TCU is going nearly a week without playing a game, which gives the Horned Frogs some well-deserved rest coming out of the Super Regional.
Of the eight teams in the College World Series, TCU is the only team that has played the maximum eight games.
|TCU (49-13) vs. LSU (50-10)|
“When you’re in a regional and it’s 95-100 degrees out in Texas with humidity and you’ve played three games in a row … it’s all adrenaline,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said.
Not only did the Frogs play the maximum amount of games prior to the CWS, they also played to extra innings in three of their past four games, including a 16-inning marathon against Texas A&M in the Super Regional final.
Sunday’s probable starter, Preston Morrison, started the second game of that Super Regional and went 9.1 innings. With 113 IP in 17 appearances, Morrison is an innings eater.
He doesn’t throw hard, but his fastball sits in the mid-80s with sink and he mixes in a good curveball. He will be forced to face a lineup that does a good job of getting on base and likes to steal bases.
“I know that our pitchers do a really good job of holding on runners,” TCU catcher Evan Skoug said. “I like challenges so I'm really excited to see what the game plan is. I haven't gotten the scouting report yet but I'm excited I'm just ready to get this thing rolling.”
The leader of the LSU lineup, Alex Bregman, is also the team’s steals leader with 37.
Bregman attributes the team’s aggressive approach to hitting coach Andrew Cannizaro.
“I think we attempt to steal bases at the right time and I think it works hand-in-hand with our offense,” Bregman said. “We lead the SEC and batting this year and a lot of other offense of categories and when you do that and you're running, running, running teams are starting to throw more fastballs.”
Morrison will be opposed on Sunday by LSU sophomore Jared Poche’. Poche’ is also over 100 innings at this point in the season and he -- like Morrison -- pitches to contact, with just 69 strikeouts in 105 innings.
“We’d like to see Jared go out there and compete and throw strikes,” LSU catcher Kade Scivicque. said “Just pound the zone and let the defense work behind him.”
The team that self-proclaims they “don’t belong,” gets the first shot at the defending champs on Sunday.
|CAL ST. FULLERTON (39-23) vs. VANDY (47-19)|
“Up until this point we always say, ‘Yeah, we’re not supposed to be here, we have nothing to lose,’” Fullerton’s David Olmedo-Barrera said. “Now that we’re here we just say, ‘We’re still not supposed to be here but we are and were not supposed to win, but lets do that too.’ … Just tell us that we can’t and we’ll do it.”
Although two home runs were hit in the CWS opener, Fullerton doesn’t have much power in its lineup and will still use the big park to its advantage.
“We saw last year and years before -- watching the College World Series -- the ball doesn’t fly here,” infielder Josh Vargas said. “Our small ball game is going to be really good for us.”
The Titans have a legitimate ace in workhorse Thomas Eshelman. Eshelman is up to 131 innings pitched on the season with just as many strikeouts, but the important tool he has to use in the opener is his familiarity with the big guns in Vanderbilt’s lineup.
“I’ve talked to Dansby [Swanson] a lot. I always talk to him about the little rivalry he has with Bregman in the SEC,” Eshelman said. “I think it’s pretty cool. Those guys work hard, and [Carson] Fulmer is a guy who works his [tail] off each and every day. I got nothing but good things to say about him.”
Eshelman and Justin Garza played with Swanson and Fulmer last summer with the USA baseball program.
Fulmer, a Golden Spikes finalist, will likely get the start against Fullerton in the opening game and he is familiar with the Titans approach at the plate.
“Obviously the short game, I think, will be a big component of what they do, Fulmer said. “They have a ton of great hitters one-to-nine. Just sticking to our approach is the biggest thing.”