As they sat down for barbecue, TCU catcher Evan Skoug told his out-of-town buddy two things.
Beef, not chicken.
Hope the wind’s blowing in from left.
Jake Burger laughed in appreciation.
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“I went with his word,” the Missouri State third baseman said. “It was pretty good.”
If the wind is blowing in from left on Saturday, maybe it will be a pretty good weekend for the Horned Frogs, so long as it has helped contain Missouri State’s potential first-round Major League Draft pick in a Super Regional series starting Saturday at Lupton Stadium.
“He’s a stud. He’s supposed to go in the top 15 picks of his coming draft,” Skoug said. “He’s a great player, but he’s an even better person.”
Skoug and Burger hit it off playing for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team last summer. They quickly figured out they were Blackhawks fans and more.
“That was an instant connection,” Burger said. “I think we just the same mentality toward the game. We come from similar programs in the sense of how our coaches teach the game. Those are the things that instantly connected with us.”
Both hit third in the order. Both lead their teams in RBIs (just three apart). They walk about the same. They have 40 home runs between them, 22 for Burger, 18 for Skoug.
If not for Skoug’s ice-cold 2-for-23 start to the season, their hit totals and on-base percentages would probably be almost as close.
“He was texting me at the beginning of the season and said his season didn’t get off to the best start,” Burger said. “But I try and watch as many games as I can, and he’s really lit it up the last couple of weeks.”
Skoug homered twice in the Fort Worth Regional, tying for fifth all time at TCU in career home runs (34) and runs batted in (159). His 18 home runs tie him for most in a season under Jim Schlossnagle at TCU.
Burger is sixth all-time at Missouri State with 47 home runs and seventh with 179 RBIs.
But Skoug is no longer playing with the protection provided by Luken Baker’s bat, while Burger still has shortstop Ryan Eierman (also 22 home runs) hitting fifth, two spots away.
“Two very elite hitters, guys that don’t have a lot of holes in their swings,” Schlossnagle said of Burger and Eierman. “You’ve got to be very careful what you do. They can change a game with one swing. Tough part is, the rest of the guys are good. So it’s not like you can do a whole lot of pitching around them. We have great hitters in the Big 12. We’ve obviously faced a team in Virginia last week that has two potential first-rounders, as well. Burger and Eierman are right there with them.”
Skoug and Burger know firsthand what the other can do.
They’ve had dinner.
They’ve gotten their teams this far.
They’re ready to play.
“I’ve been rooting for him all season,” Skoug said. “Hope he does play well. But at the end of the day, he’s a competitive guy, so it’s going to be a battle to play against him.”
No. 7 TCU
vs. No. 22 Missouri State
5 p.m. Saturday (ESPNU),
5 p.m. Sunday (ESPNU/ESPN2),
TBD Monday (if necessary)