Southwest Rewind: TCU, Texas A&M Rolling
As the calendar turns to May, college baseball teams pretty much are what they are, which means their resumes are what they are as well. The Big 12 has shaped up into a two-team battle for the crown in what is probably a two-bid league right now, and Texas A&M showed a lot of character with its bounce back after at Tennessee last week after a series loss at LSU.
All this and more is covered in this week’s Southwest Rewind:
Texas A&M responds in big way
A week after dropping a hard-fought series at LSU, the Aggies showed the characteristic of a club that can get deep into the NCAA postseason by responding on the road with a series win. Not only did Texas A&M win a series at Tennessee, it swept the Volunteers, and it won two of those games by one run.
Mitchell Nau led the way for the Aggies at the plate with a 6-for-10 effort over the weekend, which included two runs scored, and seven RBI. Leadoff man Blake Allemand provided a big presence with the stick as well as he went 7-for-11 with seven of A&M’s 20 runs over the weekend.
The Tennessee series was the kind of series we’ve seen from the Aggies this year – different players step up to provide impressive production, and the team simply finds ways to win tight games thanks to its bullpen and clutch hitting.
TCU on fire, no signs of slowing down
After dropping a series at Kansas State in uncharacteristic fashion, TCU responded by winning 11 of its last 12 games with its only loss being on the road against Dallas Baptist in a midweek contest. With a chance to win the Big 12 regular-season crown and put itself in very strong position for a national seed, the Horned Frogs have played some of their best baseball, and have returned to what makes them so good – great pitching, great defense, aggressive approach on offense.
By winning six-straight Big 12 games, TCU controls its own destiny in the conference. Ahead of Oklahoma State by two in the loss category with six Big 12 games remaining, TCU hosts Kansas this upcoming weekend before traveling to Oklahoma to finish the season. But it won’t be easy. Oklahoma State, in its lone remaining conference series, hosts that same West Virginia team that TCU just swept, and could realistically end up 17-7 in the Big 12 with a series win over TCU. That being said, the way TCU is playing makes a 5-1 Big 12 finish feel like a fairly strong possibility.
After sweeping West Virginia in Morgantown, TCU is now plus-39 in run-differential over its last three series and has given up more than five runs just once. In conference games, no one is hitting at a higher clip than Connor Wanhanen (.419/.486/.468) and Cody Jones (.400/.500/.500). The latter continues to be the energy that makes the TCU machine go.
Houston positions itself in AAC race
The Houston Cougars just keep finding arms. In a weekend series in which Houston received no innings from Aaron Garza, it went on the road and gave up just three earned runs in a series win over Tulane.
We’ve written many times about righthander Andrew Lantrip, who has emerged as a legit Friday arm. But how about junior righthander Kyle Dowdy and freshman lefthander Seth Romero? Dowdy tossed a complete game shutout Saturday, and is now 7-1 with a 2.77 ERA in 65 innings with just 13 walks. Romero pitched 8.1 innings of one-run baseball, and now holds a 1.80 ERA in 60 innings with 67 strikeouts and 14 walks. The freshman has also saved five games this season, and despite being a lefty he’s holding righthanders to a .208 batting average. Romero flashed big-time velocity earlier this season with a fastball up to 94-95 mph, but the big key for him has been the continued development of his secondary stuff, something he didn’t necessarily have earlier this year.
Now, Houston has six AAC conference games remaining, and they’re all at home. Up next for Houston: a home series against East Carolina, which Houston is tied with on top of the conference standings. The Cougars are up to No. 21 in RPI with seven top 50 RPI wins. Both East Carolina and Connecticut – Houston’s final two AAC series – are in the top 50 of RPI right now. It’s not crazy at all to think that Houston could play its way into the hosting mix.
The rest of the story …
• Texas Tech showed some resolve this past weekend with a road series win over Texas. After being on the wrong end of Texas senior righthander Parker French in his last home start as a Longhorn, the Red Raiders blasted the lifeless Longhorns 14-2 in the final two games.
Unfortunately for Texas Tech, it still sits at No. 70 in RPI with just three games remaining on the road against No. 102 West Virginia. That being said, the Red Raiders showed in Austin they’re a team that could make some noise in the Big 12 tournament with three solid starters and some legitimate power in the middle of the lineup. And they’ll need to with the RPI rating where it is and few top RPI wins.
Moving forward, keep an eye on freshman shortstop Orlando Garcia, who was playing for the injured Tim Proudfoot. Against the Longhorns, Garcia showed impressive range, instincts, and soft hands, which resulted in a handful of impressive defensive plays at shortstop. Behind Garcia in center, the speedy Zach Davis also flashed some really impressive leather thanks to his wheels.
• Lefthander Michael Freeman’s sensational season for Oklahoma State continued against rival Oklahoma this past weekend. The lefty tossed a complete game and gave up just one run on five hits, four walks, and seven strikeouts. The outing lowered his ERA to 1.16 in 85.2 innings pitched with a microscopic .184 batting average against. In Big 12 action, the numbers are even lower: 0.80 ERA and .172 batting average against.
Big 12 Power Poll
Right now, the best of the best in the Big 12 is not just rising to the top; it is at the top. Unfortunately for the conference, there really is a painfully obvious decline after the top two teams in the conference, and another one after the top four. This week’s Big 12 power poll:
1) Oklahoma State
4) Texas Tech
7) West Virginia
8) Kansas State