While Vanderbilt will avoid Florida (for now), we are undeniably on the tougher side of the Omaha bracket. To reach the CWS Finals, our DEFENDING NATIONAL CHAMPION VANDERBILT COMMODORES (sorry, the dog stepped on the caps lock button) will have to face two traditional national powers (Cal State Fullerton and LSU) and a TCU squad who has been to Omaha three times in the last 6 years.
Unlike fellow Texas schools UT-Austin and aTm, TCU isn't as easy to mock. In fact, all I know about them is they have a reputation for pretty women and ingesting all the nose candy Colombian Willy Wonka can chef up.
See this documentary footage of a Fall '14 TCU Freshman Residence Hall Orientation Mixer:
Other than debutante 8-balls, TCU is known for its pitching. Time and again, head coach Jim Schlossnagle has amassed a cadre of arms talented enough to out-match pretty much everyone they face (they don't face us often). This year is no different. Despite losing Brandon Finnegan to the Kansas City Royals, where he became the first ever pitcher to play in the College World Series and MLB World Series in the same year, the arms of the horny toads still managed to compile a frightening 2.38 team ERA (2nd in the nation).
In short, they have the one pitching staff that can rival ours both in talent and depth.
Let's see what else they've got...
Texas Christian University
Record: 49-13 (15-5 Big XII, err... X) #10 RPI
All-Time Record Against Vanderbilt: I don't give a crap, and I'm not doing the research to find out. They beat us 4-2 in Dodger Stadium on March 8th of this year, though, when Corbs had Philip Pfeifer pitch 5 innings of relief on short rest for some reason.
How'd They Get Here?: TCU hosted a peach of a Super Regional against aTm. The series went 3 games, with TCU cruising 13-4 in game 1, losing a 2-1 squeaker in 10 innings in game 2, and engaged in a game 3 battle of wills - somehow avoiding the flashlights and gigging poles of those College Station weirdos for 16 innings in a 5-4 win to punch their ticket to Omaha.
Best Win: 4-2 over the defending National Champion Vanderbilt Commodores. Duh. In that same early-season invitational, they beat UCLA 3-1, but you know who else can beat UCLA? Maryland. In conference, there wasn't a lot of competition for the horny toads, so even though they swept a lot of conference foes, none of that stands out. Against the 2nd best team in their conference, Oklahoma State, they lost the series 2 games to 1.
Worst Loss: A 2 games to 1 series loss to Kansas State (motto: Wait, do we have a baseball team?) in which they were trolley-stomped 14-4 on a Friday night in April. Though they outclassed their league all year, they did go two and BBQ in the Big XII Tournament, losing 6-5 and 8-1 to Baylor and Texas Tech, respectively.
Batter(s) to Keep an Eye On: TCU is a better hitting team than they've been in the past few years, but there's really only one guy to look out for - senior OF Cody Jones. Simply put, Jones can rake. He has a crazy .371/.474/.500 slash line and has swiped 31 of 37 on the base paths. He's on base nearly half of his at bats and is usually on 2nd soon after. Do. Not. Walk. Him.
Pitcher(s) to Watch: Are you kidding me? All of them. Their weekend rotation includes Sr. RHP Preston Morrison (11-3, 2.55 ERA), Jr. LHP Alex Young (9-2, 2.31 ERA), and RS So. RHP Mitchell Traver (9-2, 1.60 ERA), a 6'7" 255lb behemoth from Sugar Land, TX. Then, if you chase their starters and get to their bullpen, you're dealing with Preston Guillory - a junior RHP from Baton Rouge who's sporting a literally unbelievable 0.00 ERA in 25 innings on the year - RS Sr. RHP Trey Teakell (2-1, 1.51 ERA), and junior closer Riley Ferrell (1-3, 2.83 ERA), who has 14 saves on the season.
Key Stat: The Unstoppable Force v. The Immovable Object. Our pitching stats are nearly identical (we hold opponents to a .217 batting average, TCU holds them to .218, etc.), but the main question on my mind will be this: Will Omaha's TD Ameritrade stadium be the elephants' graveyard for home run power it was last year, or will the new ball be enough to allow a few to clear the fence? Neither pitching staff allows many long balls, as Vandy has only surrendered 30 on the year, and TCU has given up 33. However, Vandy can hit them (66 home runs), whereas TCU can't (27 home runs). If this was last year, I could pretty confidently claim this advantage would be neutralized, but this year, with the new ball, our power could play.