I’ve said it before in this space and I’ll say it again; great pitching beats great hitting. The TCU pitching staff backed me up once again last night as they eliminated the LSU Tigers from the College World Series by beating them twice in five days, this time by a score of 8-4. Trey Teakell was the pitching star this time for the Horned Frogs, called into early relief duty for starter Mitchell Traver in the 4th inning and delivering an incredibly efficient 4-1/3 hitless and scoreless innings (retiring all 17 hitters he faced on only 36 pitches).
LSU for their part not only cleaned up the defensive woes that haunted them in Sunday’s meeting (when they committed 4 errors and lost 10-3), but at times resembled a baseball version of the Harlem Globetrotters. Relief pitcher Doug Norman made a sparkling behind the back grab in the bottom of 6th on a one-hop come-backer off the bat of Nolan Brown, but the play of the game (World Series? season?) was made by Tigers’ shortstop Alex Bregman in the bottom of the 4th. Frogs’ third baseman Derek Odell hit a ball that was heading through the middle of the infield and into center field when Bregman – the 2nd player picked overall by the Astros in this year’s MLB draft– speared the ball on the outfield grass and made a remarkable spinning, off-balance, on target throw, easily beating Odell at first base for the out. http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=espn:13110698
But too many of the highlights of the evening belonged to the Frogs, who now must quickly regroup for another match-up with defending champs Vanderbilt. Can the Frogs continue to be the nemesis of the big, bad SEC? The road ahead is difficult no doubt as they’ll have to beat Vandy twice in two days to advance, but so far in this tournament they’ve eliminated Texas A&M in the Super Regionals and now LSU in the World Series – and let’s not forget about this past football season and the Peach Bowl, where Gary Patterson and his squad thumped Ole Miss 42-3 (for those who questioned whether TCU was worthy of Big 12 membership – and there were plenty – how ya like me now?).
The irony of the situation is also not lost on me as the Frogs advance to the “Final Four” of the baseball world after being dropped down two spots and out of football’s version of it following a 55-3 route of Iowa State in the final game of the regular season. It’s nice to be watching a sport play out where politics and “Committee” bias don’t determine who advances and who goes home. As Tom Hanks said in A League of Their Own, “There’s no crying in baseball,” and thankfully there’s also no voting. If you need a refresher course on the nonsense that is still the College Football Playoff system here you go – http://www.scoreboardtx.com/2014/12/08/cfp-system-a-flawed-mess/
But I digress….
The Frogs were solid at the plate throughout the lineup last night, with every batter getting on base at least once. They also drew five walks from the Tigers’ pitching staff, and ultimately pushed four of those runners across the plate. Now they must figure out how to produce similar results tonight against Vanderbilt (7pm central), the team that held them scoreless just two days ago. If they do and beat the Commodores, their reward will be another game against them on Saturday. The Frogs are 5-0 when facing elimination in this year’s NCAA Tournament – if they run that record to 7-0 they’ll be in the finals (best of three) against either Florida or Virgina. And that’s all any Horned Frog fan can ask for – a chance to prove it on the field.