TCU Preview

The NCAA Tournament begins Friday afternoon for the Stanford Baseball team as they battle the TCU Horned Frogs in Day One of the Waco Regional. The Cardinal are looking to get hot at the right time of the year after a largely inconsistent regular season. Meanwhile, the 24th ranked Horned Frogs are poised for a deep run in this year's tournament led by their dominant ace starting pitcher.

The TCU Horned Frogs will be the first opponent for Stanford in this year's NCAA Tournament when the two clubs square off at 12:00 P.M. (PST) on Friday afternoon from Waco, Texas.  TCU is in the midst of a fantastic year as they bring a 40-18 overall record into postseason after having finished in a tie for second in Conference USA.  In their conference tournament, TCU advanced all the way to the championship game having racked up a perfect 3-0 record.  Unfortunately, the Horned Frogs had to settle for the distinction as co-champions as their scheduled final game with 2nd ranked Tulane was rained out and not made-up.

For TCU, it all starts with their ace starting pitcher, Lance Broadway.  The Cardinal will presumably be facing Broadway on Friday afternoon which will present an incredibly difficult matchup - much like what Stanford saw last Friday in Los Angeles when going up against USC's Ian Kennedy.  In 18 appearances this season, Broadway is a jaw-dropping 14-1 with a 1.67 ERA.  The junior right-hander has allowed just 77 hits in 108 innings (a .191 opponents batting average) with 34 walks and a whopping 144 strike outs.  And while Broadway and the Horned Frogs haven't played quite the same schedule as Stanford, all you need to know about his abilities is with what he accomplished against the Green Wave two weeks ago.  Broadway fired a complete-game shut out against the eventual #1 national seed and one of the top hitting clubs in the country.  He surrendered just four hits with one walk and ten strike outs.

Broadway is one of the ten semifinalists for the Roger Clemens Award (given annually to the top pitcher in the country).  Baseball America recently tabbed Broadway as the #48 overall prospect in this year's draft which would put him in the second round when selections are made next week.  Broadway spent the last two seasons pitching for Dallas Baptist before transferring to the Fort Worth campus.  Over the summer, Broadway dominated in the Northwoods League where he was named in the #1 prospect in that league.

Broadway had a 36 2/3 scoreless inning streak during the month of March and has been red-hot of late.  Over his last five starts, he's racked up 54 strike outs spanning 40 innings.  With Broadway on the mound, TCU instantly becomes one of the nation's top teams.

At the onset of the season, the Horned Frogs were given the #21 national ranking according to BA.  TCU lost only two series' all year - dropping 2-of-3 at Rice back in mid-March and losing 2-of-3 at Tulane two weeks ago.  Those two wins over these ranked opponents both occurred with Broadway on the mound.  TCU enters the tournament ranked 24th in the country.

Offensively, TCU has a solid group of players.  It's a young nucleus which could play into Stanford's favor on Friday.  Sophomore second baseman Chad Huffman is the one to watch.  Generally hitting third in the batting order, Huffman has had an outstanding campaign chalking up a .348 batting average, 12 home runs, and 51 RBI.  Huffman hit .383 as a freshman, so he's produced since day one and will be a tough out all weekend, to say the least.

Batting right in front of Huffman is sophomore third baseman Shelby Ford.  Ford is the leading hitter in the TCU lineup with a .377 average.  He's also smacked seven home runs to go with 37 RBI through 53 games.  Ford is an outstanding #2 man as he handles the bat well and boasts the top on-base percentage in Conference USA at .486. 

The Horned Frogs have a balanced offensive attack with six starters hitting at .300 or above.  As a team, they hit a lot of home runs with 74 on the season through 58 contests.  It's not necessarily a spectacular offense (Stanford has definitely seen better this year), but with their usual solid (and often dazzling) starting pitching, it's been more than enough to rack up 40 wins. 

Potential weaknesses for the Horned Frogs, in addition to their relatively young starting lineup, has been their bullpen and their defense.  As a team, TCU fields at just a .960 clip with 88 errors committed on the season.  That's almost double the amount of Stanford's 47 miscues on the year.  When facing Broadway, the Cardinal have to find a way to put balls in play and hope that TCU gives them a few free bases.  If Broadway is racking up double figure strike out totals, then TCU's less-than-stellar defense doesn't come into play.

The bullpen also has been a bit up-and-down for the Horned Frogs this year.  Their two most-used relievers have ERA's of 4.34 and 4.83.  Certainly not liabilities in the late-innings, but the Cardinal have grown accustomed to seeing lock-down relief hurlers from opponents this year which is a main reason why they've dropped so many close games.  Statistically speaking, it does not appear that TCU has that type of relief pitcher while they're overall depth is not quite at Stanford's level either.  The depth issue won't really play much of a factor on Friday or Saturday, but if the Horned Frogs and Cardinal meet again later in the weekend, it's definitely something to remember.

Even past Broadway, TCU has some very quality starting pitchers.  Freshman Sam Demel has come on of late.  A highly touted prospect entering the year, Demel had the usual freshman growing pains and was largely inconsistent for most of the season.  But the right-hander has turned it on of late with a sparkling 2.00 ERA over his last six appearances (36 innings).  Demel made a start in the Conference USA Tournament last weekend and promptly fired a complete-game three-hitter with two runs allowed against Louisville.  On the year, Demel is now 5-4 with a 4.09 ERA, but is clearly one of their hottest pitchers.

