In their first four seasons as members of the Mountain West, the TCU baseball team has been nearly perfect at the conference tournament. They won the first three tournament titles (coming on the heels of winning the last two in Conference USA) and appeared headed for another when the tournament was at Lupton Stadium a year ago. But then they ran into the Utah Utes, who stunned the Frogs twice on their way to claiming the conference title and earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
The NCAA Committee was pretty forgiving of those home-field losses to Utah last year and TCU still earned the right to host a Regional. We all hope that they'll be willing to overlook this year's losses to Air Force and still give TCU one of those coveted Top 8 national seeds, but for that to happen they'll have to win this week's tournament in San Diego. That starts tonight against Utah (at 9:00pm on both The Mtn and CBS-College Sports) when 11-0 freshman Matt Purke takes the mound. As the #1 seed, the Frogs need to win just three games in a row to capture the tournament title.
In other action today, BYU and host San Diego State (the losers of last night's games) play each other in the elimination game at 1:00pm this afternoon. I'm still trying to figure out why, with the exception of when he had Stephen Strasburg, Tony Gwynn cannot produce a better team than he has. SDSU ought to be perennially at the top of the conference standings along with TCU, but as "The U of H of California", I guess you have to expect them to under-achieve.
Then the game I'll be keeping an eye on is at 5:00pm when #2 seed New Mexico takes on UNLV. It will be interesting to see what UNM skipper Ray Birmingham does against the Rebels. Does he pitch his ace, Willy Kesler, against UNLV to avoid slipping into the loser's bracket? Or does he save him for a shot at TCU on Thursday? Remember, Kesler was sensational in the Lobos' win over the Frogs on May 8, throwing a complete game and giving up just four hits to out-pitch Kyle Winkler, which gave Kesler the nod over Winkler as the final starting pitcher in the All-Conference Team.