Wednesday, June 23, 2010
So, where to start? Why not start with the climax of the whole thing, which was Matt Curry's absolute BOMB of a grand slam on a full-count with two outs in the inning. Was I the only one that saw the play in slow motion? At first, I thought it was gone. Then the FSU centerfielder completely faked me out, pulling up and looking as if he might be stopping to catch a ball that got caught up in the wind. But then I saw where it landed, and I ran down the hall of my apartment building, letting loose a string of euphoria-enduced expletives. They came back!
But then you have to think back to a few moments earlier in the inning, because the rally was basically over TWICE before that moment. Brance Rivera grounded into what appeared to be an inning-ending double play, but beat the throw to keep the side alive. Then Bryan Holaday looked as if he was thrown out stretching his hit into a double, but he somehow had the presence of mind to pull his left arm away, avoiding the tag. Without Rivera's hustle and Holaday's amazing situational awareness, Curry's dong never happens. Or Witte's, which was an awesome insult to the Seminoles' injury.
And how about the relief pitching by Tyler Lockwood, Erik Miller and Kaleb Merck? Absolutely fantastic to settle the FSU bats down and give the Frogs a chance to get back in it. I think you get my point...that was an awesome game. I'm sure we'll all be trying to figure out a way for the Frogs to get by UCLA twice, but for right now I just want to bask in the glory of this win, and kick myself for not recording it.
With Monday night’s tough loss to UCLA still fresh in our minds, we must now change gears and look forward to tonight’s rematch with Florida State who are fresh off a dispatching of bitter rival Florida. And while we should all feel confident that we can beat the Seminoles, seeing as how we have once already on the exact same field, I am sure that everyone is still a bit hesitant to look forward to a Friday night matchup with UCLA. With that in mind, here are a few key things to consider and inspire confidence:
It's a Comeback game. So far this season, TCU has responded extremely well when coming off of a loss, having only dropped back to back games two times all year. The first of those – one run losses to BYU and Dallas Baptist – came early in the season, and were helped along by unearned runs due to errors and the up, but mostly down, pitching from Greg Holle, respectively. The second instance came a month later against San Diego State and Oklahoma, with the Frogs dropping both games by two runs a piece, and both losses were heavily influenced by stranded baserunners. The good news? In the Frogs seven single game losses during the regular season, the bats absolutely exploded the next outing. Seriously, in the immediate game after each of those losses, the Frogs scored 17, 15, 20, 15, 11, 26 and 5 runs, respectively. And while after the Frogs only loss during the post season – game 2 in Austin – the offensive didn’t exactly come out and overwhelm the Longhorns, the pitching and defense stepped up considerably to close out the series. So basically, we should fully expect the Frogs to come out knocking the ball all over the park, but if for some reason they don’t, have no doubt that another aspect of the team will step it up and keep us in this thing.
We're trotting out a rested Maxwell and Lockwood. Stephen Maxwell’s last in-game memory is getting shelled into the dugout by Texas two Saturday's ago. Don’t think this isn’t going to inspire him to come out and pitch the game of his life. And Tyler Lockwood hasn’t pitched in either of our two CWS games. So, needless to say, both guys are fully rested and both have to be absolutely chomping at the bit to pop their World Series cherries. With Maxwell definitely going tonight, and Lockwood potentially getting a shot in relief, I wouldn’t expect Florida State to put too many runs on the board. Our biggest problem Monday night, in my eyes, was that once we got behind, our batters were chasing pitches and swinging for the fences, trying to make the big play rather than putting the ball in play and beating them one run at a time. If Maxwell and Lockwood perform as we hope and assume they will, this shouldn’t be an issue. Now we just have to hope our bats wake up before the 7th inning, which considering we scored 8 on Florida State's ace and the pitcher tonight has a 5.53 ERA, shouldn't be a problem.
Rosenblatt is Lupton Stadium North. The Brance Rivera catch and the Taylor Featherston bases clearing triple are obviously the biggest positives we will take away from the UCLA game, but the thing that stuck out to me most about both of those plays weren’t the plays themselves, but the way the crowd reacted. Did you hear the roar when Featherston connected, and the roar +1 when the ball dropped in right over the Bruins’ center fielder’s head? Sounded like a bunch of drunk assholes cheering for a Tiger Woods birdie, and I mean that in the best way possible.
Seriously, I know everyone connected to this thing has beaten it into the ground, but was anyone not directly affiliated with UCLA rooting for the Bruins on Monday? The crowd support is absolutely unreal through television speakers, so I can’t imagine what it’s like on the field.
