NCAA College World Series Super Regional: Missouri State Bears vs TCU Horned Frogs

There’s great news for Missouri State! They’re actually a very similar team to TCU; their pitchers are good at striking batters out but not really great at anything else, their staff ace and back end of their bullpen are stronger than the rest of their pitching staff, and the batters are great at both drawing walks and hitting home runs.

There’s even one thing that Missouri State has in their favor; hot uniform action.

 

We figured out what will come next, but we’re not sure that the equipment crew can handle the intensity of our reders’ suggestion:

But that’s where the good news ends and the bad news begins. Let’s just go ahead and get the elephant in the room over with first

That’s Bears DH Blake Graham semi-blowing out his knee simply by holding his follow-through on a swing. It’s actually the second time it’s happened this season, which makes it at least 50/50 odds that he re-tore his patellar tendon, though with that action his meniscus and/or ACL and/or MCL could be involved.

O.K. Enough of that. This is likely to be a pretty lopsided matchup, with or without Graham, because TCU, by and large, does everything that Missouri State does, but a little bit better. Also, they have this thing where they’ve been to the CWS each of the previous three years, so they have exponentially more experience in their dugout. But what is there to watch for?

TCU Horned Frogs

Their ace is sophomore Jared Janczak. He has struggled a little in the CWS, but he is still the best pitcher on the roster and the go-to guy, which he has earned after 81 strikeouts and only 60 baserunners (not walks, baserunners) in 76 innings to date.

At the plate, catcher Evan Skoug leads the way. He was a top-40 MLB prospect en route to being drafted a second time before the season even started, and nothing about his .278/.387/.547 slash line this year has altered that. The Frogs are without their best hitter in Luken Baker, but that’s been true for a while and it didn’t stop them from scoring 29 runs in their last three games. Probably helps having Austen Wade as well.

Missouri State Bears

The injury bug for Missouri State is much more meaningful if Blake Graham is unable to go, for a couple of reasons. First and most obviously, Graham’s injury just happened in their last game, not a month ago. While the Bears will perhaps feel the sting a little bit less because they have more quality hitters in their lineup, that could be balanced out by the fact that the drop off to Graham’s replacement is massive.

Graham was one of nine MOST players to tally 150+ at-bats so far this season, and the entire Bears bench has only 286 at-bats this season. Matt Brown, the guy who stepped up immediately after Graham’s injury, has an .091 batting average and .624 OPS in 45 plate appearances to date. Landan Ruff is the only bench bat with enough reps and success to get serious run as a long-term replacement if that becomes necessary.

On the mound, the Bears feature a starting rotation headed up by Doug Still, a bullpen that is anchored by Jake Fromson, and a whole bunch of duct tape and chicken wire in between.

Yes, that’s a bit of exaggerant hyperbole, but those two are by far the best two pitchers on staff. This is especially true in the bullpen, where Bryan Young is the only other arm that’s had any measure of success any time recently.

Prediction

Don’t expect the Bears to do a lot more than lose impressively in back-to-back games. They’re facing a much more experienced TCU squad that does everything that they do, but a little bit better. If Blake Graham is able to go and produce, they might be able to hit enough to make it interesting, but that’s asking a lot from a team that just struggled to get past Arkansas. TCU moves on.

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