Last June, TCU scraped by in the 16th inning after--something we can now admit was
a little luck--Garrett Crain's winning slide home. While the teams were fairly evenly matched, and Texas A&M carried a bitterness into Fort Worth, a bitterness because College Station was denied a National Seed and thus a Super Regional home field advantage, TCU is basically the undisputed underdog going into College Station this weekend.
The Frogs have won 12 of their last 13, and after a season of a many highs that weren't without a few lows, this young team could be just hot enough at just the right time to take down that Goliath that A&M has been all season.
I sat down with SBNation's wonderful Texas A&M blog, Good Bull Hunting's baseball guru, Matt Nesloney.
THE FROGS O'WAR Q&A: GOOD BULL HUNTING
First off, thanks for doing this. How eager are the Aggies for this weekend?
I think Aggies everywhere, including the team, are pretty excited for this weekend. If you take a step back and look at it as just a fan of college baseball in general, it would be hard not to be excited given how good the series was last year. What people are most excited about, though, would probably be that it's in College Station this time around. It's the first time A&M gets to host a Super since the first year of the current tournament format in 1999. Olsen Field will be absolutely crazy this weekend.
How much does Boomer White (drink) impact this series? Whether it's just what he can do on the field or the connection he has with both schools?
The great thing about Boomer goes beyond his ridiculously high batting average, and that's all of the big game experience that he brings to the table. As many TCU fans remember, he's always had that knack for getting the big hit just when the team needs it. He'll have plenty of impact on the series on the field.
Is he a fan favorite?
Oh, without a doubt. It's not every day that a college baseball team gets a bonafide star, and everybody in Aggieland definitely recognizes that. Plus, in his first at bat this year he brought out the first bubbles of the season with a home run to left. Olsen went bonkers. It was awesome.
How did the bubbles tradition start?
At the beginning of last season, then-senior Patrick McLendon and now-sophomore Corbin Martin brought out this fish-shaped bubble machine that they appropriately named 'Whammy.' At first they had it hidden down in the tunnel that connects the dugout to the clubhouse, but after awhile, Coach Childress noticed it and told them to bring it out into the dugout, where they'd fire it off after home runs. Eventually, it just kind of spread all throughout the student section, and before we knew it, everyone had some sort of bubble machine. They even have a bunch of machines down on the concourse that you can check out during games. It gets a little crazy in section 203.
How did you feel about #TCU15? Was it really cracking nuclear codes like some thought it was? Or does it end with someone seeing their friend's email?
Smh don't you know that TexAgs knows things?
In all seriousness, I thought #TCU15 was a lot of fun just because of how crazy #AggieTwitter went over it. Although, 'crazy' and 'Aggie Twitter' are synonymous. I'm not sure exactly how people found out, but I vaguely remember someone on a TexAgs thread talking about getting it from a friend of theirs.
Were you at the game(s) last year? If so, what where your impressions of Lupton? If not, did you hear anyone's impression?
I actually did get the pleasure of going up there for game one. The game itself wasn't too fun, but I thought Lupton was a really cool venue. All of the WOOing is nothing if not unique.
What are the general feelings about TCU in #AggieLand?
A good majority of those at A&M these days probably don't even know that A&M and TCU have any history in any sport at all before last year's series, let alone one that dates all the way back to 1923 in the SWC. Damn 2%ers. All of the older Ags remember, though, and they definitely don't like TCU.
I know at least in my circle, A&M is revered about as much as Baylor. Then you add Tech and Texas into the mix, and maybe there's a generational shift--probably a correlation with SEC move--that A&M will usurp Texas as the most hated team in the State. Are y'all okay with that? Does is make you sort of happy?
Honestly, I've always thought that Aggie hate was the most prevalent throughout the state. That's what happens when you're part of a large cult, I suppose. I think most Aggies recognize that and are okay with it.
Do you feel like A&M just have different things to worry about like building rivalries with someone like LSU or Alabama or renewing others like with Arkansas?
I like the concept of building new rivalries with our new conference mates, but right now it feels a bit forced. Like the whole South Carolina 'rivalry' thing is a bunch of malarkey. We've always that rivalry with Arkansas from the SWC days. There's always been a bit of one with LSU from playing so many times in football over the last century. In terms of which rivalries matter now and in the future, it'll always be Baylor, TCU, Tech and Texas, despite what anyone tells you otherwise.
What are your thoughts, and maybe some general thoughts in College Station on Kenny Hill? Glad to see him gone? Is the negativity surrounding his narrative--on and off the field--justified?
I've always thought that the narrative around Kenny was just a little bit overblown and used as an excuse for his struggles after such a hot start in 2014. I do find it funny, however, that he's now being thrown into that list of LOLAGGIEQBTRANSFERS even though he lost his job midseason to a true freshman and left a full year before the recent debacle.
Are you at all intrigued to see what he can do in purple?
I definitely am. I'm not sure how he'll do in comparison to a guy like Trevone Boykin, but Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie sure as hell know what they're doing on their side of the ball.
Where's your favorite place to eat in College Station?
I'd have to go with Koppe Bridge. Best burger I've ever had.
Back to baseball. How does A&M win this series? How do they lose it?
The big key for the Ags this weekend is consistent starting pitching. Brigham Hill has been nails ever since taking over the Friday night duties, and Kyle Simonds has had quite the turnaround from some early season struggles. I don't think anyone is worried about the offense or the bullpen with its two-headed monster in Andrew Vinson and Mark Ecker. But against a team like TCU that hits as well as it does, the starters will have their work cut out for them.
Being swept in Gainesville was a turning point for y'all. What wrong in that series, what changed since, and how have y'all maintained that change?
The starting pitching in that series was straight up bad. None of the three guys that took the ball to start those games went longer than three innings. Coming into that weekend, Jace Vines, who had been starting on Friday nights, came down with an illness a few days before the team left for Gainesville, so he was scratched in the first game. Childress decided to give true freshman Tyler Ivey, who had been throwing on Saturdays, a shot. He lasted an inning and a third. That kind of set the tone for the whole series. The bullpen threw 21 of the 27 total innings. It was bad. On top of that, the offense ran into the buzz saw that is Florida's pitching staff.
Since then, the offense has kicked up to a new level from where they were before that weekend, Brigham Hill has taken over Friday night duties, Kyle Simonds has turned his game up significantly, and more recently Turner Larkins has solidified himself as the No. 3 starter. In terms of maintaining that change, it's much easier to win ballgames when you get good, consistent starting pitching. They've done a good job of getting that third out before the inning spirals out of control, which they weren't able to do in that series.
And finally, The Great American Pastime: Score Predictions. How does this series finish? Who wins and in how many games?
TCU has had its fair share of growing pains this year, but the Frogs are hot at the right time. That combined with having a star like Luken Baker, the weight of this series, and the extra excitement of getting a shot at Boomer, I see this being another knock-out, drag-out series that'll keep us all entertained for all three games.
On the other hand, you have an A&M team that is also red-hot at the perfect time with a whole lot of upperclassmen to lead the way. Throw in that the series is in College Station at Olsen, and it's hard not to see the Aggies exacting some revenge with a 2-1 series win.
A big thanks again to Matt and Good Bull Hunting. These are always fun and it's probably my favorite thing about getting to do this. You can find Matt on Twitter at @MattNesloney. And if you aren't following Good Bull Hunting, regardless of your feelings towards A&M, it's a must follow for all sports--especially as we move into football season.