In what’s becoming a tradition around here, we sat down with our friends from Frogs O’ War to preview the CWS. Enjoy!
1. The 2015-2016 season has seen some intense competition between Texas Tech and TCU across the Big Three sports. We had the tipped ball in football, y’all’s defeat of us in the Big XII Tournament in basketball, and now we have the baseball rivalry blooming. You asked me if Texas Tech is becoming TCU’s rival in baseball. I’m asking you if we’re now just rivals in general.
You are 100% right. There aren't two other teams in the conference that match up as closely across three sports as the Frogs and Red Raiders, and it seems like in each sport, there has been just enough hint of controversy to keep things interesting both across the two fanbases and to a degree, on the national landscape. We've beaten each other on the road, we've battled in overtimes and extra innings, and we have knocked each other out of title races and post season tournaments. And now, for the second time in three years, we meet on the diamond with an opportunity to set the other one back significantly in the chase for a national championship. I would say that's some pretty damn outstanding rivalry fodder.
For TCU fans, the BU rivalry has gotten so contentious, and shoot, currently? Yuck. I don't even want to think about anything athletics related regarding that University until they clean the mess up on their campus and get it right in regards to the victims. There is no joy in playing them right now, and I won't be giving their football program my $135 to go watch TCU play in Waco this fall. So... that leaves Tech as the best rivalry we've got going in the Big 12, and I have a feeling that will only be magnified Sunday.
2. Charlie Geren really stepped in it there with his Controversy Formerly Known As Watergate tweets. How bad is Bob Duncan going to romp on him during the next Texas legislative session?
All I know is that I'm voting for Marvin the Dog this November.
3. You gave me the opportunity, now here’s yours. What are your final thoughts on The Controversy Formerly Known As Watergate?
Ughhhhh. Well, here's the deal, as I see it: Tech was cleared of any wrong-doing, and therefore, the issue is dead as far as I'm concerned. In fact, had not Mac Engel not thought to write an article about the result (and he has to be the first person - or at least non-coach - to be almost universally reviled by the fanbase of the school that gives him a paycheck), I don't think you would have heard a thing about it, even on our site - in fact, it was a non-issue once the next game started for most of us.
It's pretty easy to say now that Tech was conducting a ritual, and we just didn't know. And I can see how things were misconstrued. I was actually there - within feet of the Tech dugout when it happened, and I too thought it was malicious at the time. I will say this - while the actions were not, I can see why the Showgirls and TCU fans that were within earshot of the players thought it might be. I spent a lot of time near a lot of dugouts this spring, and while the old adage of 'boys will be boys' may be true, especially college boys, the things I heard from that group while the young ladies were performing were quite a bit more crass than anything else I heard all season, but it certainly doesn't mean that the intent was malicious.
That being said, at this point, I really don't care anymore. Tech is a great team that we have to beat. It's not about defending anyone's honor or getting any kind of revenge for that incident, it's about winning a baseball game and staying on the path to a Natty. Period.
4. TCU just beat a very good Texas A&M team. Did the hostile A&M environment prepare the Frogs for the intensity of the CWS, or do you think that’s another step up that they’ll have to take?
Oh yeah. That was HUGE. I was able to make it down to College Station for the Friday night game, though I very regrettably turned down a ticket for Sunday. I had never been to Olsen before, and it was a great experience - even if I only got to experience it for a few innings (those Aggies get quiet fast when they are losing). It was highly encouraging to see guys like Jared Janczak, Luken Baker, and Durbin Feltman come out and absolutely dominate in their roles on the biggest stage, and all do it as freshmen. None of those guys had played in anything close to that kind of environment to that point in the season, and it has to settle the nerves a bit for Omaha.
From what I have seen - though sadly never in person - is that while the lights are certainly brighter, it's not really a hostile environment at the CWS. And, TCU has become a real community favorite, so many of the non-partisan fans cheer for the boys in purple, which is certainly an advantage. These are still a bunch of really young guys, playing under a ton of pressure. But, much like Tech has experienced, it seems the youngest guys have stepped up the biggest when needed the most, and I don't think that will change over the course of the next week and a half. That, coupled with the undeniable leadership of Brian Howard (who has been unbelievable the past few weeks), Mitchell Traver (who hasn't pitched all that great, but is so admired and looked up to by the young guys), Brian Trieglaff, Michael Landestoy, and Elliot Barzilli, makes TCU a dangerous team in any environment.
5. How badly does TCU need this first victory against Texas Tech?
You always want to win that first game in a tournament like this of course, but TCU has won game one in their last two appearances and dropped the second. So, beating Tech would be a great start, but it's almost getting over that game two hump that matters more. I actually think TCU can recover from an opening game loss - they have the depth to do so, but having to play each subsequent game with the pressure of elimination hanging over them might be too much for a young team - but for fans, seeing the Frogs win game one won't get them all that excited, unless they take game two as well.
6. What’s the biggest challenge that the Frogs have to face in Omaha as a whole?
The offense hasn't been consistent, and while the pitching has been infinitely better in the post-season, it's still hard to count on winning more than a game or two if TCU can't get the bats going. They are going to need more production from guys like Steinhagen, Watson, and Warner - each of whom have had big moments, but can't seem to all get hot at the same time. Evan Skoug is also wearing down a bit - he has caught all but one game this season, and has hardly taken a pitch off in the process - but if he can get on base ahead of Baker, it makes things much harder for opposing managers. The other issue is the starting pitching - can Janczak give Schlossnagle another performance like he did Friday night in C Stat? Brian Howard is almost a lock for six or seven innings now, but who is the third guy going to be? Traver has been good, but not great, Hill is... I think most of us hope he doesn't have to start... and Baker hasn't pitched since mid-season. Somebody is going to have to be better, and that somebody is probably Traver. I just don't know if he's healthy enough to do that.
7. What are your predictions for TCU vs. Texas Tech?
This is tough - both teams can do so much damage from the rubber and the plate, and it's going to come down to who has that little extra gas to get it done. I'm going to don my purple shades really quick and pick the Frogs in a close one - I'm thinking 6-5 or something around there. TCU gets a solid five from Janczak, but can't hold Tech's offense at bay in the late innings. With the Frogs down by a run in the eighth, Skoug and Baker double in back to back at bats, and Barzilli gets the RBI that ends up being the game-winner.
8. What are your predictions for TCU in the tournament as a whole?
There is something special about this team. Even when they were swooning during and after the Tech series in Fort Worth, it seemed like they were so close to breaking out. I don't want to play the sympathy card here, but if you don't know the story of Micah Ahern, you should take some time to read up on him. He has been the inspiration for this team for the last three years, and as he prepares to enter hospice care, the team has really rallied around him and his family. They have played with so much heart in the last couple of weeks, and I legitimately think that can be traced back to Micah. Is that going to win them a Natty? No. But if they have that little extra juice from that inspiration, combined with the good pitching and patient at-bats they have been leaning on for the past three weekends, I think they have enough to get to the finals. Being in a bracket with Tech and Florida isn't ideal, but I think each team has to look at this field and feel like it's as wide-open as any over the last several years, and it's really anybody's title to win. The players and coaches have made no secret about their goal heading into the CWS, and it's to win. Like Schloss says, it's not always about the best team, but the team playing the best. And TCU is playing pretty darn good right now.
A huge thanks to Melissa Triebwasser from Frogs O’ War for doing this. Good luck to her TCU Horned Frogs in games where they are not playing the Texas Tech Red Raiders