascot. The Chanticleers are not to be overlooked, having made the NCAA Tournament 13 times since 2001, reaching three Super Regionals (2008, 2010, 2016), and, finally, their first College World Series this year.
Coastal Carolina went to the N.C. State regional and knocked off the Wolfpack. Then they traveled to Baton Rouge where they swept No. 8 National Seed LSU in the Super Regional. Having not had their fill of favorites to that point, the Chanticleers then went on to upset No. 1 National Seed Florida in their opening game of the College World Series, largely in part to a seven-strikeout, complete-game effort from pitcher Andrew Beckwith.
Alex Cunningham will get the nod for Coastal Carolina this evening, and he carries a 1.49 postseason ERA into tonight’s matchup. During the regular season Cunningham went 9-3 with a 3.58 ERA. Opponents hit just .254 against him this year, but he does have a knack for giving up the long ball. He allowed 11 home runs hit against him this season. That could be an issue against a Frogs squad that likes to hit dingers (53 in the regular season, 13 since start of Big 12 Tournament), but even if he gives up a few big hits, that wouldn’t spell death for the Chanticleers.
Coastal Carolina has a powerful lineup of its own that could very well match TCU run for run. Five players in their starting lineup have batting averages over .326 for the season, while four have 15 or more home runs. It will take some on-point TCU pitching to minimize the Chanticleer bats, but it’s not an impossible task. After all, TCU’s arms have a fantastic 1.86 ERA through their first seven games of the NCAA postseason, and have successfully minimized powerful offenses like Texas A&M and Texas Tech.
It appears as though Brian Howard will get the start for TCU on Tuesday night, so he’ll be tasked with shutting down the likes of G.K. Young, Connor Owings, and Zach Remillard for Coastal Carolina. Howard is 2-0 this postseason with a 0.60 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 15 innings pitched, and his name has been called on twice when TCU has had a chance to move on to the next round of play.
TCU will need Howard to pitch at the same high level he’s been at tonight, along with some contributions from big bats, if the Frogs want to break the trend of losing game two in the College World Series, because Coastal Carolina is no joke.