The football team at TCU has a saying.
“Built For This.”
When it comes to winning three games in three days at the College World Series, the pitching-rich baseball team believes it can say the same thing.
“We feel like we, more than any other team in the tournament, are prepared to make a run where we play three, four, five games,” reliever Trey Teakell said. “We feel like we can do that better than any other team. So we’re ready to go, especially in the bullpen. We’ll see what happens.”
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What has to happen is this: To avoid elimination and the end of its season, TCU has to win against LSU on Thursday night, against Vanderbilt on Friday night and again against Vanderbilt on Saturday night.
That would get the Horned Frogs into the best-of-three championship series next week, which finally allows breathing room for a loss.
Until then, there is no margin for error.
Tuesday night’s 1-0 loss to Vanderbilt, in which the Horned Frogs were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and shut out for the first time in 113 games, dropped them into the losers’ bracket to require that march.
But unlike many teams in college baseball, the Horned Frogs go four-deep in starting pitchers —four-deep in MLB-drafted starting pitchers, and boast a bullpen with another drafted pitcher, closer Riley Ferrell.
“Our pitching staff is incredible,” second baseman Garrett Crain said. “We know it’s the best in the country.”
Mitchell Traver, a 28th-round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals last week, will start Thursday night’s game. Tyler Alexander, a second-round pick of the Detroit Tigers, has yet to pitch in the World Series and could go Friday. Preston Morrison, an eighth-round Chicago Cubs pick who allowed a run in seven innings against LSU to start the World Series, would be back on full rest by Saturday.
That would bring the rotation back around to Alex Young, a second-round pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks who struck out a career-high 12 in the 1-0 loss, if there is a next week.
But that is a lot of long-range thinking.
“I think we’re built for this,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “But we’ve got to win tomorrow first or it doesn’t mean anything.”
TCU was second in the country with a 2.33 ERA in the regular season. In postseason, it is 2.55. In Omaha, it is 2.00.
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Schlossnagle has needed only 3 1/3 innings from his bullpen in Omaha. Brian Howard and Ferrell each pitched an inning on Sunday. Teakell pitched 1 1/3 innings on Tuesday. Yet to be used are Brian Trieglaff, Preston Guillory and Travis Evans. Howard is the No. 5 starter and might be held in reserve a little longer than normal. Drew Gooch is unavailable because of injury.
So the Horned Frogs have their pitching set up as well as any team facing elimination could hope.
But it remains a long climb, which has to start Thursday with a win.
“A pitching staff like ours, the top pitching staff in the country, gives us a ton of confidence as hitters,” first baseman Jeremie Fagnan said. “We have confidence in every single guy, 100 percent, whoever’s out there on the mound. We’ll be there to back them up.”
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760
TCU’s starting rotation has a 2.28 ERA over 10 playoff games this year:
Mitchell Traver 2-0, 0.00 ERA
1 start, 11 IP, 0 ER, 5 BB, 13 K
Preston Morrison 1-1, 1.85 ERA
3 starts, 24.1 IP, 5 ER, 4 BB, 20 K
Tyler Alexander 1-0, 2.77 ERA
2 starts, 13.0 IP, 4 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
Alex Young 0-1, 2.95 ERA
3 starts, 18.1 IP, 6 ER, 3 BB, 26 K
Brian Howard 0-0, 6.24 ERA
1 start, 4.1 IP, 3 ER, 4 BB, 3 K
Totals: 4-2, 2.28 ERA
10 starts, 71 IP, 18 ER, 17 BB, 69 K
College World Series
TCU vs. LSU
7 p.m. Thursday, TD Ameritrade Park, Omaha, Neb.
Pitching: Mitchell Traver (9-2, 1.60) vs. Zac Person (2-0, 3.34)
Winner vs. Vanderbilt, 7 p.m. Friday; Loser out