1. With the CWS field set, and TCU on the side of the bracket with Florida, Louisville, and Texas A&M, how do you feel about TCU’s chances to come out of their side of the bracket?
Melissa: After writing the preview, I have to say, Louisville scares me the most of any team in bracket two. I actually like how we match up with Florida - they are absolutely no joke when it comes to pitching, but if we are sending JJ to the mound in game one, I like our odds against anybody. Plus, if we can avoid seeing the Aggies, I am all for that, and I expect them to be brought back down to earth in game one. I think it’s going to come down to the Frogs and Cards, and probably take all the if necessary games to sort things out. If that’s the case, having a fourth terrific starter gives TCU the edge, and makes the odds that much better they can be the one to survive and advance.
Chris: The CWS this year seems as solid as it has ever been with so many good teams surviving regionals and super regionals. Our side of the bracket alone has 3 national seeds competing with #3 Florida, #6 TCU, and #7 Louisville. Add in Texas A&M which has been inconsistent but has fantastic pitching and you have the makings of a very tough bracket. I believe the Frogs have a leg up on the other 3 teams due to the experience of having a lineup with 8 of 9 players that have played in Omaha before and starting pitchers who have started there, but it comes down to whatever team can get a great weekend from as many players as possible. If I had to put percentages on the chances of each team winning the bracket, I’d go 35% TCU, 30% Louisville, 25% Florida, and 10% Texas A&M.
Jamie: I feel pretty good about TCU’s chances, despite of the dual-threat that is Brendan McKay and Florida’s pitching rotation. Texas A&M had arguably the easiest path to Omaha, with Florida not far behind. Meanwhile, TCU had to duke it out with Virginia, DBU, and Missouri State to earn the right to be in the final eight. I, like Melissa, think we match up well with Florida, and I also think TCU can handle a very tough team like Louisville. Florida will probably be the public’s favorite to get out of this side of things, but give me TCU.
2. What will be the biggest obstacle to TCU making it into the final pairing?
Melissa: Brendan McKay, Louisville’s two way stud. That, and the back end of the bullpen. I think it’s going to take five games to make it through the bracket for the winning team, and if that’s the case, at some point, TCU is going to need Jake Eissler, Charles King, Haylen Green, and Trey Morris to be able to come out and throw strikes consistently. If those guys, who should be beyond fully rested - almost to the point where they might be rusty - can perform up to their talent level, the Frogs can beat anyone. But if you give a team too many chances at this point in the season, especially freebies, you’re doomed.
Chris: I agree with Melissa about McKay being tough to get through, especially because I expect them to save him for game 2 which is when we might have to face them, but in terms of things that TCU can control, I think it’s going to come down to playing mistake-free baseball. I’m less concerned with our pitchers right now and more concerned with our fielding and baserunning errors. The Frogs will need to be smart on the basepaths and they’ll need to be able to come up with hits when guys are on base.
Jamie: TCU has everything a team needs to get through to the final pairing: solid pitching, great baserunning and defense, two solid guys at the back end of the bullpen, and a lineup with tons of potential. The key, then, will be putting it all together, which they have for the most part through the five game winning streak that’s gotten them here. When a team is as aggressive as TCU on the base paths they’re bound to get caught a few times, but minimizing those mistakes, as Chris pointed out, will be crucial.
This is especially true as TCU continues to navigate life without Luken Baker. The loss of a power bat like his totally alters a lineup, and while the Frogs have survived to this point, they’ll need to continue to gel to find sustained success.
3. What’s the biggest key to TCU finding success in Omaha this time around?
Melissa: It all comes down to pitching. The Frogs aren’t in a loaded bracket when it comes to offense; Florida is serviceable at best, the Aggies are wildly inconsistent, while the Cards are probably the best of the bunch. With that, TCU should be able to produce enough runs in each game they play - we aren’t going to see a lot of double digit runs on the scoreboard this week. So if the Frogs can get the same level of pitching that they have all post-season, and add in Nick Lodolo as a wild-card, they can get through the meat grinder and finally make it to the championship series.
Chris: Once again I agree with Melissa that our bracket is loaded with pitching and not as strong on offense, but that’s why I believe offense will be the key to success in Omaha this season. If the Frogs can bash the ball like they did in the games leading up to the CWS, then I doubt some of these other teams will be able to keep up. They’ll have to focus on winning each pitch as they see it and find ways to get people home, whether that’s by driving one over the wall or fighting off pitches to draw a walk with 2 outs.
Jamie: I’ve said starting pitching would carry TCU, and to this point, it has. They’ve had the added benefit of a lineup that’s put up more than eight runs in three of the five games they’ve played, but it’s the pitching that’s the key moving forward. Janczak, Howard, and Traver have a combined 1.78 ERA in the NCAA tournament thus far, and if that continues, the Frogs will be fine.
4. Who do you think the final pairing is, and who do you see winning it all?
Melissa: Give me LSU on the other side - Oregon State has been under too much scrutiny and has too much swirling around them. Even though Heimlich won’t be traveling with the team, at some point, that has to catch up to a group of kids playing on the road for the first time since the news broke. That makes it a perfect opportunity for the Tigers, who have enough pitching and experience to make it to the finals. As previously stated, I expect Bracket Two to come down to the Frogs and Cards, and because I am an unabashed homer, I will say TCU takes the final spot for the first time. And if they make it that far, there’s no way they aren’t coming home with the trophy this time around.
Chris: I’m going full homer here: TCU over Cal State Fullerton. I myself went here to TCU but I grew up rooting for the Titans as both my dad and brother graduated from there. Go Frogs though.
Jamie: Give me TCU vs. LSU, with the Frogs taking the title.