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TCU Baseball: UT Rio Grande Valley Preview

After a dominating performance in the Houston College Classic, the Frogs look to keep their momentum going in a mid-week showdown against the UTRGV Vaqueros

TCU's got some real power in Watson, Baker, Barzilli and Skoug.
TCU's got some real power in Watson, Baker, Barzilli and Skoug.

We're coming off a fun weekend.  A weekend that most fans probably went into realistically expecting to go 1-2, hopefully 2-1 against three top 25 programs.  Not only did the Frogs go 3-0, but they decimated each and every one of their opponents. The total score differential was 27-2 (advantage TCU) by the time the weekend was over.  We beat two top ten programs by scores of 7-1 and 9-1. Rice, a program that is always one of the top teams in Texas, got run-ruled in the 7th inning to the tune of 10-0.  We've heard it all at this point, but I still can't get over just how dominant this team looks. Our freshman pitcher/cleanup hitter hasn't given up a run in two quality starts, and he's also hit two bombs. Our third baseman is hitting almost .600, and our bullpen has an ERA of 0.00.

It's insane that a year after this program had the highest expectations in its history, a team comes along that is starting to make us believe that they could be even better than the group that took two straight trips to Omaha.  Our excitement with baseball has gone from "thank God we get to watch this and not basketball" status, to "this team could add a third straight CWS logo on our left field wall" status in the span of about ten days.

Since that opening day loss, the Frogs have won six straight. They get the chance to make that seven on Tuesday night against the UT Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros (UTRGV). This year's bullpen has been really impressive thus far.  Even more so when you consider that nine of these bullpen guys are freshmen. Schloss said this week that he wants to get experience for some of those younger pitchers.

"There are going to be some midweek games where we throw a bunch of guys for a couple innings apiece and change the look as often as we can until one of them either takes charge and claims one of the starting spots or until Traver gets back, as long as we’re healthy." - Jim Schlossnagle

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That will begin with getting some starting experience for Freshman Dalton Horton (LHP). UTRGV has not announced who they plan to start at pitcher yet, but if they follow the same rotation that they have utilized over their first eight games, it is Johnny Gonzalez's turn. Gonzalez (RHP) also has the best ERA of their starters, so you'd figure that they would roll him out against a hot team like TCU and see if they can squeak out a win on the road.

Pitching W-L IP ERA H/9 K/9 BB/9
Dalton Horton
0-0 2.0 0.00 9.0 4.5 4.5
Johnny Gonzalez 1-1 13.1 2.03 10.3 7.6 4.1

Dalton pitched his only two innings of work in relief of starter Devon Roedahl in last week's 17-3 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bulff. Like everyone else in the bullpen so far this year, he did not give up a run. Now that he has a chance to start, this will be a chance for us to really see what he can do.  Like I said above, I expect UTRGV to pitch Gonzalez, who has normally been the first starter in their weekend rotation. He looks to be their best arm, and it will take all the pitching they can get to stop TCU's red-hot offense right now.

Offense avg r h hr slg% ob% fld%
TCU 0.328 53 79 6 0.494 0.388 0.977
UTRGV 0.217 33 54 3 0.269 0.313 0.964

Slash line - (BA/ SLG/ OBP)

The other reason that quality pitching will be crucial for the Vaqueros is that they are not nearly as adept as TCU at run production. We have scored 20 more runs than then and we have played one less game. While they don't hit for near the average or power that the Frogs do, they are pretty good at getting on base. At this point in the year, three homers ain't too shabby either.  With TCU seemingly planning to throw a lot of young arms, the possibility of walking a couple of batters and then giving up the multi-run home run does make me a little nervous. But, with so many arms available, we should have the option to go to a veteran who can get us out of trouble if that is where we find ourselves.

The guys to watch out for in the Vaquero's lineup are first baseman Scott Mercer (.348/.348/.385) and outfielder Joseph Collazo (.385/.467/.412).  TCU is rolling out a number of guys with impressive stats right now. Obviously we all are going to be watching Elliott Barzilli (.593/.889/.621) and Luken Baker (.304/.609/.448), but the other guy that has really broken out so far this year is freshman Josh Watson (.360/.720/.448). On top of those guys, upperclassman Dane Steinhagen, Evan Skoug and Connor Wanhanen can make a huge impact at the plate at any time. With the momentum that we have going right now, every game is a pleasure to watch. Here's hoping it stays that way, Tuesday night and going forward.