With the Hoos late night Sunday victory over Ole Miss, the Cavaliers advance in the winner's bracket in Omaha to face the TCU Horned Frogs who took care of Texas Tech on Sunday, 3-2.
If you like offense and lots of runs, look away. If you're a fan of good pitching and zero home runs, and of course you are because you're a UVa fan, boy do we have just the matchup for you.
TCU comes into Tuesday with an impressive 48-16 record. Much like UVa, they've put together a strong run thus far in the NCAA tournament, sweeping through their regional (Siena, Sam Houston St, and Dallas Baptist) and dropping a game in their Super Regional (to Pepperdine), but winning when it matters most. They were named the #7 national seed, and as many of you know, are the only remaining national seed other than UVa. So, the NCAA kindof got something right!
Their record says they are 48-16, but they're playing even better baseball than that indicates. Since the end of March they've put together an impressive 33-4 record after losing series to Michigan State, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State in March.
Like UVa, the Horned Frogs are anchored by their strong pitching. As a whole, they feature the #1 ERA in the country at 2.18. In comparison, UVa is #2 at 2.29. They are also 3rd in the country in strikeouts with 553, 5th in the country in batting average against (.216), 6th in hits allowed per 9 innings (7.01), and lead the country in WHIP (1.02).
They're led by their Junior left-handed ace, Branden Finnegan, who will take the mound Tuesday against the Cavaliers. Finnegan entered the season with high regard after spending last summer with the Collegiate National Team, and has not disappointed the TCU faithful thus far earning 1st team All Big-XII and 3rd team All-American Honors. He was drafted 17th overall by the Royals in this year's draft, and boasts 9-3 record to go along with a 2.12 ERA. He's 5th in the country in strikeouts with 129 on the season, but 2nd in the country in strikeouts per nine innings, averaging nearly 12 per game (11.89). No doubt, Finnegan is a stud pitcher, but the good stat for UVa fans to focus on is his innings pitched. He's only thrown 97 innings this year in 16 starts, meaning he's only averaging just over 6 innings per start. The Horned Frogs' pen is good, but facing anyone else would likely be good for UVa.
Also like UVa, the TCU offense is forced to play in a massive field. They've only hit 13 home runs on the season, so they are forced to score their runs another way. Like UVa's Super Regional opponent, Maryland, TCU's aggression on the basepaths allows them to score 3 or 4 runs, which seem like enough to win most of their games. They have 127 steal attempts on the season, but have only been successful 89 of those times.
They will feature a .283 team batting average, a .374 on base percentage, and .358 slugging percentage, but none of those numbers should intimidate UVa fans or pitchers. They'll be lead by Boomer White (if there is a name more destined for Oklahoma greatness, I don't know what it is) who paces the TCU offense in runs, hits, and RBI, while coming in at 2nd on the team in average at .318. As far as steals go, the UVa catchers will have to keep an eye on Cody Jones who is 28 for 33 in stolen base attempts. Jones has 45 walks and a .272 batting average, but has also struck out 47 times on the season. Limiting his time on base might be more important than anyone else in the TCU lineup.
UVa showed they can shut down an offense on Sunday against Ole Miss. They've proven that they can get guys on, but getting those runners across the plate has been a struggle. Up against a staff of TCU's caliber will be like an intersquad game to UVa, so intimidation should not be much of a factor. Fortunately for UVa fans, I believe UVa has the offense to get hits off TCU pitching, but scoring could be another story. Should be a great game on Tuesday.