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College World Series Preview: TCU Horned Frogs

The Horned Frogs entered the season as a Top 15 team and have lived up to the billing making it to Omaha.

FloSports: FloBaseball College Baseball Showdown Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Three of the most successful programs over the last 15 years are tied together in the Virginia side of the bracket with the Hoos, Florida Gators, and TCU Horned Frogs. Like UVA, TCU is making their 6th College World Series appearance since 2009, but their first since 2017. That 2017 appearance was their fourth straight trip to Omaha which saw three of those trips end in the championship games of bracket play.

Most will remember the 2017 NCAA Regional in Fort Worth as the last time the Cavaliers squared off with TCU, but the most important matchup between the two came in 2014 College World Series when the Hoos came out on top 3-2 in 15 innings, which was the longest postseason game in UVA postseason history and 4th longest ever for Virginia. The only other game between the two came at the beginning of the season in Arizona and saw TCU take that game 9-4.

This season saw TCU go through a swoon at the end of April not all that unlike Virginia’s stumble at a similar period. The Horned Frogs lost three straight series to UNC Wilmington, West Virginia, and Texas, while also dropping a midweek game to Lamar to go 3-8 over that span. When the calendar turned to May, TCU flipped a switch to take the final game of their series with Texas and have only dropped two games since going 19-2 in the month of May. Since the beginning of postseason play, including the Big 12 Tournament, they are 9-0 winning more games by 6 or more runs than not.

In the NCAA Tournament the Horned Frog bats have been on fire averaging nearly 11 runs a game including nearly 15 runs an inning in the Arkansas regional. They played the No. 2 overall seed Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville twice and beat them by a combined score of 32 to 9.

Though he doesn’t lead the team in average, Junior infielder Brayden Taylor is considered the best bat in their lineup. He leads the Horned Frogs with 23 home runs, 69 RBI, and a .657 slugging percentage to go with a .314 average and .439 on base percentage. He was a 1st Team Preseason All-American with D1Baseball and is likely cemented his place on the 1st team this season while likely getting picked in the first round of next month’s MLB Draft.

The rest of the lineup is no slouches either. Combined they are hitting .299 with a .891 OPS and a .490 OPS. They’ve hit 134 doubles and 10 triples on the season, which could be more important in Omaha than their 88 home runs on the season. Perhaps most important for teams playing TCU is their 160 stolen base attempts on the season that has seen them be successful 139 times lead by Junior Tre Richardson’s 24 stolen bases in 27 attempts.

Though not nearly as powerful as their offensive counterparts, TCU’s pitching staff has been impressive in the postseason not allowing more than 5 runs in any of their NCAA Tournament games and combining to hold Indiana State to just 5 runs total last weekend. Ace Kole Klecker started their Friday game against Indiana State last weekend so it’s assumed he would start against Oral Roberts on Friday. If UVA matches up against TCU on Sunday they would likely face grad transfer Sam Stoutenborough who transferred to TCU this year after 4 years at Cal. This season he’s put together a 5-0 record with a 4.52 ERA in 20 appearances and 9 games started. He is averaging less than a strikeout per inning and batters are hitting .269 against the righty. He has been sufficient for TCU in the NCAA Tournament against Arkansas and Indiana State throwing 6 innings of 4 run ball against Arkansas while going 5.1 innings and holding Indiana State to 3 runs on 5 hits.

If the Cavaliers can take care of business against Florida on Friday night they should feel good going into a matchup with TCU and Stoutenborough. The Cavaliers would likely have the advantage on the mound, but there should be fireworks abound with the power that both UVA and TCU have at the plate.