While Texas fans debate the merits of small ball, TCU stayed alive in the Austin Super Regional with the longball, downing the Longhorns 3-2 with a pair of home runs on Sunday afternoon at the Disch. Each of TCU's 7 runs in the series have come via home run. The two teams will square off Monday evening at 6:00 CST at the Disch (TV: ESPNU / Radio: 98.1 FM, 1300 AM).
I was in attendance for Sunday's loss and have a few thoughts both on that contest and tonight's Omaha-decider, all after the jump.
- Both starting pitchers had strong stuff on Sunday afternoon, but TCU starter Paul Gerrish was just a little bit better in his approach. With umpire Randy Harvey and his notoriously generous strike zone behind home plate, Gerrish mercilessly pounded Texas' hitters away-away-away. Every attempt from a UT hitter to pull the ball predictably resulted in a ground ball; every attempt to commit to the outside of the plate was countered with a perfect inside fastball. Gerrish's stuff was strong, but it was his approach that was most superb.
- Cole Green was for the most part excellent himself, but unlike Gerrish, he left two balls up and over the plate--both breaking pitches the Horned Frogs drove out of the park.
- I give a lot of credit to TCU manager Jim Schlossnagle, who I thought had his team exceptionally well prepared for an elimination game. Augie Garrido's smallball defenders note its effectiveness in putting pressure on the other team; there's assuredly something to that, but watching at the Disch yesterday, it was clear as day that Sclossnagle had his team mentally focused on executing the game in front of them, without worry about Texas or the 7,000 fans cheering them on. You could literally see it in the way the TCU players raced back to their positions and whipped the ball around the horn after recording an out. They played like a team that believed not just that they could win, but that they would.
- I thought the game was decided by two at-bats in the 7th following Kevin Keyes leadoff double. With TCU starter Paul Gerrish starting show signs of fatigue, Augie had a long chat with Brandon Loy before sending him to his at-bat. Though I thought Garrido was wise to let him swing, Loy grounded to short on an 0-1 pitch after trying to pull an outside pitch. Preston Clark picked him up by driving in Keyes with a single, but Loy's at-bat was a microcosm of the 'Horns day at the plate.
Following Clark was Cameron Rupp, who prior to the 7th had had the best at-bat of the game against Gerrish (back in the 5th, with a one-out single on a 3-2 pitch). At the time it felt to me like the biggest at-bat of the game--a chance to rough up a fatiguing Gerrish with one of the few batters who'd looked good against him on the afternoon. Rupp got the fastball he was looking for on the first pitch, but hit it off the end of the bat a bit, flying out harmlessly to right. Conner Rowe fouled out to the catcher to end the inning, Clark was stranded, and Texas missed their last best chance to get to Gerrish (who left the game after plunking Moldenhauer to start the 8th).
- Looking ahead to tonight's game, I saw enough from Jim Schlossnagle's TCU team yesterday to be convinced they won't fold from pressure. There's good news for Texas, however: Green's seven strong innings ensured virtually the entire pitching staff will be available on good rest for tonight's game. As has been the story throughout this season, whether or not Texas heads to Omaha will come down to their ability to hit. This team has Omaha-worthy pitching and--especially--defense. Let's plate some runs. Hook 'em!