On the other end of the spectrum is senior right-hander Tim McGough.  McGough was a member of the 2002 National Champion Texas Longhorns pitching in 15 games that season (1-0, 3.93 ERA, 1 SV, 4 GS).  He transferred to TCU after that season and had formed quite the 1-2 punch with Broadway earlier in '05.  In fact, McGough had an earned run average below one as late as mid-April.  But he's been hit hard recently with a 7.83 ERA in his last six starts and could be regulated to the #3 starting spot this weekend for the Horned Frogs.  For the season, McGough is still 7-2 with a 3.21 ERA.

Finally, sophomore lefty Brad Furnish gives TCU four quality starters.  Furnish has spent a good portion of this season in the weekend rotation as he enters the NCAA Tournament with a 5-5 record and a 3.89 ERA.  Furnish is third on the ballclub with 85 2/3 innings pitched.

Probable Starting Lineup:
1. Stuart Musslewhite, SS  (Sr., .309, 5 HR, 34 RBI)
2. Shelby Ford, 3B  (So., .377, 7 HR, 37 RBI)
3. Chad Huffman, 2B  (So., .348, 12 HR, 51 RBI)
4. Matt McGuirk, DH  (Fr., .325, 7 HR, 37 RBI)
5. Keith Conlon, CF  (Jr., .343, 6 HR, 40 RBI)
6. Austin Adams, LF  (So., .323, 8 HR, 35 RBI)
7. Matt Carpenter, 1B  (Fr., .289, 1 HR, 25 RBI)
8. J.J. Estrada, RF  (Sr., .272, 8 HR, 36 RBI)
9. Kyle Dahlberg, C  (Sr., .257, 5 HR, 30 RBI)

SP- Lance Broadway, RHP  (Jr., 14-1, 1.67 ERA, 108.0 IP, 34 BB, 144 SO)
SP- Sam Demel, RHP  (Fr., 5-4, 4.09 ERA, 92.1 IP, 41 BB, 97 SO)
SP- Tim McGough, RHP  (Sr., 7-3, 3.21 ERA, 67.1 IP, 30 BB, 46 SO)
SP- Brad Furnish, LHP  (So., 5-5, 3.89 ERA, 85.2 IP, 44 BB, 78 SO)

RP- Chad Underwood, RHP  (Sr., 4-2, 4.34 ERA, 2 SV, 58.0 IP)
RP- Shawn Ferguson, RHP  (Jr., 1-2, 4.83 ERA, 3 SV, 31.2 IP)

Notes: Musslewhite is a four-year starter enjoying his best season as a senior ... the shortstop has made 216 starts in his career ... Ford is second in Conference USA in batting average ... Huffman hit .393 in conference play ... Conlon was a .400 hitter during Conference USA action ... Broadway has set the single-season school-record in wins and strike outs.


STANFORD CARDINAL

Probable Starting Lineup:
1. Adam Sorgi, 3B  (So., .320, 5 HR, 36 RBI)
2. Chris Minaker, SS  (Jr., .292, 3 HR, 37 RBI)
3. John Mayberry, Jr., 1B  (Jr., .301, 6 HR, 48 RBI)
4. Jed Lowrie, 2B  (Jr., .324, 12 HR, 62 RBI)
5. John Hester, C  (Jr., .282, 5 HR, 41 RBI)
6. Michael Taylor, RF  (Fr., .282, 4 HR, 27 RBI)
7. Jim Rapoport, CF  (So., .312, 3 HR, 25 RBI)
8. Chris Lewis, LF  (Jr., .261, 6 HR, 31 RBI)
9. Ben Summerhays, DH  (Jr., .244, 0 HR, 5 RBI)  or  Ryan Seawell, DH  (So., .244, 2 HR, 8 RBI)

SP- Jeff Gilmore, RHP  (Jr., 10-2, 3.56 ERA, 111.1 IP, 25 BB, 76 SO)
SP- Mark Romanczuk, LHP  (Jr., 5-6, 4.33 ERA, 104 IP, 34 BB, 81 SO)

Stanford Notes:
* Lowrie, Mayberry, Jr., and Gilmore each earned All-Pac-10 honors for their efforts this season.  Lowrie and Mayberry are on the team for a second consecutive season.  Lowrie has already earned First Team All-American honors according to Sportsweekly.

* Minaker is currently riding a 13-game hitting streak - tied for the longest for any Stanford player this season (Rapoport).

* Gilmore (20-4) and Romanczuk (28-11) have racked up impressive career win-loss totals - even with Romanczuk under the .500 mark this season.

* Stanford is not hosting a regional for the first time since the 1995 season.  In that year, the Cardinal were a #3 seed in the six-team regional hosted by Wichita State.  Stanford ended up winning the regional as they knocked off top seed Texas Tech twice over the last two days receiving a complete-game victory from freshman Kyle Peterson in the final contest.

* The Cardinal are just 10-13 in games away from Sunken Diamond this year (TCU is 15-12).

* Stanford's current fielding percentage of .978 would be the highest in school history if the season ended today (2001 - .977).

* Stanford has now reached the postseason in 12 consecutive years.

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