Sunday Summations- TCU makes minced meat of SDSU pitching

TCU wrestles the Mountain West lead with 13-6 Sunday win on Montezuma Mesa.

TCUClintArnold@SDSU.jpg
(Clint Arnold paced the Frogs with four hits and, get this, scored from 2nd base
on a sac bunt. Yes, he scored from 2nd on a sac bunt in the 8th inning)

It's no exaggeration to say that when the Horned Frogs WEREN'T facing the pitching of San Diego State ace Stephen Strausburg, they schooled the Aztecs this weekend.

As Friday turned to Saturday, that's when the Frogs turned into a different team. Strausburg - i.e., the freak of nature - handcuffed TCU to one run on one hit with 13 strikeouts on Friday night. In the two games that followed, the Frogs scored 29 runs on 34 hits and turned this weekend series into a track meet. Today, the Horned Frogs put a 13-6 hurting on the red and black at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

With the two wins, the top of the Mountain West now looks like this:
TCU, 13-5
New Mexico, 11-4
San Diego State, 11-7

SDSUBrGlover.jpg
(Brandon Glover sliding under the tag of TCU catcher Bryan Holaday
was one of the few highlights for the Aztecs)

I made my way down to the Mesa for the 11am first pitch and found a TCU team that was "locked in" and looking much more like their recent regionals teams instead of the young team that struggled out of the gate at 10-10 to start the
season. The Horned Frogs got behind 1-0 after one inning, but it was all downhill from there.

TCU scored four runs in the 2nd to take the lead for good. They built on that lead with two in the 6th, two in the 7th and then put the game away for good with four in the 8th.

Clint Arnold and Bryan Holaday set the table, with four hits on the day. And it was the bottom of the lineup that cleaned everything up with No. 7 hitter Matt Carpenter and No. 9 hitter Matt Vern adding three RBI each.

While the offense was locked in, the pitching wasn't exactly on lock down mode, allowing 14 hits and six runs to the Aztecs. But defensively the Frogs were perfect, committing no errors. In fact, TCU committed only one error on the weekend and scored in 12 of the 18 innings on Saturday and Sunday.

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WHAT'S AHEAD---
TCU has six more MWC contests remaining, three near-gimmies vs. Utah and then a roadie to improved New Mexico to close out the season. But their only RPI-building chance comes in this Tuesday's home game with No. 6 ranked Texas A&M. They spend one weekend hosting Texas-Pan American in Mid-May.

But San Diego State is in much more peril. Their NCAA at-large chances are nearly sunk. Games with Arizona (2), Long Beach State (1) and at Cal State Fullerton (3), does give the Aztecs a chance to improve its standing nationally. But unless Stephen Strausburg can be cloned - and quickly - they probably won't win many of those games.

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NEVER SEEN THIS BEFORE---
In all my years of covering college baseball, I've never marked THIS down in a scorebook: a 2-RBI sac bunt 5-to-3. Yes, that's what TCU pulled today in the 8th inning.

With Bryan Kervin on 3rd base and the fleet-footed Clint Arnold on 2nd, both runners started sprinting on a safety squeeze play. Steve Ellington was the Frog that laid down a great bunt down the 3rd base line. Kervin scored as expected. But when Aztec 3Bman Nick Romero threw casually to 1st base to get the out, Arnold never broke stride. He ended up zooming into home standing up, no problem. So there you go, a 2 RBI sac bunt.

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WORKING DEFINITION OF "EFFECTIVELY WILD"---
TCU ace reliever Andrew Cashner came in to pitch the final 1.1 innings in today's game. There was no save opportunity, but Cashner has been a great piece of the Horned Frog puzzle so far this season. At 6'6" and 188, he looks more like Ichabod Crane but his stat line shows he's 7-2 with a 2.27ERA so far this season. He also has 53 Ks in just 35.2 innings and, get this, 21 walks as well. He'll be a key cog in TCU's post-season plans.

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STRAUSBURGLESS---
San Diego State has now lost four of its last five in games where ace Stephen Strausburg hasn't started. In those five games, the Aztecs have allowed 71 runs, an astounding average of 14 runs given up per game.

