Who: TCU vs. Coastal Carolina | When: Friday, 7 p.m. CT | Watch: ESPN
There are few times in a playoff run where an identified "Cinderella" team makes it as far as everyone hopes they will. And while Coastal Carolina may not truly be a Cinderella, with their potent offense and dominant front of the rotation arms, they've filled those glass slippers nicely to this point.
The Chanticleers have eliminated two national seeds from tournament play (LSU, Texas Tech) while earning an assist for sending the No. 1 overall seed (Florida) packing. In fact, the Chanticleers has gone 4-0 against national seeds during their run to being one of the final four in Omaha.
Fortunately for TCU, the Frogs are not a national seed. In fact, none of the remaining four teams are a national seed, something that hasn't happened since the bracket expanded in 1999.
What the Frogs are, though, is in an advantageous position. TCU just needs one win, preferably on Friday night, to reach the final championship pairing, while Coastal Carolina and its depleted bullpen must win Friday night to force a Saturday winner-take-all rematch.
Mitchell Traver will take the mound for the Horned Frogs, and while he's been out of the spotlight for the majority of the season due to injuries, now is a better time than ever before for him to make a triumphant return.
Traver struggled a bit in his Super Regional start against Texas A&M, but managed to go 5.2 innings on 89 pitches before being pulled. He allowed five runs in the start (three earned), and struck out four. While his command never seemed to lock in all the way, he still had enough stuff to keep Aggie batters somewhat off-balance, but a key first-inning error allowed the Aggies to push three runs across instead of one, and A&M never looked back.
It's been 13 days since that game, and Traver has no doubt healed up a bit more, while getting in a few good bullpen sessions. The good thing about TCU's position is that if Traver struggles early he has the full power of the bullpen behind him. Perhaps that knowledge will allow him to cut it loose a bit, and throw like we all know he can.
Coastal Carolina has yet to announce who will start for them on Friday, but the rumor is that ace Andrew Beckwith will come back on just four days rest. Beckwith threw a complete-game gem against Florida to send the Gators to the elimination bracket. He struck out seven and walked none, but he needed 98 pitches to get it all done (71 of which were strikes).
The Chants ace is an incredibly versatile pitcher, thanks in part to his use of a variety of arm angles, but the fact that he threw almost 100 pitches and is working with four days rest means that he'll most-likely be limited tonight if he gets the start. When you add into that that Coastal's closer, Mike Morrison, threw 83 pitches in xThursday's win over Texas Tech, and another key bullpen arm Bobby Holmes threw 32 pitches, things start to look a little dicey for the Chants.
One positive for the Chants, though, is that it seems as if their bats rediscovered some of the magic that got them to Omaha, as they racked up seven runs on nine hits (and seven walks) to beat Tech. Coastal Carolina was incredibly aggressive on the basepaths, and some well-timed errors from Tech helped the Chants come away with the win.
Against a short-rest Beckwith and a bullpen without it's top arms, though, TCU's bats have the advantage in Friday's contest. With two days of rest at their back, I fully expect TCU to come out as aggressive as ever. There's no doubt the Frogs want to end things tonight, so they get a few more days to rest up before the final pairing.
If TCU can get Beckwith out of the game by the fourth inning, and start to knock around some of the Coastal bullpen arms, the Frogs may just have themselves a #frogpile tonight.