The words “Super Regional” bring out good memories for TCU, which has won three straight of the best-of-three series, the last step in the NCAA baseball tournament before the College World Series.
“That is my favorite baseball memory of all time, and it’s not close,” pitcher Mitchell Traver said, recalling his four shutout innings to finish a 16-inning victory in Game 3 of a Super Regional series against Texas A&M in 2015.
“The best baseball memories I have came here and in College Station in June,” first baseman Connor Wanhanen said, remembering his home run in the 2015 Super Regional and the Frogs’ Super Regional series win at A&M last year.
Saturday, another Super Regional series arrives with a chance to create new heroes and new memories for both TCU and Missouri State.
TCU gets to play it at home, where it also won a 2010 Super Regional and a 2014 Super Regional.
“Being in your home park, every single pitch you feel like you have all the energy in the world and all the intent in the world,” Traver said. “I’ve never had as much fun playing baseball.”
Traver and Wanhanen have had their moments and could have more. But the right pitch or hit could find anyone else.
Here are some top candidates to make an impact in the 2017 Super Regional at Lupton Stadium:
Three key Frogs
1. Catcher Evan Skoug. He powered the Frogs in the second half of the year. He’s hit 12 home runs in the past 27 games. In the absence of Luken Baker, the junior 3-hole hitter has become the engine of the offense. With three years of experience, he commands the game and knows his pitchers’ strengths and how to draw them out.
2. Right fielder Austen Wade. A superior defender, but also a multifaceted threat in the lineup from the leadoff spot. He has five home runs as part of a .523 slugging percentage to go with a team-high 45 walks, despite missing five games. Last year, he tied the school record with 57 walks. If he is on base, the Frogs are scoring.
3. Pitcher Jared Janczak. He’s given TCU exactly what an ace delivers — consistent, elite performance. He’s given up as many as four runs only once, and that was in his shortest start of the season, the one before he sat out four weeks with a shoulder strain. He won Game 1 of a Super Regional at Texas A&M last season and started the Frogs’ College World Series opener last year. He is used to getting the ball first.
Three key Bears
1. Third baseman Jake Burger. He’s the Bears’ top hitter at .333 and has started every game. He’s best known for his hitting — 22 home runs and .663 slugging percentage. But there is a reason he started and played every game for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team last summer. He can play defense. He has only two errors on his record this season.
2. Shortstop Jeremy Eierman. Bats fifth in the order and also has 22 home runs. As productive as Burger is, Eierman is ahead in RBIs with 67 and slugging percentage at .671. Both numbers rank in the top 20 in the country.
3. Closer Jake Fromson. One of the top closers in the country, the junior sports a 1.98 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 72 2/3 innings. Opponents are batting .172 against him, and he ranks second in the nation in walks and hits allowed per inning, 0.78.
No. 7 TCU
vs. No. 22 Missouri State
5 p.m. Saturday (ESPNU),
5 p.m. Sunday (ESPNU/ESPN2),
TBD Monday (if necessary)