Texas Tech enters this weekend with a lot to lose against the TCU Horned Frogs. If we win, we’re more than likely Big XII Champions. If we don’t, well, TCU will be. We’d like to consider ourselves fair and nice people, so we invited our good friend Melissa Triebwasser from Frogs O’ War to come on over to answer some burning questions and talk some sports.
Hey, Melissa. HUGE fan of y’all’s baseball throwbacks. Any chance we see them this weekend?
Oh yes. They are a Sunday tradition, and the best uniforms in sports (I have no proof of this other than I said it - and that’s enough, right?) should be on full display when we secure that sweep ;)
Luken Baker is downright terrifying. It really does seem like the kid is the complete package. Hypothetically, if you wanted to beat him, how would you do it?
It’s really easy to forget that Baker is a freshman, whether it’s his serenity on the mound or his sheer power at the plate. As a pitcher, the only time we have seen him struggle is when he falls behind in the count early, forcing him to be a little too perfect and miss his spots. He has a habit of hitting batters, and has only gone six+ in a couple of starts, mostly because of pitch count when he is pitching from behind in the count. If the Tech batters can be patient at the plate (and this is assuming he has recovered from the arm strain that cut his start short Friday night) and not let him blow the high heat by them, they can get to the pen early, and lately, that’s spelled trouble for the Frogs.
At the plate… well, you aren’t going to beat him with power. The really dangerous things for opponents is when someone gets on base ahead of him. Because then you see teams try and pitch around Evan Skoug (the #3 hitter), and more often than not, Skoug wins those battles. If you’re seeing Baker with men on, you’re pretty much toast. He doesn’t swing at a lot of bad pitches, and he absolutely murders fastballs. I have seen some savvy veteran pitchers get him off balance by using both sides of the plate and making him expand his zone, and that seems the best recipe for success. But for the Frogs, having Baker between Skoug and freshman Josh Watson (eight home runs) has been almost unfair at times.
You asked me about the budding baseball rivalry between Tech and TCU. What do you think about it? Any bad blood?
I think it might be the saltiest baseball rivalry that TCU has in conference play right now, and second overall only to those durned Aggies. Texas was pretty intense, but other than the series loss in Austin this year, the Frogs have owned the Horns since joining the Big 12. But Texas Tech has been all but a toss-up on the diamond, with plenty of back and forth ballgames between them. I think it reached it’s peak at the College World Series, but the bad blood certainly remains. And with some many Red Raiders in DFW, I would imagine the tortilla flinging alumni base will do their best to take over Lupton this weekend. If the games are close, as I would expect them to be, things could get a little rowdy in the GA seating I am sure. But the new bag policy and the fact that they shut down tailgating at first pitch should keep things fairly PG. It’s also a family friendly atmosphere, and I think that tames things down considerably. But please, come on over, all you in red and black. I want this to be the kind of series that draws national interest for attendance, excitement, and the sheer talent of the two teams playing - that would be great for all.
I’m ready to fill this blank space already. It’s actually one of the only baseball series I’ve looked forward to (not a huge baseball guy). What’s the atmosphere in Fort Worth looking like?
First of all, we need to change that ‘not a huge baseball guy’ thing. College baseball is the bee’s knees. Especially when you have a park like Lupton. It really is as idyllic as college sports get, with the ivy, the outfield berms, the Woo Birds, and the kids sliding down the grass hill on pieces of cardboard. I know I am biased, but it’s just a great place to watch a game. The crowd will be rowdy - students are winding down the year, and if the weather is nice, I would expect them to be out in full force, despite the looming finals week ahead. We also draw some of the largest crowds in the country, despite being a small park, and have proven we will pack the place for a big series. And this is absolutely the biggest series the Frogs will have on their home turf in 2016 - unless we can get back on a roll and secure a regional at home. Also, for those that haven’t been to Lupton recently, the renovations have made it a first class facility, and it’s truly impressive.
