TCU and Pepperdine have only met once before.The Waves beat the Horned Frogs 10-4 at the Dairy Queen Classic at the Metrodome in Minneapolis in March 2008.But the Waves (42-19) have been to Lupton Stadium before.A year ago, the Waves practiced at TCU’s field in Fort Worth during a seven-game road trip in late February 2013. Pepperdine had just won two of three at Texas A&M and lost at Baylor before heading to Oklahoma for a three-game series in Norman, Okla., when they stopped at Lupton to practice. TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle has been professional friends with Pepperdine coach Steve Rodriguez for a decade. Schlossnagle remembers watching Rodriguez win the College World Series as a Pepperdine player in 1992. Both started their current jobs before the 2004 season. In 2003, when Schlossnagle was still the coach at UNLV, his team won at Pepperdine when Rodriguez was a Waves assistant coach.“He’s done a great job,” Schlossnagle said. “I can tell you this, they’re really good. I’ve been watching a lot of video on them and I’m impressed. Their pitching is really strong.“They have a really good combination of veteran senior players with experience and some really, really good freshman players. They’re a good team and they’re really playing well right now.”Changing ballsThe NCAA will change to a ball with lower seams next season.Many coaches have advocated a change to the ball used in minor league games, which are harder with lower seams.Schlossnagle and ESPN analyst Keith Moreland, who will work TCU’s Fort Worth Super Regional against Pepperdine this weekend, both agree that pitchers have had too much advantage since college baseball forced players to use less powerful bats three years ago.“We’ve got a really good product here but three-run homers have got to be involved in the mix,” Moreland said. “We don’t need 21-14 scores but it went way far to the left. The way to work it back is with the baseball first.“I think we’ll see the game get that much better, but that’s just my personal opinion. But I think it’s the opinion of a lot of coaches, too. It’s changed the way they’re recruiting, it’s changed everything.”The new ball will have less drag with its lower seams, which Schlossnagle said won’t change the exit velocity off the bat, but will help balls carry farther.“So when [the ball’s flight] gets out to a 300-foot distance and beyond it goes, on average, 20 feet further,” he said. “We’re working on the getting the minor league ball but it hasn’t happened yet.”Key stats2 College World Series appearances for Pepperdine, 1979 and 1992. Current coach Steve Rodriguez played on the ’92 team, which won the CWS championship.
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @StevensonFWST