Two victories away from the College World Series, TCU has four starting pitchers it can turn to.
Mitchell Traver’s start and win last week in the Fort Worth Regional continued a late-season rise for the senior right-hander and provided another option for coach Jim Schlossnagle.
The veteran coach can choose from four players with a combined 15 starts, 10 wins and 98 innings in NCAA postseason play at TCU when a best-of-three Super Regional series against Missouri State begins Saturday at Lupton Stadium.
Sophomore right-hander Jared Janczak started and won a Super Regional game on the road last season and is 2-1 in five postseason starts. He has cemented his ace status with a 9-0 record and 1.89 ERA season in 2017.
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Senior right-hander Brian Howard is unbeaten in his last four postseason starts and is TCU’s first back-to-back 10-game winner.
Traver is 4-2 in six postseason starts and has given up one run in four home postseason appearances. In his last three starts this season, he has a 1.12 ERA, four walks and 21 strikeouts.
Only left-hander Nick Lodolo is missing postseason experience, and that’s because he’s a freshman. If the Frogs had needed a fourth start in last weekend’s tournament, they would have turned to merely the highest major league draft pick not to sign last summer.
Starting pitching paves the road in postseason, and TCU’s 2.33 ERA tied for sixth-best among the 16 regional winners last weekend, matching LSU. The Frogs got 21 2/3 innings from Traver, Janczak and Howard in wins against Central Connecticut State, Virginia and Dallas Baptist.
The Frogs needed just four relievers — Cal Coughlin, Jake Eissler, Durbin Feltman and Sean Wymer — for 5 1/3 innings in their three-game regional sweep. Traver left with a 3-1 lead in the eighth inning against CCSU. Janczak exited with a 4-1 lead against Virginia in the ninth inning. Howard was lifted in the seventh with a 14-2 lead.
2.33 ERA for TCU in the Fort Worth Regional. In 2016, the Frogs had a 2.43 ERA in NCAA postseason games. In 2015, it was 2.96. In 2014, it was 1.97.
The performances by the three starters and four relievers gave Schlossnagle so much leeway, six bullpen arms went unused, not to mention Lodolo.
Only Cal State Fullerton, Davidson, Texas A&M and Wake Forest used fewer pitchers in their regional championships. Fullerton and A&M each used a reliever three times, and Davidson turned to its Game 1 starter to save Game 3.
In a Super Regional, the significance of the No. 1 and No. 2 starters is even more pronounced. Where Traver and Janczak gave TCU a 2-0 record in the regional last week, two wins in two starts this week will mean advancing.
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So perhaps Schlossnagle will start the series with his ace, Janczak, for a chance at a critical 1-0 lead in the series. But Howard and Traver are unbeaten in postseason starts at Lupton and have more experience.
Whatever the TCU coach decides, he has time. With four pitchers to win two starts, and get TCU to its fourth consecutive College World Series appearance, his options are wide open.
No. 7 TCU
vs. No. 22 Missouri State
5 p.m. Saturday (ESPNU),
5 p.m. Sunday (ESPNU/ESPN2),
TBD Monday (if necessary)