Tonight the NCAA postseason truly kicks off for the Frogs. They earned the highest national seed in program history, but that hasn’t made their road to the postseason any easier. They have still ended up with one of the toughest regionals in the country, but they can do themselves a huge favor by getting into the winner’s bracket tonight. To do so they’ll have to defeat the No. 4 seed Central Connecticut State Blue Devils.
The CCSU Blue Devils finished the year 36-20 overall and 21-7 in the Northeastern Conference. They finished one game behind Bryant in the Northeastern Conference regular season standings, but they went 3-0 in the conference tournament to claim the championship and a postseason birth.
The game that clinched the tournament championship for the Blue Devils also happened to mark the 500th career win for their coach, Charlie Hickey. Hickey has been at CCSU since 2000, and the team has won more than 30 games in a season seven times under his leadership.
TCU will go with Mitchell Traver on the mound in what will be his third career start in an NCAA regional. Traver pitched his best outing of the season last weekend in the Big 12 tournament, throwing seven innings and allowing just one run on four hits with eight strikeouts and just one walk. Traver now has a 4.32 ERA and a 3-1 record on the year. While TCU’s relief pitching was very shaky in the first game against Kansas, It looks like at least Wymer, Coughlin and King can be relied on. We’ll we hope they can be, because we’ll need them.
CCSU’s best pitcher is probably senior Brendan Smith. He’s 5-7 on the year with a 4.03 ERA and he routinely goes 6+ innings in his starts. He hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any of his last three outings. Like the Horned Frogs, they also have a couple of talented young bullpen guys with ERAs well below 3.00.
Yeah, we lost Baker, and that sucks, but Austin Wade’s return has been just as advertised for the Frogs. He’s batting .361 to go along with 14 stolen bases and 49 runs scored (2nd on the team). Elliott Barzilli came to life in the Big 12 tournament as well. He raised his average about 20 points, going 9 of 20 in the tournament with an RBI and four runs scored. The offense did a pretty good job of scoring runs in the tournament without getting much help from Evan Skoug, but he is still first on the team in RBIs (55), runs scored (50) and home runs (16).
The Blue Devils are hitting .281 as a team, averaging 5.9 runs per game. Offensively they are led by junior Dean Lockery, hitting for a team-best .336 and also leading the team in walks and runs scored. The senior Franklin Jennings is right behind Lockery, hitting .333 and leading the team with 13 stolen bases. Lastly, they have their big bat, Ryan Costello. He leads the team with nine home runs and 51 RBIs while batting to a .287 average.
Game 2 of the Fort Worth Regional between TCU and Central Connecticut State University is scheduled for 8:00pm CT. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3 online.