Honestly, when we pushed it to 3-5, even though there were two outs, and even though we were at the bottom of the order, and even though Gerrit Cole got right back on his horse, didn’t you have to believe that we were going to make a run? And even though we didn’t, and even though I’m kind of a pessimistic fan in those situations, the way the 20,000+ fans in the stands cheered us on until the last out had me on the edge of my seat until Orel Herscheiser could FINALLY stop focusing on that silly baseball game and get back to the more important business of bragging about his son. Don’t know how many of you were where you could clearly hear the commentary from the game, but holy HELL how does Mike Patrick have a job at ESPN? When you get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to ply your trade, shouldn’t you at least learn the rules of the game at the very least? And Orel wasn’t much more insightful, but at least he has street cred. But sorry for the tangent. Where was I?
Oh yes – so, just think: If the crowd was as behind us in
a game where our offense was absolutely anemic and, in all honesty, won't matter a damn bit if we make it through the weekend, can you imagine what it's going to be like in an elimination game situation?
Obviously the crowd can’t directly win you a game, but in any college sport where emotions can have an enormous effect on performance, expect us to have that going for us.
We've got Schloss, this year's coaching MVP. I feel like this kind of went by the wayside on this here blog, and correct me if I’m wrong about that, but, the man DID just win the coach of the year award which, I’m not sure where to find this, probably puts us in pretty rare air of having the top baseball and football coaches in the nation in the same athletic department. Not bad for the scourge of Texas colleges, as we’ve been made out to be by the big boys that we beat on a consistent basis. At least when they’re willing to play us.
It goes without saying that Schloss has done an unbelievable job as the head man, and I think my favorite thing about him is that he is probably the least likely of any of our head coaches to leave the program. Seriously, if Jimmy C ever turns the basketball program around, he’d immediately become a hot name around the country and would leave Fort Worth in a heartbeat
because, let's face it, he'd probably have to make some kind of deal with the devil for this to ever happen and it'd maybe be the greatest program turnaround in history.
Gary is obviously as committed as ever to being a Frog, but you have to think the MWC ultimately striking out in conference expansion weighs heavy on the best coach in college football. If 2013 comes and goes with the Frogs still in a non- auto bid conference and the right situation presents itself, Gary will have more than earned the right to ply his trade elsewhere.But not Scholossnagle. The NCAA baseball tournament is quite possibly the fairest post season format in all of college sports, except for a few obvious asterisks when it comes to rankings, where a team like Cal State-Fullerton, who may or may not even play in a real conference, can win multiple titles and become one of the most well respected programs in the country. So it goes without saying that a team like TCU that recruits in the most baseball talent-rich state in the country and has one of the nicest stadiums to boot can and should be as good as anyone. And while there’s no denying the school’s commitment to bringing baseball back from the dead was a major factor in all this, without Schloss’s knowledge and recruiting prowess, we’re probably making first round exits each year on some other team’s field.
I honestly don’t know that much about the man. He’s obviously not the deity that Patterson is – yet – and he’s not as high profile or vocal. But the quiet confidence he exudes is obviously just what this team needs, and with the number of players from his teams that are playing in the bigs, he makes the program a remarkably easy sell. And while I don’t know his salary, as Patterson has proved, TCU and Fort Worth is a pretty great place to be. And as Schloss has no real competitive incentives to leave, I think he’s a lifer. And that’s the kind of man you want leading your team out of the elimination bracket in Omaha.
Bryan Holaday is Best Leader in the Tournament. But even after internet making out with Coach Schloss in the previous paragraph, I’m not sure there’s a bigger reason that we are where we are than Catcher Bryan Holaday. I mean, yes, you have guys like Matt Purke and Jason Coats who are the grease for the well oiled machines that are our pitching and hitting staffs, but can you even make an argument that either of those guys are more detrimental to this team’s success than Holaday? And would Purke be have come along as quickly if he didn’t have Holaday to throw to?
I’ve said it before – I’m late for the Frogs baseball parade. Despite my love for all things TCU, baseball is just one of those sports I never grew up absolutely loving, so I wasn’t predisposed. So in that respect, a lot of the information I have about the team is new to me but probably old news to some of you. But, as the season was winding down, easily my favorite player to read up on was Bryan Holaday and his passion for the Frogs and while I realize that the national media has pretty much beaten his story into the ground, each and every piece of information I’ve ingested about him has just made me that much prouder to be a Frog. Everyone loves a good leader and while Jason Phillips is arguably the strongest leader on and off the field that any of us have seen in recent years, I think if the baseball team had the exposure of the football team, Holaday would win in a walk off. /pun'd.
