The Bases: TCU's Horned Frogs played themselves into an at-large bid by winning 22 of 28 since April 6, finishing the year with a 36-19 overall record and taking 18 of 24 in their last year in Mountain West Conference play. The Frogs have made the postseason in each of their nine years under Jim Schlossnagle and first appeared in the College World Series in 2010.
The Scoop: TCU is a very young team. Lineup stalwart LF Jason Coats tore his ACL on May 20, ending his Horned Frogs career; freshman third-team All-America hurler Preston Morrison went 9-1 with a 1.73 ERA and threw a team-leading 98.2 innings despite making only eight starts after starting the season in relief. Between those two mainstays, there are far more stud freshmen in key roles for the Frogs than seasoned juniors and seniors. TCU's chances for Omaha depend on youth stepping up.
The Expert Take: Chuck LaMendola, TCU's radio play-by-play announcer, took some time to talk with SBNation Dallas about the Horned Frogs' season and their chances in this year's NCAA tournament. Here are his thoughts on the Horned Frogs' strengths, weaknesses and chances in a loose Q-&-A form, with addendums in parentheses:
On Consistency: "We have been a little streaky: there was a nine-game early losing streak, but (Schlossnagle) didn't field the actual lineup until about halfway through the year. Once (the lineup) solidified, we won a bunch of games, and besides the conference tournament (where TCU dropped two of three) we were playing our best baseball."
On Pitching: "(Preston) Morrison was the first freshman to win Pitcher of the Year in the Mountain West (he was also Freshman of the Year). For Stefan Crichton, his last year set such high expectations, and in comparison to Morrison, his numbers don't look great, but they're not bad. Same for Andrew Mitchell.
"Kevin Allen has been good in the 'pen, and Justin Scharff is a knuckledragger, a real submariner. They're the two main guys there."
On Hitting: "We play a bunch of freshmen, and it took them a while to figure it out. Jantzen Witte was hurt, and (Jason) Elander is one of the mainstays. Kevin Cron (freshman and brother of Angels 2011 first-rounder C.J. Cron), he was a third-round pick out of high school, and he was hurt at the beginning of the year, but he's hit the ball lights out lately: He reminds me of Thurman Munson lately, when I was a kid, just everything's a rocket. Jerrick Suter is another freshman, a three-sport star in Indiana (out of Valparaiso) who has been playing left field real well since Coats went down."
On The Opposition: "We played both Texas A&M and Ole Miss, who we played a series against that we split. We lost our one midweek game to A&M 4-0, but its always close. Both teams can give us problems because they have really good pitching and a lot of speed. We got to stop them, if they get on base, from playing station-to-station baseball. The Aggies have a big homefield advantage, because they take that 12th Man stuff seriously for baseball too; they'll have six or seven thousand screaming Aggie fans there. But any one of those three could come out of there."
The Schedule: TCU opens regional play against Ole Miss on Friday at 12:35 CDT. Broadcast will be on ESPN3 and 88.7 KTCU.