Quite a few players were around for the last time these two teams met on the diamond, a heart-breaking extra inning affair that ended with TCU on the wrong side of a 3-2 tally. Brian Howard, Michael Landestoy, and Mitchell Traver were all in Omaha for all 15 innings of #CronSmash fun, though only one will likely see the field in today’s three years in the making rematch.
But these are very different teams now, that will meet in Fort Worth Sunday afternoon (weather permitting). The Frogs, making just their second ever College World Series in 2014, were on the cusp of what would be three straight, while UVA would go on to win it all a year later. TCU relied on a mix of veteran leaders and young stars in the making - not unlike what we have on the field in 2017, while UVA would have eight players drafted after the season.
But history is just history, and that memorable matchup from three years ago will have no effect on today’s result. What will effect today is how TCU starter Jared Janczak matches up against the best lineup top to bottom that the Frogs have faced all year.
RHP Jared Janczak (8-0, 1.99 ERA) vs LHP Daniel Lynch (7-4, 4.94 ERA)
We know what to expect from Janczak - when healthy, he’s been the best pitcher on TCU’s roster, a master of painting the black, getting swing and misses, and keeping opponents off of the base paths. This will be his toughest test of the year - UVA hits well over .300 as a team and is anchored in the middle behind two first round draft picks. But, JJ has always shined in the biggest moments, and today is no exception - while he is likely to be somewhat limited by a pitch count in what will be just his third start back from injury (Schloss said earlier in the week he wasn’t on a strong hook, but around 70-80 pitches they would start watching him more closely), he will be asked to give the Frogs 7+ quality innings... if everything goes right.
The pitching for UVA is a bit more of a mystery; the Hoos got an unbelievable start from Derek Casey against a powerful DBU lineup, allowing three runs (all on solo shots) across 7.0 innings, allowing the Cavs to use just two relievers - though closer Alec Bettinger did get the call for the ninth. Lynch leads the team in innings with 74.2, but he also leads in hits allowed (81), runs allowed (48), and batting average against (2.77), but trails in strikeouts, with just 43 on the year. But, TCU’s left-handed heavy lineup has struggled with pitchers like him all year, as the 6’4” lanky pitcher is just the kind of soft throwing arm that is kryptonite to the Frogs. If he hits his spots, the TCU offense could find itself in some trouble.
Players to watch:
TCU: Evan Skoug (.272, 17 HR, 58 RBI), Austen Wade (.358, 16 doubles, 43 BB)
UVA: Pavin Smith (.345, 72 RBI, 9 Ks) , Adam Haseley (.398, 14 HR, .671 SLG)
TCU exploded late in last night’s - I mean this morning’s - game, putting up a six spot in the eighth that would become the difference maker in a game that was closer than it should have been. The Frogs will need to attack earlier today if they want to stay on the right side of the bracket; it’s very hard to keep this Virginia lineup down, even behind one of the best pitchers in the country.
The Frogs got excellent production from the heart of the order, finally, as both Evan Skoug and Cam Warner got on base regularly - whether by hit or getting hit - and Skoug launched one over the right field wall when they actually gave him a shot to swing. In other encouraging news, Josh Watson seemed to find his stroke, lacing a pair of run-scoring doubles, and Elliott Barzilli continued his hot hitting including blasting a ball off the fence for a double as well. Austen Wade was his usual great self, and Nolan Brown had a solid game as well. The lineup was effective from top to bottom, much as we expected it to be at the beginning of the season, and should inspire confidence going forward. They need to get to Lynch early and make him labor - hopefully getting deep into the pen and putting the Hoos at a disadvantage going forward.
On the side, Virginia was led by the eight and nine holes, who combined for five hits while the rest of the lineup had five combined. The ever-dangerous Haseley and Smith each had just a single hit and single RBI, while drawing a walk a piece. The Cavs had just one extra base hit after blasting 177 on the season, including 60 home runs. They are going to score some on Janczak today, we just have to hope the Frogs score more. Seven Hoos hit over .300, led by Haseley’s .398 and Simmons at .361.
Also, Pavin Smith never strikes out. He has fewer Ks (9) than home runs (11). That’s just insane. The Hoos don’t strike out much as a team period, only 217 on the year. Facing off against a big time swing and miss guy like Janczak will be interesting, to say the least.
Jared Janczak is really good. The Frogs are going to struggle early against the lefty - something they have done in just about every game they have faced one this season - but strike as they hit their second and third time through the order. One big inning will give JJ enough support, and after he gives up a couple early, he settles down to give the Frogs 7.1 innings of work. Sean Wymer and Durbin Feltman slam the door, and TCU comes away with a 5-3 win to move them on to the championship game.