We all knew it was going to end up this way.
Sure, for a few moments we thought we might avoid the dreaded Aggies for a third straight postseason, but the Baseball Gods have their ways, so here we are, facing A&M in an elimination game yet again, but this time in Omaha.
How to Watch:
Radio: 88.7 KTCU or SiriusXM 84
I’m writing this riding shotgun somewhere in Kansas, heading to baseball Nirvana, with mixed emotions about the game (so please excuse any typos or other mistakes). On one hand, we have had the Aggies’ number in the post-season; we have won at home, we have won on the road, and we have even won a neutral site game for good measure. On the other hand, at some point, they’ll argue, they have to be due, right? Both teams scuffled some in their CWS opener: the Aggies were within striking distance against Louisville before a series of walks and mistakes allowed the Cards to run away with things late. Meanwhile, the Frogs were blanked by one of the best college pitchers in the country, but looked listless on offense regardless and made several mistakes on the base paths and in the field. Neither fan base can feel all that confident about today’s matchup based on what they saw Sunday.
To try and avoid the BBQ line in Omaha, TCU will turn to Big Game Howie, the senior pitcher that has kept their dreams alive time and time again over the last two years. Brian Howard - did you know he was tall? - is the right man for the job, a double-digit game winner for the second straight year, and all he did the last time he saw A&M was pitch 7.0 innings of two hit ball, strike out 8, walk 2, and allow just one run. Meanwhile, the Aggies will throw Stephen Kolek, who is 4-4 with a 3.59 ERA in 15 starts. He has 80 Ks in 87.2 innings with 22 walks allowed. He’s not Alex Faedo, but he befuddled the Frogs a bit in Houston, striking out six in 4.0 innings while scattering five hits and holding TCU to just one run. The Frogs bullpen was very solid in game one, as Cal Coughlin, Haylen Green, and Nick Lodolo all threw up zeroes. Coughlin and Green are certainly able to go again if needed, while Sean Wymer and Durbin Feltman should be well-rested and fresh. The Aggies used six pitchers against Louisville, though all but Brigham Hill and probably Corbin Martin could make an appearance if called upon.
On offense, TCU couldn’t possibly play worse, right? So that’s a #brightside. After striking out 15 times in the opener, the Frogs need to hit to contact. Evan Skoug had a rough day at the plate, striking out three times, as neither he or Humphreys reached base in game one. Cam Warner was the only Frog to register multiple hits, as he knocked a single and a double. TCU is undefeated in Omaha when they score four or more runs, and after getting blanked Sunday, I suggest trying that today.
Brandon Shewmake is the key cog for A&M - the freshman leads the Aggies in most meaningful categories on offense, but was 0-4 in his first Omaha action. Nick Choruby and Blake Kopetsky combined for five of the eight hits in the opener. A&M won’t blow you away offensively, but when they get good pitching, they score enough to back it up and have a solid back end of the bullpen that can hold a lead - well, usually.
The Aggie defense is shaky at times, having allowed Davidson to hang around and the Cards to pull away due to errors, so it’s something to keep an eye on. TCU had two really bad errors, but ended up making two sterling defensive plays as well, so it’s hard to say which version will show up.
Those pickle-waving Aggies will be out in full force at TD Ameritrade, blowing bubbles through their class rings - the only positive of which is that they can’t bang them on the seats while blowing through them - and counting balls, hoping no one gets past eight and force them to have to figure out how to manage double digits. But this TCU team has handled that before, and no amount of noise is going to bother Howie all that much. Someone is going home after today, and with more on the line between these two teams than ever before, no one will be surprised if it’s another extra-inning, instant classic affair. TCU has the experience, but they also have the pressure. Schloss and company will need their veteran leaders on offense to step up, their pitching to reach their potential, and likely a new, unexpected star to emerge. I still believe. Let’s go Frogs.