Marshall Weber of the TCU sports blog Frogs O' War was gracious enough to answer some of our questions heading into this weekend's baseball series between the Horned Frogs and Sun Devils. His answers are below, and you can view our responses to his questions here.
House of Sparky: I know Southern Illinois and UT-Arlington aren't exactly baseball powers, but did you take anything away from those games?
Marshall Weber: Offense. At least for Southern Illinois series, the biggest takeaway had to be the bats. Not only hitting, but capitalizing on runs too. TCU had plenty of good hitters last year, but it rarely clicked at the same time and we had to have our pitching bail us out just about every game.
Everyone knew the pitching would be a strength this year; but losing 5 of our 6 best hitters--on top of the lack of run production last year--questions were justly raised. So to come out and score over 30 runs in a weekend felt pretty damn good. The UT-Arlington game was fine too--you're not going to score 10 runs every game. I compared it to our football opener against Samford. Regardless of opponent, it made me feel really confident in the coming season. With great pitching already there--if we have an average RPG of 5.5 or more, this team's going to get a lot of wins this season.
HoS: So far the Horned Frog pitchers have allowed just five runs in four games. Just how good is this staff, and who should ASU fans be looking for?
MW: It's as good as it gets. It's either the best or one of the best staffs in the entire country. Not only do the starters kill you, but the bullpen is perhaps the team's greatest strength. Friday, you're probably going to see Preston Morrison. He's a righty who reminds me a lot of Greg Maddux. He doesn't do anything fancy, not a lot of speed, doesn't strike a lot of guys out--but he's one the most exciting pitchers in college. Walks are scarce and control is deadly. Y'all seem to put the ball on the ground a lot, and that's what Morrison thrives on.
Saturday, you're gonna see LHP Tyler Alexander. He's a young guy who got thrown into the fire last season and excelled rather quickly. He kind of broke apart in the Regionals and Super Regionals, but everything from last Saturday showed me that he's good to go. Sunday, you'll see Alex Young. He's replaced (Brandon) Finnegan's vacancy. So Morrison and Alexander moved up a day, and Young is now the Sunday guy. He's a lefty like Alexander, and has a little more zip than Alexander, and arguably has a better curve too. However, Alexander has more command--command that's absolutely scary when it's on--whereas Young's a little more patient, which works, but doesn't give him the dominating presence that Alexander is capable of bringing.
It's a little strange to go Righty-Lefty-Lefty; as opposed to Lefty-Righty-Lefty. Especially when Morrison is a ground ball pitcher, which tends to work better during the day as opposed to Friday night when the ball has a little more life in it. So in theory, Young would be the Friday pitcher. But if it's broke, don't fix it...
HoS: We saw a decent amount of Oklahoma State fans in Phoenix for last weekend's series. Do TCU fans travel well?
MW: I'd like to think so. The fans really travel well for Regionals, Supers, and the CWS. For those type of things, they'll put as many butts in the seats as schools 4x their size. Going off that, it's a school of 8,000. So for an early season matchup pretty far away, it's hard to say how well the fans will travel. But bet the Phoenix/Tempe area alumni will be there in droves.
HoS: As much as I love baseball, it's almost March. Why isn't your basketball team getting more consideration for an NIT bid? I know conference play has been rough but 15-10 is a much better record than other teams that will make it.
MW: We are coming off big wins against against Oklahoma State and Kansas State. I think people will be talking now. Texas beat us pretty good twice, and our other bad loss is against Baylor--other than that, we've played everyone close to the chest. We have a pretty gnarly last 5 games, but if we come out with 2 or 3 wins, and a good showing in the Big 12 Tournament, I think you'll see us in the NIT.
HoS: Collegiate Baseball has the Horned Frogs ranked No. 1 in its most recent rankings. What do they see in you?
MW: The pitching and coaching--and really, just picking up where we left off last year without any sign of depreciation. I joke that there are probably too many baseball polls out there, and how that kind of stuff can get in your head--even football polls are worthless until late in the season--so we're taking it with a grain of salt. But, I believe they see a team that simply plays well together and is just really well coached. And on top of that, the pitching staff goes on for days.
HoS: Prediction for this weekend's series?
MW: I don't think either team is getting out with a sweep. It's going to be 2-1 either way, and I'm buying into the TCU hype--so I'll say TCU, 2-1. If either team does get out with a sweep, there's no reason why that team doesn't deserve first place votes across the board.