The TCU Horned Frogs begin their Road to Omaha Friday night in College Station against 3-seed Sun Belt Tournament Champion Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns. We got together with the team at Ragin Review to get the inside scoop on the Cajuns head of Friday’s showdown.
Frogs O War: What were your initial reactions when the bracket revealed that the Cajuns would be headed to College Station with a Game 1 match up against TCU?
Ragin Review: There was good bit of speculation that Louisiana would be headed to Hattiesburg, MS (for obvious geographic reasons). We loved the idea of that because the other teams that were rumored to be there (SELA, LSU & USM) because we are familiar with all 3. Our second choice was College Station, but we had no idea TCU would be there. One of the toughest #2 seeds in the country. I know we played last year in Lafayette, but like you mentioned, quite a bit of roster turnover for the Frogs in 2021 kind of changed the makeup of this year’s team. But by the numbers, TCU and Louisiana look like a very intriguing matchup for a primetime game on Friday night.
FOW: Who is the Louisiana player most likely to cause problems for opposing teams and live in opposing fans’ nightmares?
RR: We have a lineup of Pesky guys. We have some “thorn in your side”, grinder type players. We have streaky hitters that can get white hot at times. But the name you’ll most likely hear most is Carson Roccaforte. Smooth swinging lefty that hits for average, power, and excellent situational hitter. His average with RISP hovered around .450 all season long. He’s as clutch they come. 5 tool player. Leads the team in steals. Best defender we have, not named Julian Brock (our catcher). He’s far and away the catalyst for Matt Deggs’ offense.
FOW: Who do you expect to be the starting pitcher for Game 1 against the Horned Frogs and what kind of arsenal will he bring to the mound?
RR: Per our usual rotation, you’ll see a season lefty named Brandon Talley. Another Texan, he’s been with the program from 3 years now. Started out as a relief specialist. Become a reliable closer in 2021. After some injuries and inconsistency with other arms, BT got the opportunity to start on Friday nights. He’s been rock steady ever since. He’ll sit 90-91 with his FB. When he keeps the ball down, has a pretty devastating breaker. Plus changeup when he commands it. But you’ll see him bust righties inside with the FB and nibble around the plate with the breaker 90% of the time.
FOW: Not to give away the secret sauce, but what do you think is the Cajuns’ greatest vulnerability that opponents may be able to exploit?
RR: I think we actually share this vulnerability, but it’s simply being too liberal with free passes on the mound. We play sound defense, our offense is usually good enough to compete against anyone, but when we’re really good, our pitching is minimizing walks, HBP, wild pitches and balks. Other than that, I’d say the back end of our bullpen isn’t exactly deep.
FOW: On the flip side, from what you’ve seen or heard of this TCU team, is there something you think the Ragin’ Cajuns will be able to take advantage of in order to get a win Friday night?
RR: TCU is a solid ballclub. I watched a bit of the Big 12 tournament, and I can’t say that I see any glaring deficiencies. It will be interesting to see how the TCU pitching staff & defense responds to the Cajuns ‘controlled chaos’ offense. I think these two teams are eerily similar in so many ways. If our pitching can keep the free passes to a minimum, I think there is an opportunity to limit TCU offensive production. Mostly because, you guys are used to hitting with men on base; especially considering the Frogs average 6 walks per 9!
FOW: The Sun Belt received four bids to the Tournament, just one fewer than the Big 12 - you are joined by conference mates Texas State, Coastal Carolina, and Georgia Southern in the Field of 64. On top of that the Cajuns played big time non-conference foes like Stanford, LSU, Southern Miss, and Arkansas. What from that grind prepared the Cajuns for the NCAA Tournament and proved they can compete and win this Regional?
RR: Not to be overly dramatic, but it transformed this baseball program back into what we all expect it to be. We were two awful calls away from beating USM 2/3. Before our spark plug, Max Marusak, got hurt during the game, that Standford mathcup was nip and tuck, and that was BEFORE we figured out our pitching rotation. We gave Arkansas ELEVEN free base runners and still had the lead in the 8th inning. We let so many games get away this year, but it was a transformative process. And to add to that, like you mentioned, the SBC was extremely solid and competitive throughout. Shades of the old SBC conference slates. Some groups can’t handle that kind of pressure and fold. This group let it mold them into a team.
FOW: Louisiana just defeated Georgia Southern in the Sun Belt Championship game and won 3 of 4 vs. the Eagles this season. Do you think Statesboro was a deserving host destination and the Eagles a true #1?
RR: We agree that the RPI formula is flawed. I can tell you, with the eye test, watching them in person 3 times this season, and comparing their final metrics, they were absolutely one of the 5 best teams we faced this season. I understand where some folks would take issue with it, but I will say it this way: It’s great for our sport when teams like Georgia Southern and towns like Statesboro get the opportunity to host these things. We’ve had a few in Lafayette and I’ve personally seen the love for college baseball manifest itself because of it.
FOW: Being about a 5-hour drive from College Station, do you expect a strong contingent of Cajun faithful to make the trip? Do you have a fun (…or perhaps exceedingly annoying) in-stadium fan tradition like TCU’s “Woo Birds” or A&M’s bubbles and counting balls?
RR: Can confirm, we’ve sold our allotment and our fans show up in droves to these types of events. I expect a rowdy bunch this weekend. We have ‘Section A’ which, for all intents & purposes, is a group of eclectic folks that show up early, drink a million beers, and proceed to holler hilarious (sometimes annoying) things for 3 hours. They provide the atmosphere for us and I’m thankful for them.
Go give Ragin Review a follow on Twitter @RaginReview and check out their podcast. TCU will take on Louisiana on Friday June 3 at 7:00 PM, broadcast on ESPN+, following the opening game of the Regional between host Texas A&M and Oral Roberts.