With just two wins separating TCU and Pepperdine from the College World Series, each pitch becomes magnified.
The pressure is enough to affect some hitters at the plate, who may, in the heat of the moment, forget the mechanics that have helped them get to this point.
“It’s something we practice and work on from the fall all the way up to now,” TCU outfielder Boomer White said. “This is the time you want to play your best. If we’re not putting that into practice and working on our routines and trying to stay within ourselves now, then what was it for in the past?”
Both teams struggled offensively in their respective regionals. TCU hit .219 while Pepperdine hit .245.
“I think it’d be foolish to think that they don’t [feel pressure],” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “They’re human. There’s a certain amount of pressure, a certain amount of anxiety that comes along with the hosting thing because you want it so bad for everybody else.”
As Schlossnagle pointed out, TCU has been involved in several close games where the outcome has been in doubt for countless at-bats and pitches. There have been few signs of pressing. TCU is 12-5 in games decided by two runs or fewer and is 3-1 in extra-inning games.
“Our guys have done a good job of not pressing in any form or fashion,” Schlossnagle said. “If you press in close games you’re going to lose a bunch. More than likely, these are all going to be dogfights, so I expect us to handle it well.”
TCU right-hander Jordan Kipper was taken by the Angels in the ninth round Friday. Kipper (8-2), the 269th overall pick, transferred from Central Arizona Community College last fall, has been TCU’s fourth starter this season.
He earned the Frogs’ win in the Big 12 tournament opener two weeks ago.
Pepperdine plays in the nearly perfect climate of Malibu, Calif., where it rarely gets unbearably hot. In fact, the high average temperature in June (67 degrees) is two degrees lower than the average low for Fort Worth this time of year. Waves coach Steve Rodriguez, who grew up in Las Vegas, said that, once the game starts, players don’t even think about it.
“Once we’re playing I just think you’re worrying about competing, you’re not worrying about the heat,” said Rodriguez, who has instructed his team to drink lots of water in the days leading up to Saturday’s opener. “You can’t hydrate yourself the day of the game. We just have to make sure we’re doing it beforehand.”
Waves center fielder Aaron Brown said the team wasn’t fazed by the heat during Friday afternoon’s practice.
“I think we did fine. Everybody prepared for it, we’ve all been hydrating,” he said. “We had water out there so it wasn’t a big deal.”
“This time of year you’re not going to try to reinvent the wheel. So we’re going to attack them with our best stuff. I’m sure they’ll do the same thing.” — TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle on pitching strategy.
“It’s very similar types of baseball that we play. That’s what’s going to make this matchup really interesting. I just have a tremendous amount of respect for what [Schlossnagle] does here and how he does it.” — Pepperdine coach Steve Rodriguez