SDSUGroundskeeper.jpg
(I've heard that San Diego State has one of the best grounds crews in
the country. As you notice, I'm not going to argue that point)


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NOW A LOOK AT THE NATIONAL GOOD AND BAD---
It's the usual three up and three down feature we like to do late on a Sunday night.

THREE UP---
1- To Florida State and North Carolina.
For playing a great pitching duel as opposed to the way most Sunday games go.
UNC won 2-1 in 10 innings to win the nip-and-tuck series between two top three teams. But what a getaway game THIS was. FSU's Elih Villanueva took a perfect game beyond the 7th inning stretch and the Heels eventually dug deep and found a way to win in extras.

Special tip of the hat to the Seminoles, who proved for the second week in a row that they weren't going to crumble after an ugly Friday loss. I like their resiliency. And though I've been a little tough on them for their pitching, you have to like the way Villanueva took command today. He didn't look so hot last week when I saw him get roped pretty good in Tallahassee by Miami, but he made amends today.

Okay, a small thumb's down for walking in the winning run for UNC on four straight pitches. But other than that...

2- LSU.
Beat No. 7 South Carolina 6-3 to complete the three game sweep.
Had a tough time decided whether to applaud the Tigers in the Three Up, or chastise the Gamecocks in the Three Down. I chose the former, mainly because you have to ask yourself, when was the last time you saw the purple and gold dig deep and pull out an unexpected sweep over a Top 10 team? Since the Bertman administration? I don't have their media guide in front of me (though if I wasn't so lazy, I could just go to the garage and look), but probably so.

LSUPaulMaineiri.jpg
(This weekend, Paul Maineiri picked up the biggest 3-game sweep of his tenure in Red Stick)

3- Xavier.
I heard it on the X. The Muskateers complete the sweep against St. Bonaventure to move into sole possession of 1st place in Atlantic 10.
They got a gutty performance from sophomore starter Danny Rosenbaum today. He went 8.0 innings and struck out a career high 12 batters. Closer Brett Greenwell picked up the save and preserved the shutout with a scoreless 9th. And how about this: The XU arms held the nation's No. 1 hitter, Randy Moley, to just one hit in 13 at bats, including today's 0-for-3 performance.


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THREE DOWN---
1- The Not Ready For Prime Time Players.
The following ranked teams had a chance to prove themselves this weekend, venturing on the road for important three-gamers. But in the end, they gave us all a lump of coal.
- No. 19 Cal.
Swept at Arizona State, including today's hideous 18-2 whitewashing.
- No. 7 South Carolina.
As explained above, lost all three at LSU. How?
- No. 21 Virginia.
Put up a good fight through the first two games, but laid an egg today, losing 10-zip at Miami.
- No. 9 Missouri.
Crumbled under the pressure of A&M's rabid crowd. Nearly got the W today, but succumbed in 10 innings, 3-2.

2- Mother Nature AND the administrators of North Dakota State and South Dakota State.
I knew Mother Nature wouldn't cooperate this season, but this is ridiculous. All four Summit Conference home games by North Dakota State and South Dakota State today were both cancelled against Oakland and Western Illinois respectively.

Now I don't know whether to give Mother Nature ALL of the blame here. Because, today showed sunny conditions for both Fargo and Brookings, albeit with highs just reaching 40 degrees or so. Still, that's plenty warm enough for these rough and tumble natives. So even though the normal high for this time of year is in the mid-60s, they should've played today.

The four games between these four teams won't be made up.

3- The umpiring crew at today's TCU-SDSU game.
I'm not usually one to chide the umps, they've got tough, thankless jobs to begin with. But this crew really screwed the pooch today at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

Three times, the men in black (but yet fans continue to call them "blue") rooked Mr. Gwynn and his boys with pretty obvious bad calls. First, they extended TCU's 2nd inning when home plate umpire Matt Stellges over-ruled first base umpire Keith Bailey's call of a third out on a groundout. That reversal led to two additional runs for the Frogs, putting them up 4-1, instead of 2-1. Then, they missed a pick off at second base of a TCU runner, but with no further damage done. And most egregiously, none of the three happened to see the runner's interference as Cameron Johnson was rounding third that prevented him from scoring a run in the 8th inning for the Aztecs. For the third time today, Tony Gwynn went out to protest, but to no avail.

