Thursday's College World Series battle between TCU and Ole Miss will be the last game of the season for the loser, so you know both sides will be ready to compete.
Each team is in this position after losing to Virginia in Omaha. Ole Miss lost by one in its first game of this round, while TCU fell on a walk-off sacrifice fly in the 15th inning. While the winner will get a chance for revenge, the loser will officially be eliminated.
There will be a lot of pressure on each team, but these players are the ones who must truly step up to lead their squads to victory.
Tyler Alexander, SP, TCU
Most teams would be scared to put a freshman on the mound in such a big situation, but TCU should have plenty of confidence in Tyler Alexander at this point in the season.
Although he was less than stellar in his last outing against Pepperdine, his two starts before that were exceptional, as noted by the team's Twitter account:
Tyler Alexander has back-to-back complete games in a championship setting. He is the first pitcher with 10 wins since @mattpurke47 in 2010.— TCU Baseball (@TCU_Baseball) June 2, 2014
Alexander pitched a complete game against Oklahoma State to win the Big 12 championship and then replicated the feat against Sam Houston State in the final game of the Fort Worth regional.
Head coach Jim Schlossnagle explained: "He's obviously a great pitcher. He was mature before he got here and that's his best tool. He's even growing up more before our eyes," via Jay Hinton of GoFrogs.com.
His confidence will allow him to go out and be successful in a game that could make him a star.
Cody Jones, CF, TCU
Although Cody Jones made some big plays in the field against Virginia, he had a game to forget at the plate. The center fielder went 1-for-7 with an embarrassing five strikeouts, killing the Horned Frogs' ability to get much going offensively.
Inconsistency has been a problem for Jones all year long (hitting just .269), but he is deadly when he finds a way to get on base. He leads the team with 29 stolen bases and is always a threat to score once he gets himself into scoring position.
With his ability to draw walks, Jones can make up for his mediocre hitting. However, this is no guarantee against the pitchers at this level.
No matter what, TCU needs the junior to get on base to help be a catalyst for the offense in an important contest.
Sikes Orvis, 1B, Ole Miss
Although Ole Miss has one of the deepest lineups in the nation, Sikes Orvis is the player who can really make an impact with his pure power.
He is tied for seventh in the nation with 14 home runs, at least twice as many as anyone else on the roster. Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger notes the player's hitting ability:
Sikes Orvis has home run power pretty much anywhere. But he said he's ready to test TD Ameritrade Park out. http://t.co/UlHlbG2Ojz— Hugh Kellenberger (@HKellenbergerCL) June 12, 2014
Unfortunately, he has not taken advantage of the trip to Omaha, going 0-for-6 in the College World Series. It is not surprising the Rebels have only three runs in two games as a result.
The first baseman has the skill to change any game with one swing of the bat. If the table-setters in front of him get on base, Orvis has to find a way to knock it out of the park to give his team a good chance of winning.
Sam Smith, SP, Ole Miss
While Sam Smith has the talent to help out Ole Miss in this matchup, he certainly represents a drop-off from the team's first two starters.
Smith comes into the game with a 3.45 ERA while going just 5-4 on the year. Considering Christian Trent and Chris Ellis have combined for a 19-2 record this season, each with an ERA under 2.50, the third starter has a lot of ground to make up.
The good news is that he is someone who throws a lot of strikes, only walking 18 batters this season in 91.1 innings. He also has the confidence to go out and perform well against TCU.
According to Michael Bonner of The Clarion-Ledger, Smith explained, "It's every kid's dream to make a start in Omaha. I'm looking forward to it."
If the right-hander can at least keep the game close before handing it off to the bullpen, he will have done his job.
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