(Part 6 of an eight-part series previewing the College World Series)
Featuring four quality starters and a lights-out bullpen, TCU enters the College World Series on a tear.
Winners of 32 of their last 36 games, the Horned Frogs boast the nation's best earned run average (2.19).
TCU (47-16), which made its only previous CWS appearance in 2010, is paired against Big 12 Conference rival Texas Tech on Sunday at 2 p.m. in the opening round. Texas Tech won two out of three games in league play before the Horned Frogs won the fourth meeting 4-0 in a non-conference game at Abilene to salvage a split in the regular season series. TCU leads the all-time series with the Red Raiders, 86-68.
TCU's starters are a combined 35-13 with a 2.13 ERA; the bullpen is 12-3, 2.29. As a staff, the Horned Frogs have shutout 14 opponents while allowing two runs or less in 42 outings.
Junior righthander Preston Morrison (9-4, 1.32), freshman lefthander Tyler Alexander (10-3, 2.16), junior lefty (Brandon Finnegan) and junior righty Jordan Kipper (8-2, 3.10) form the four-deep starting rotation.
Morrison, the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year, has held opposing batters to a .197 average while working a staff-high 122 1/3 innings.
Finnegan was the 17th pick by the Kansas City Royals in the Major League Draft. A day later, the Los Angeles Angels chose Kipper in the ninth round. Working 97 2/3 innings, Finnegan has recorded 129 punchouts, walked 27 and allowed 70 hits.
Junior righthander Trey Teakell (6-0, 2.22) has thrived in multiple roles as a long reliever, short reliever and setup man in the bullpen. He has put together 21 2/3 scoreless innings over his last nine appearances.
Sophomore righthander Riley Ferrell (2-1, 0.68, 15 saves) has been virtually automatic as the closer.
Offensively, the Horned Frogs' gameplan is to manufacture runs. Sporting a .283 team batting average, TCU has hit a modest 13 home runs all season. California Irvine (12) is the lone team in Omaha with fewer bombs than the Frogs.
Sticking with a hot combination, coach Jim Schlossnagle has used the same starting lineup in 26 of the last 27 games (the Horned Frogs are 23-3 during that span).
Junior first baseman Kevin Cron is TCU's primary power source. Hitting at a .279 clip, Cron has five homers, two triples and 18 doubles while driving in 40 runs.
Shaking off a midseason slump, Kyle Bacak is 13-for-34 (.382) over the past 11 games. Since seeing his average plummet to .238, the senior catcher is now hitting .269.
Left fielder Boomer White (.318 batting average, 2 home runs, 46 RBI) has scored a team-high 48 runs while junior center fielder Cody Jones (.269, 17 RBI) paces the club with 28 stolen bases.
Rounding out the regular lineup are junior second baseman Garrett Crain (.335-1-19, .418 on base percentage), junior third baseman Derek Odell (.280-1-35), junior shortstop Keaton Jones (.268, 20 RBI), senior right fielder Dylan Fitzgerald (.318-2-33) and junior designated hitter Jerrick Suiter (.279, 29 RBI).