It’s been one of my wildest dreams to beat TCU at their own house, any chance of that happening? Would we have to score over 22 runs total?
If you want to beat TCU at home, you pretty much have to do it on a Friday night. Five of the Frogs’ eight weekend losses have come in the opening game of the series, and for whatever reason, they have been vulnerable under the lights. Recently, though, the problem has been less calendar related and more quality start related - as in TCU isn’t getting many. The bullpen, which has been a strength through the years, has struggled as of late. A lot of that is freshmen pitchers reaching that wall - we’re nearing game #40, which is pretty much the end of a high school season - and the innings are adding up, as is the pressure. Ultimately, it’s been one big inning that has done in TCU more often than not - you might not need 22 runs or 22 innings, but if you can put up a five or eight spot in a frame, that’s been too deep a hole for Schloss’ guys to dig out of.
In all seriousness, who’s the biggest offensive weapon for TCU currently, and how do you think he’ll attack a up-and-down Texas Tech pitching corps?
That’s such a hard question, because this is probably the deepest and most talented lineup we have had at TCU since Jim Schlossnagle’s arrival. Austen Wade has filled in admirably for Nolan Brown in the leadoff spot, and he and Cam Warner do a nice job of setting the table for the heart of the order. I talked about the Skoug/Baker/Watson stretch, and if you survive them relatively unscathed, that still leaves you with Barzilli (.396 average) and a suddenly en fuego Dane Steinhagen. But for the Frogs to touch up the Red Raider’s pitching staff, I think it comes down to two things: hit for contact and get deep into the count. TCU had been so patient at the plate early in the season, but had all the strikeouts in Stillwater. That and get the leadoff guy on base in each inning. That’s not really an answer to your question, so I am going to say the fear of Baker gives Skoug some pitches to hit, and he has another run of extra base hits over the weekend.
Say for a minute that Texas Tech mops the floor with TCU. What’s the gameplan going forward?
But seriously, TCU is probably a year ahead of schedule. The pitching rotation has been held together with duct tape and pipe cleaners; the projected ace Mitchell Traver has yet to take the mound, fill-in ace Brian Howard dealt with an injury and then struggled mightily Sunday, and the Rex Hill weekend experiment ended early in the season. You have two freshmen starting, a freshman closer, a freshman long reliever, and really only a couple reliable vets that have proven they can give you consistent innings. Nevermind that Skoug is only a sophomore, Baker and Watson are freshmen, and the fastest player/best defender on the team has been redshirted for injury. I think expectations were tempered going into the season, but they performed so well so early, fans raised them. To be in contention at this point is a bit of a bonus. I am hopeful the Frogs can win this series and stay in the title race. But if not, winning a regional and playing well in the Supers would be a great season for a team that will return almost everyone in 2017.
Do you have a score prediction for this weekend?
TCU has yet to play two bad series in a row, and has lost consecutive games only twice all season. The last time they lost a series, they preceded to go on a five game winning streak. So I have high hopes the Frogs will bounce back in a big way at home this weekend. I am a believer in the Friday Night Curse, especially if Baker isn’t 100%, so I will say Tech takes game one, 6-4. The Frogs touch up the Raider pitching on Saturday for the biggest score margin of the series, putting up a big inning on their way to a 9-3 win. Sunday is a tense one, a back and forth affair the whole way through. With things tied at 4 in the bottom of the ninth, Skoug doubles and advances on a wild pitch. With two out and a full count, Luken Baker smokes one to the shortstop, tried to play a bad hop, and watches the ball bounce off his hand and into his glove. There’s a play at the plate, but the ball rolls out of the catcher’s glove and harmlessly to the ground. Ball game. Frogs win, move into a tie for first, and end up sharing the regular season title with Tech.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is running today due to the cancellation of the first ACU game. The parallel interview with FOW will be available soon. Also, Melissa is pretty cool. If you venture over there, treat our froggie friends well.