SDSUGwynn&Umps.jpg
(Not a lot went right for Tony Gwynn with the guys in black today)

Ultimately, considering the winning margin, it didn't decide the outcome of the game. But it's still a case of "What if?" for the Aztecs.


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COUPLE OF QUICK HITS---
- No-hitter for Princeton.
Senior starter Steven Miller flew like an eagle (pause to groan... that was horrible)throwing a 7-inning, complete-game no-hitter for the Tigers in a 3-2 win vs. Cornell. Miller loaded the bases in the 1st inning on two walks and an error. He then hit a batter and walked another, accounting for the Big Red's two runs. From there, Miller was solid, striking out 10, though he did issue six free passes.

- Regular season champions.
Dartmouth split a DH with Harvard today, moving to 24-14 overall, but more importantly, finishing the Ivy part of the schedule at 15-5 and as Red Rolfe Division champions. Though they finish tied with Columbia with the best overall record in the Ivy League, the Big Green will host the Lions in the post-season playoffs.

- Strangest stat line:
Jason Kipnis of Arizona State.
The Kentucky transfer, batting in the No. 2 position today, went 0-for-1 with 4RBI and 3BBs. Kipnis had two sac flies on the day.

- Changing of the guard in the Big 10.
Purdue has been a pleasant surprise as the 2nd place team in the Big 10 standings. Well today, the Boilers reaffirmed their standing in the conference echelon by sweeping normal top rung power Minnesota with a 6-4 win. This marked the first Big 10 weekend sweep since 2005 for PU, also against Minnesota. With Michigan splitting four games with Indiana, the Boilers (now 16-4) are within a single game of the Wolverines. The 16 wins is the most ever for a Purdue squad through 20 games.

- Revolving door in the Missouri Valley.
Now, it's Missouri State that tops the conference. Going into the weekend Northern Iowa was the top dog, but the Panthers lost two of three at home to Southern Illinois. Surprisingly, No. 8 Wichita State lost on Sunday at Indiana State, paving the way for the Bears to move into the catbird seat. MSU beat Illinois State in all three games this weekend. Here's the top of the MVC as of this moment:

So. Illinois, 13-5
Wichita St., 11-4
No. Iowa, 11-4
Creighton, 11-7

WSU actually has the most favorable schedule remaining, with UNI and Bradley at home and a road trip to lowly Evansville... two words I didn't think I'd use in the same sentence anytime soon.

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I would keep going, but my eyelids are becoming freakin' anvils now. I had a late night hockey game tonight, so that's why I'm up 'til 2:30am West coast time finishing this up. I'll throw together an Ouch List sometime tomorrow, er, I mean, sometime later on today.

G'night.

Comments

hey eric! thanks for responding to last weeks semi-nasty post about the martin interview. sorry about that. i DO like your stuff. and i suppose it's good that you don't consider yourself a journalist. if you did, you'd probably skip those repeated dead-on comments about the fake boobies, which i agree with whole-heartedly. yer a good man, sorenson. don't let them tell you different!

i'm in jacksonville every year for the ACC tournament. i have a feeling you'll be there too (#1, #2, #3 !)

eric, you see any chance in my herd making a regional? tied for 3rd in C-USA with a huge southern miss series at home this weekend?

D-Axel. All is forgiven. Your diagram of the new stitch-head nation secret handshake is in the mail. I actually went to the ACC tourney in 2006 and I've already bought my flights for the 2009 version in Fenway, so I won't be around for it this year - though it seems like a good year to go, that's for sure.

Adam, hate to rain on your parade, but with an RPI in the mid-80s and standing 6th in the C-USA (at least in the loss column), plus having lost all three games against both Rice and ECU, things look bleak at best. But I dig the fact that the Herd is having such a "good" season, especially after they lost nine players to transfer off the '07 team. I feared the worst when they migrated to C-USA a couple years ago, but this may turn out to be a corner-turning year for their future.

E.

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Eric Sorenson Eric Sorenson
Eric Sorenson is CSTV.com's National Baseball Columnist, and also appears on CSTV as a baseball expert