College : : Story
Thursday, June 07, 2012

Preview: Los Angeles SR

Kendall Rogers        
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Texas Christian (40-20) vs. UCLA (45-14)

National rank by PG: TCU (11), UCLA (4)
When: Friday (1/8), 9 p.m. (ESPNHD) -- Saturday (1/9), 9 p.m. (ESPNHD) -- Sunday (1/10), 10 p.m. (ESPN2HD)
Where: Steele Field at Jackie Robinson Stadium (2,000) in Los Angeles
College World Series appearances: TCU (1), UCLA (3)
The pick: UCLA

Los Angeles Super Regional: Who has the edge?
Starting pitching

Both the Horned Frogs and Bruins enter the weekend with plenty of talented arms at their disposal, especially from a starting pitching standpoint. The Bruins, though, have the edge after such a dominant weekend in the Los Angeles Regional.

The Bruins have a very talented weekend rotation that includes right-handed pitchers Adam Plutko, Nick Vander Tuig and Zack Weiss.

Plutko is one of the nation's elite sophomores and has been very consistent this season. He has a 10-3 record with a 2.56 ERA in 105 2/3 innings of work. He also has struck out 85 and walked 43, while teams are hitting him at a .212 clip. Plutko has good stuff, and will run his fastball anywhere from 88-92.

Very similar to Plutko in the velocity department, Vander Tuig almost threw a no-hitter last weekend. He's 9-3 with a 4.53 ERA in 97 1/3 innings of work. He has struck out 64 and walked 23, while teams are hitting him at a .281 clip. Meanwhile, Weiss, very similar to Plutko and Vander Tuig, has a 4.04 ERA in 69 innings with teams hitting .212 off him.

For the Horned Frogs, there's expected to be a shakeup in their weekend rotation this weekend. Right-handed pitcher Andrew Mitchell has consistently started this spring. However, after such a dominant start last weekend in the College Station Regional, the Frogs likely are moving Finnegan to the rotation and Mitchell, who projects as a reliever at the next level, to the bullpen this weekend.

Finnegan has a fastball sitting 92-93 range and a 3.30 ERA in 57 1/3 innings of work. He has struck out 52 and walked 28, while teams are hitting him at a .232 clip.

Preston Morrison and Stefan Crichton round out the rotation. Morrison, a walk-on, has a funky delivery from the right side, and only tops out at 84-86. However, he has good stuff and a 1.98 ERA in 109 1/3 innings of work. He also has struck out 71 and walked 11, while teams are hitting him at a .212 clip. Meanwhile, Crichton was brilliant against Texas A&M last week, allowing just two runs in a complete game performance.

Crichton is 9-2 with a 3.41 ERA in 95 innings. He has struck out 53 and walked 18, while teams are hitting him at a .277 clip.

The Horned Frogs and Bruins each have some talented arms in their respective bullpens, but it's UCLA that has the slightest of edges in this department.

The Bruins enter the weekend with a solid 3.18 staff earned-run average, and have at least three premium bullpen arms, including Ryan Deeter, David Berg, and of course, hard-throwing right-hander Scott Griggs.

Deeter has appeared in 35 games and has a 0.94 ERA in 28 2/3 innings of work. He has limited teams to a .188 batting average. Meanwhile, Berg has appeared in 45 games and has a .1.71 ERA in 63 1/3 innings. He has struck out 54 and walked 16, while teams are hitting him at a.176 clip. Griggs, meanwhile, is the big arm out of the pen. He has appeared in 35 games and has a 2.70 ERA in 36 2/3 innings. He also has struck out 64 batters during that time.

The Frogs have some high quality arms of their own. Justin Scharf, a submariner, was fantastic last weekend in the College Station Regional. He has appeared in 37 games and has a 2.68 ERA in 47 innings of work. Meanwhile, Kevin Allen has appeared in 28 games and has a 2.97 ERA in 30 1/3 innings. He also has notched five saves.

Kaleb Merck also has logged some solid innings this season, having a 3.63 ERA in 22 1/3 innings of work, while also recording five saves.

Both teams have good arms, but the Bruins have more depth.

This will be an interesting matchup to watch this weekend. On paper, the Bruins certainly have a clear-cut advantage from an offensive standpoint. The Frogs are hitting just .272 as a team while the Bruins enter the weekend hitting .312 as a club.

But remember this, TCU hit the ball extremely well in its final four games in the College Station Regional, topping out with a 28-run onslaught against Dayton.

With that said, UCLA still has the edge. The Bruins are led at the plate by outfielder Jeff Gelalich, who's hitting .372 with nine doubles, 11 homers and 46 RBIs. He also has a fabulous .462 on-base percentage. Additionally, catcher Tyler Heineman is hitting .351 with 26 RBIs and a ..456 OBP, while outfielders Cody Keefer and Beau Amaral are hitting .342 and .320, respectively.

As for the Horned Frogs, several players had productive weekends in College Station, but outfielder Kyle Von Tungeln especially rose to the occasion. Von Tungeln is hitting .301 with two homers and 24 RBIs, while catcher Josh Elander is hitting .316 with 10 homers and 42 RBIs.

Also keep an eye on freshman second baseman Derek Odell, who had a big NCAA Regional weekend, and is hitting .283 with four homers and 26 RBIs, while hard-hitting first baseman Kevin Cron is hitting .360 with six homers and 34 RBIs, and third baseman Jantzen Witte is hitting .318 with three homers and 22 RBIs.

Josh Gonzales (.241) and Jerrick Suiter (.314) are other guys to watch.

The Horned Frogs are playing a tremendous brand of baseball, and did a terrific job making the key defensive plays in their final three games in the College Station Regional.

Still, as with other categories that are very close, the Bruins get the edge in this department.

The Bruins have some stability across the diamond. There were a lot of question marks last season after losing catcher Steve Rodriguez. However, Tyler Heineman has done a terrific job, hitting .351 and being a very good backstop for this club.

At third base, Kevin Kramer has made eight errors in 39 games, shortstop Pat Valaika has made 11 errors in 56 games and second baseman Trevor Brown has been terrific in the field, sporting a .991 fielding percentage. In the outfield, the Bruins have a very athletic and talented trio in Jeff Gelalich, Beau Amaral and Cody Keefer.

The Frogs have a fielding percentage 10 points lower than the Bruins, but this still is a very adequate team from a defensive standpoint.

TCU freshman second baseman Derek Odell made some very nice plays over the weekend in College Station, while shortstop Keaton Jones is stable and catcher Josh Elander and third baseman Jantzen Witte typically are very good defensively.

The outfield, for the most part, is in pretty good shape. Brance Rivera and Kyle Von Tungeln are very good defensively, while left fielder Jerrick Suiter can make things interesting at times, as he doesn't look natural out there.

UCLA has played a very consistent brand of baseball this season and enters the weekend riding high after sweeping through the Los Angeles Regional.

The Horned Frogs enter the weekend sizzling hot. They lost the first game of the College Station Regional before beating Dayton, Texas A&M and Ole Miss (twice) to advance to the Los Angeles Super Regional.

 The Frogs might be a relatively young team, but they've got some leadership and clearly are playing their best brand of baseball.

 The Frogs feel invincible right now and are incredibly confident entering the weekend. That simple fact can't be undervalued going into a series of this magnitude.

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