TCU overcame an early deficit to eliminate LSU from the College World Series. Now they'll have to get past the team that pushed them to the brink of elimination in order to keep their season alive when they face Vanderbilt.
The Horned Frogs and Commodores engaged in a classic on Tuesday thanks to a pitcher's duel between Vandy's Philip Pfeifer and TCU's Alex Young. Young stymied batters through six no-hit innings before serving up a game-changing home run to Zander Wiel in the seventh. That's all Pfeifer needed to carry the 'Dores to a 1-0 win and put his team one win from a return to the College World Series finals.
That loss bumped #7 TCU to the loser's bracket where they faced #2 LSU for the second time in five days. The Tigers played better than they did in the first outing, but still saw their season end in an 8-4 defeat. Now a veteran Frog team will face their 12th game of the NCAA Tournament against one of the best pitchers college baseball has to offer.
Vanderbilt will turn to Sunday starter and #24 overall draft pick Walker Buehler to start Friday's game. It will be the righty's first action since throwing five shutout innings in a 21-0 win over Radford in the Nashville Regional. He's gone 18 days without pitching against an actual opponent. That extended break could be an issue tonight, but Buehler suggests that the layoff won't be a problem.
"I'm rested, for sure," Buehler told the Tennessean. "You've got to be confident, too."
He'll face off against Tyler Alexander, a left-handed pitcher that fills the mold of the kind of junkballer who has tied up Vanderbilt's bats in 2015. Alexander was a Freshman All-American in 2014 and has been nearly as good in 2015. However, the Horned Frogs' bullpen depth behind him has taken a hit in their past three games. Trey Teakell, who pitched 1.1 perfect innings against the Commodores on Tuesday, threw 36 pitches on Thursday and will likely be unavailable this evening.
Tonight's game probably won't be another 1-0 barnburner, but with two All-Americans on the mound the fireworks should be in short supply. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 CST. You can watch the game live on ESPN or listen to Joe Fisher's crooning calls on 95.9 FM in Nashville or online courtesy of VUCommodores.com. And, as always, you can join us here in the comments to discuss TCU's never-ending string of pitchers with sub-3.00 ERAs.
Vanderbilt: Walker Buehler (4-2, 2.97 ERA, 81 Ks in 78.2 innings)
TCU: Tyler Alexander (6-2, 2.86, 69 in 91.1)