Ole Miss faces an elimination game Thursday in Omaha against TCU, a team with a dominant pitching staff who is one of only two national seeds to make it to Omaha. Like the Rebels, the Horned Frogs were dropped into the loser's bracket by Virginia. So at least we have a shared dislike of the Cavs.
RCR: I was in Fort Worth two years ago when Ole Miss made the trip down and was impressed by the stadium and crowd. How big is baseball at TCU, and how closely are people following the Frogs in Omaha?
Marshall: A very close second to football. I grew up going to Texas games, and they have great, large crowds. But in Fort Worth, you see a lot more students and they're about 60 percent of the crowd, whereas in Austin they're more like 25-30 percent. Having a bunch of students there gives a really loud energy to the place and the players really feed off of that. I have yet to find someone at TCU who finds going to those games "boring."
We traveled to Omaha well too, especially for a school of only 8,000. What we lack in size, we make up for in noise. We're only half-sorry about the "woo" birds. Which actually started at the 22-inning game against Sam Houston State. Late into the game, and quite delirious, we just started chanting "Hootie Hoo" from the song the OutKast song, "Slump." It was recently brought back to life in the movie Neighbors. You're supposed to "hootie hoo" every time you see a cop, so when the Fort Worth police officer was spotted throughout the night, we'd "bootie hoo." We won, and it's been going ever since -- and I guess evolved into just random wooing. It's a 2014 tradition for sure, and probably won't be back next year. Just wanted to set the record straight on the origin story. They're like the vuvuzelas at the 2010 World Cup, you'll only miss them when they're gone.
That's the kind of fans TCU has. It's very connected. The fans connect with Schloss and the players on Twitter. It's not one way either, there's a lot of back and forth … it's definitely as good as a community as you can have for a sport.
You used only two relievers in the 15 inning marathon against Virginia, but one of them was key closer Ryan Ferrell. Who will TCU lean on if the game is close at the end? What other arms should we expect to see out of the pen?
Ferrell should be a Top-10 pick next year. He's probably the best natural arm we have on the team. But for a late innings guy, I wouldn't be surprised if Trey Teakell threw again tonight. He's the best non-Ferrell reliever we have. He's got a lanky build, but he's really hard to hit and has been nothing but effective for us this year. But given that Teak pitched Tuesday night, you might see Alex Young.
Head coach Jim Schlossnagle has announced that Tyler Alexander will start on the mound. What should we expect from him?
Alexander's been absolute dynamite since the Texas series in April. Up until last week's supers, he was the hottest pitcher on staff. First and foremost, having a lefty throw against a lefty-heavy team like Ole Miss is a huge plus. He's not going to strike out a lot of guys, but he works the pitch count as good as anyone on our team. Alexander's a guy who's also going to give you a lot of innings. He's only a freshman, but he's matured so much this year and the biggest thing he's improved on is his endurance. I'd look for him to throw at least seven innings tonight. But, I'm going to be optimistic and say eight.
Dylan Fitzgerald, Boomer White and Kevin Cron are the big names on offense. Who's a guy in the lineup that may not have the numbers and publicity but that we should be looking out for?
There are a few. TCU's lucky enough to have a lineup where any guy 1-9 is capable of producing that big hit. Garrett Crain has been really consistent all year and Keaton Jones has been on fire lately. But I think the most underrated is Kyle Bacak, our catcher and No. 9 hitter. He's one of the best bunters in college -- he had the big suicide squeeze against Pepperdine in Game 3 -- he gets on base a lot and has really good speed for a catcher.
This is a showdown between arguably the best offense in Omaha vs. the best pitching. The X-factor of course is pitcher-friendly TD Ameritrade Park. How much do you think that skews the advantage toward the Frogs?
It's hard to say. I think the real advantage TCU holds is the depth of its pitching. The park certainly compliments our pitching, but it doesn't do our offense any favors either. You saw the other night against Virginia and how difficult it was for either team to score any runs. That game had probably the best pitching performances, on both sides, as I've seen in a long time. When TCU had the lead, and when UVa won the game, these runs came off errors and mental mistakes.
The Frogs certainly have the arsenal of arms to get them through this game, and it's certainly an advantage. But as underwhelming as they've been offensively, Ole Miss is going to get a lot of chances to win this game, especially if they pitch well. Ole Miss won't light up the scoreboard tonight, and even if it's scoring just one run off of throwing error --despite how brilliant Alexander may be -- that may be enough to get past our offense tonight.
Tell me who wins the game and why.
TCU responds well to defeat. I hope this doesn't jinx us, but they haven't lost two in a row since Oklahoma State in late March. And even though I just gave the offense some hell, they've put up their best offensive performances when Alexander's on the bump. While some of that is attributed to facing the other team's third starter -- and to answer the penultimate better -- that's where TCU wins this game. Having a guy like Alexander as your No. 3, who could be No. 1 at a lot of places, may be TCU's deadliest weapon. It worked in the Big 12 Championship against Oklahoma State, and it worked in regionals.
Both TCU and Ole Miss are tired annd Alexander's not going to give any team much breathing room, and the Frogs are going to use that to their advantage.
Going to say 4-2, TCU