First of all, he’s obviously a great baseball player. His offensive numbers don’t lie, and he’s hit maybe the two most memorable home runs of the season. Not to mention he’s a candidate for the Johnny Bench Award, and he picks off base runners at a pretty remarkably clip – roughly 50%. Plus, he’s a seriously tough dude. Did you see that that 95 MPH fast ball he took off his elbow last night from Cole? Holy balls that looked painful. But, after a quick doubling over and wincing, he shook it off and sprinted to first, even outrunning the team trainer in the process. Obviously you don’t your key player going untreated after taking a shot like that – and he did have some work done in the dugout later, with the machine they used absolutely blowing Orel and Mike’s minds! – but the fact that he was far more interested in getting on base and letting the next guy hit shows that he’s a team first dude. The team as a whole has to be pretty distraught with the brutally slow start from Monday. No way any of them, but especially Holaday, lets it happen again.
And now we get to some dangerously forward thinking assumptions…
Rarely do we Lose to Same Team Twice: IF TCU is able to get by the Seminoles tonight for a rematch with UCLA, take heart in the fact that the Frogs have only lost to two teams twice this year, and one of them (OU) is in the World Series. Losing to Air Force twice is obviously the biggest sore thumb in this record setting season, but hey, like Augie Garrido said, even a Lion won’t eat if he’s not hungry, right? Along the way, the Frogs beat postseason teams like Texas, Baylor, New Mexico, Cal State-Fullerton at least twice without losing to any of them more than once. The Frogs also took care of a near Super Regional aggy team in their one game against one another. So, while the Frogs obviously have to win tonight to continue, the odds are heavily in our favor to take down UCLA in a rematch Friday night and leave Saturday up for grabs. And while beating the Bruins two games in a row is much easier said than done, my next point shows that perhaps we have a better opportunity than we think…
We've Never Lost a Weekend Series. While I’ve tried to make some pretty strong points, this is perhaps the one that gives me the most hope if we’re able to make the weekend. We’re all well aware that, at present, our three weekend starters have only lost four combined games, with the fourth only coming on Monday night. Stephen Maxwell and Kyle Winkler are both 12-2 on the year and Matt Purke – all praise to his name – is a perfect 15-0. And while there are various factors as to why our weekend games seem to go so smoothly – our easier games (read: conference) fall on the weekends, the team can familiarize itself with a team when they play them three straight days – those three guys are definitely the most important. I realize that, when you’re in the World Series, the whole weekend concept doesn’t matter because Purke, Winkler and Maxwell are likely going to start every game in some order, but IF, and I need to stress IF, we make it out of tonight’s game, then UCLA essentially becomes a delayed three game weekend series at Lupton Stadium because of the crowd. And while this would hands down be the most difficult weekend series of the season, don’t you feel better knowing that we’ll for sure have a rested Purke available and a, hopefully, rejuvenated Winkler? And, having become acquainted with the UCLA team, don’t you trust our coaching staff to make the right adjustments and exploit any tendencies that may exist?
But, despite the unbelievable jinx I just tossed out there by looking ahead, we’ve got to pick up this game tonight for anything to happen. I think we can do it, and I think coming out of the losers bracket isn’t as bad of a spot for us as it might be for other teams. We know we can beat this Florida State team, and we can reembrace the underdog role. By pulling out this win and knowing that we’ll (probably) have Purke on the mound in the next outing to keep the UCLA batters in check should be an enormous confidence boost for a team that’s probably still stinging a little bit from Monday night.
When I was researching some various bits and pieces for this story, I came upon this article that, albeit from 2004, still rings true today. The title of it is “How to Win the College World Series” and in it, it lists certain characteristics, most PAINFULLY obvious but pertinent nonetheless, that a team must possess in order win in Omaha, among them: quality starting pitching (check), a solid catcher who can command the game and throw out baserunners (ditto), a team batting average of at least .304 (check), the ability to knock at least five homers in Omaha (TBD), quality bunting (yep, haven’t seen a poorly executed one yet), aggressive baserunning (watch Featherston leg out that triple if you need affirmation, or especially his game changing triple from Austin), and solid defense (up and down this post season, but definitely did not cost us Monday). If the internet says it, it must be true!
So we’ve got a big one tonight. The Noles will be riding high after dispatching Florida, and TCU may be a bit sluggish after the tough loss. But I genuinely feel that we have to pieces in place to be more than a one win wonder. And I doubt that UCLA can get the best of us twice in three games.
And I think, no, I KNOW, the Frogs can still win the World Series.