Tuesday, June 17, 2014
game preview: TCU
Date/Time: Tuesday, June 17; 8:00
Record against the Frogs: 0-0
Last meeting: None
Last game: UVA 2, Ole Miss 1; TCU 3, TTU 2
LHP Brandon Waddell (9-3, 2.66, 63 Ks) vs LHP Brandon Finnegan (9-3, 2.12, 129 Ks)
Believe it or not, there were some firsts that got achieved on Sunday night. UVA had never beaten a team from outside of the state of California in the CWS, for example, and until Sunday was 0-4 in Omaha against the SEC as well. (In fact, Tuesday will be UVA's first CWS game against someone other than the SEC or California. This is less surprising than it sounds, when you think about it.)
The Hoos are carrying the flag for the ACC this year, and Tuesday's meeting will feature the only two national seeds to make it to Omaha. So there's a lot riding on it, besides the usual meaning of game 2 of a double-elimination tourney.
TCU's recent history is awfully similar to UVA's, actually: also-ran status at best until they hired their current coach in 2004, who suddenly started winning confernence tournaments and hosting regionals. The Froggies are in their second-ever CWS, their first trip being in 2010. They're this year's Big 12 champs, and have lost one game in the whole postseason so far, stretching from the Big 12 tourney up til now - that one being a 3-2 nailbiter to super regional opponent Pepperdine. You didn't expect this Omaha thing to be easy, I hope.
Win this, and UVA will, of course, await the winner of the losers' bracket; the losing team in this game will have to face the winner of the 3 PM game between Ole Miss and Texas Tech. (This is unlikely to be Texas Tech.) Below, find your scouting report:
-- First base: Kevin Cron (.278-5-40). Cleanup hitter who owns the most power in the Frogs' lineup, but scouting reports for the draft suggest he would have a lot more if he refined his swing and approach. Junior who was drafted in the 14th round by the D-backs, but turned down a 3rd-round pick three years ago. Huge and slow on the basepaths.
-- Second base: Garrett Crain (.329-1-19). Bats 5th. Very good contact hitter who doesn't strike out much. Excellent fielder who nevertheless went undrafted as a junior this year.
-- Third base: Derek Odell (.277-1-35). Bats 2nd. Another undrafted junior; has never been a stellar hitter, but has a good batting eye with nearly as many walks as strikeouts, and is a solid fielder.
-- Shortstop: Keaton Jones (.275-0-20). Bats 8th. Light hitter with almost no power - only four doubles this season. Very rangy on defense and forms the cornerstone of a veteran and very good-fielding infield.
-- Left field: Boomer White (.318-2-48). Bats 3rd. Good balance of speed, contact, and power. Only underclassman (he's a sophomore) in the lineup.
-- Center field: Cody Jones (.272-0-17). Leadoff hitter with terrific speed - has 28 SBs in 33 attempts. Has 45 walks but also 47 Ks - both numbers are quite high. Not much power, but that's to be expected. Taken in the 38th round of the draft by the Indians.
-- Right field: Dylan Fitzgerald (.314-2-33). Bats 7th. Much improved hitter over last year; is now one of the better hitters in the lineup except for a nasty penchant for striking out; leads the team in that regard.
-- Catcher: Kyle Bacak (.267-0-18). Bats 9th. Never been much of a hitter; has no power. Like most of the lineup, transferred from the junior college ranks. Drafted in the 25th round by the Nats.
-- Designated hitter: Jerrick Suiter (.273-0-29). Bats 6th. 26th-round pick by the Pirates, drafted as a right fielder; can also catch and pitched some as a freshman.
-- Pitching staff:
Starter: Brandon Finnegan (9-3, 2.12, 129 Ks). Finnegan was drafted 17th overall by the Royals, just a couple notches ahead of Nick Howard. He's a rare sort of pitcher: a 5'11" lefty with the fastball of a 6'3" righty. It's his best pitch and he can throw it with a range of speeds; some scouting reports have him around 93-96 and others more like 91-94, but can occasionally touch 98. Breaking ball is his second-best pitch and the change-up is third; someone patiently sitting on the change-up could easily strike out before they see one but could destroy it if it comes. Finnegan does strike out a ton of hitters - so it's not the best idea necessarily to wait for that one pitch - and his heavy fastball limits quality contact. He's allowed just eight doubles this year. In his last start - Game 1 against Pepperdine - he allowed three hits and struck out 7 in 6 1/3.
Bullpen: The availability of closer Riley Ferrell (3-1, 0.87, 66 Ks) may be in doubt, as he went 1 2/3 innings and threw 33 pitches against Texas Tech; that said, they did play the early game and Ferrell would have over 48 hours of rest. Ferrell has a .138 Op.BA and over 1.5 K's per inning, and can absolutely deal it. The rest of the pen is perfectly fresh and never got off the bench on Sunday, giving TCU full use of workhorses Trey Teakell (6-0, 2.22, 36 Ks) and Alex Young (1-3, 2.53, 39 Ks). Teakell is a righthander and Young a southpaw. Both can go 2 or 3 innings if necessary; TCU leans very heavily on those two and doesn't otherwise have a tremendously deep pen. Unless UVA knocks Finnegan out of the box really, really early, there aren't any other pitchers we're likely to see.
Synopsis: TCU is known as a pitching-and-fielding team. They'd be a formidable opponent in a three-game series, as they have a very deep starting rotation, if not quite the bullpen depth UVA has. Brandon Waddell is a very fine pitcher; Finnegan is probably better. UVA has more options in the bullpen, but in a one-game affair, that's not going to matter.
However, this lineup reminds me a lot of a more veteran Maryland. It's mostly juco transfers, and very experienced, but there isn't that one really scary player. It's just a good lineup with minimal weak points, lacking major league firepower. As you'll recall, Waddell tossed an excellent game against the Terps; TCU's lineup is a degree or two better, but Ole Miss had a much better one. If UVA can find a few runs against Finnegan - and he wouldn't be the first ace-quality pitcher the Hoos have had just enough success against - they should be able to sneak out another low-scoring win.
Prediction: UVA 3, TCU 2
It's at this point where I humbly apologize for the unexpected disappearance. Unexpected to me, anyway. You might be used to it by now. I did fully intend to preview the Ole Miss game. I installed a new hard drive and figured re-installing Windows would be a simple matter, only it wasn't. I eventually found a fix online, and I have no idea why it worked or why the damn thing was broke in the first place, but I'm not arguing. I'm back online, albeit with a slightly delayed FOV COY contest.