Adam Henderson: Three consecutive appearances in Omaha is nothing to scoff at. But TCU has returned to Fort Worth empty handed each year. Is that starting to become a monkey on the backs of TCU fans? And where do you think this year's team compares to those of the past three season?
Travis Kennedy: I think all of us, fans and the team alike, feel the weight of what could have been last year. That one hurt the worst because the first two years we had to come out of the loser's bracket, but last year we started 2-0 and in all reality should have made it to the title game. This team is by far the most talented that we have had during this recent run of success, and, as unfair as it is, not winning the national championship would be a disappointment this year.
AH: LSU and ace Alex Lange will face off against Brian Howard on Friday night. What can you tell us about him that the statline can't? (Other than "he's tall".)
TK: Well first I'll say that I'd really like to not be going against Lange, but if we have to there is no one I feel better about than Howard. First off he's pretty tall. While he doesn't throw super hard, he has a good three-pitch mix and the natural downward motion (because he is tall) makes it really tough for hitters to square him up. Of all the arms TCU has, Howard is the most experienced and reliable. He also knows what its like to pitch in big games like this. He won his start in this tournament last year and was 4-0 in the playoffs last year.
AH: This season Luken Baker has three home runs and Greg Diechmann has four. Who do you think will leave Houston with more after Sunday?
TK: Diechmann is pretty...pretty good. Four homers is impressive by 14 RBIs is really impressive at this point. The thing about Luken though is, he hasn't been hitting all that good really so far, by his standards at least. Last year it was on the big stage, like this weekend, when he was at his best. Last year he hit 11 home runs and seven of them came in the postseason; with one in this tournament as well. So, while I could see it going either way, I'll give my guy the nod with the assumption that he really turns it on this weekend.
AH: Speaking of, chances we'll see his 2017 debut as a pitcher?
TK: Unfortunately I don't think we'll see Baker on the mound this year, and we may not again in his college career. He seems to have made the decision that he wants to focus on hitting and playing some first base, at least this year. While I would never say we don't need him, because he was pretty good on the mound last year, I think the amount of freshman talent that we have this year played a factor in his decision to focus on hitting as well.
AH: Baker and Nolan Brown are great, but who else in the TCU lineup should we know about?
TK: First of all I just want to point out that Nolan Brown was hurt all year last year, so he's doing what he's doing right now coming back from injury which is awesome. That said there are a few guys you should be aware of. Our catcher Evan Skoug has been in a bit of a slump lately but he is a threat to you deep every time he's up and he's widely regarded as a possible first-round pick this year. Austen Wade has been a beast in the lead off spot this year as well, with two home runs and a .323 average, he's a guy who grinds out at-bats and that's the reason he's also second on the team in walks. There's at least three other guys in the lineup worth mentioning, but I'll spare you the long-winded ramblings.
AH: This is #1 vs. #4, Luken Baker vs. Alex Lange and has as much hype as a one-off game can have. What's your prediction for it?
TK: We're looking at a really good pitching matchup first of all. So, I think a lot will depend on which team is able to do some damage early before these guys settle into their respective grooves. Both teams have really good bullpens too, so I think that will have the biggest impact. TCU has had some issues with fielding lately, and if that's the case in this one it will likely be LSU's game. If TCU plays clean ball, I see them winning this one by a close margin, say 4-3. Neither team has faced a test like this yet, so it will be really interesting to see how good these clubs really are against elite competition.