Editor's note: College Baseball Nation is joined by guest writer, Riley Zayas, for coverage of the Texas Collegiate League. Riley Zayas is a high school freshman and freelance journalist from Round Rock, Texas. He began his journalism career as a Sports Illustrated Kid reporter and has since become a regular contributor to Horns Illustrated, covering Texas Longhorn sports. His work also includes Fellowship of Christian Athletes publications, his personal blog 360 Sports, and Sports Spectrum, a national christian sports magazine and website. He is passionate about all things sports and can be followed on Twitter at @ZayasRiley.
After hundreds of games, a late start, and the addition of six new teams, the Texas Collegiate League playoffs have finally arrived. The playoffs look to be more competitive than ever, with four unique teams, three of them being new to the league, and one being the defending league champion. Three series of exciting baseball are set to be played across Texas and Oklahoma.
South Division Championship: Brazos Valley vs. San Antonio
Game 1: Brazos Valley Bombers vs. San Antonio Flying Chanclas - 8/4 7:05 PM CT @ Wolff Stadium
Game 2: San Antonio Flying Chanclas vs. Brazos Valley Bombers - 8/5 7:05 PM CT @ Travis Field
*Game 3 (if necessary): San Antonio Flying Chanclas vs. Brazos Valley Bombers - 8/6 7:05 PM CT @ Travis Field
This series will be a rematch of one that took place from July 21-26, and resulted in the Bombers winning the series 4-2. In all three contests played in Bryan, Brazos Valley came out victorious, a sign that game two, and possibly game three, will be an uphill battle for the Flying Chanclas. Regardless, each team has its strengths, and while San Antonio enters this game as the underdog, this will be an evenly matched series for the South division title.
3 Keys for Brazos Valley
Stick to small ball- Second in the league in stolen bases, the Bombers need to make the most of every baserunner. In addition, Brazos Valley is currently first in the league in sacrifice flies.
Depth in the bullpen- Using the bullpen efficiently has been the key all season for Brazos Valley. The more pitchers San Antonio has to adjust to, the easier it will be to keep them guessing at the plate. It will also preserve some of the Bombers’ top arms.
Do not lose the momentum- This goes without saying but once San Antonio gets on a roll offensively, it can quickly result in multiple runs being scored in the blink of an eye. The Bombers need to put an end to any kind of offensive outburst before it gets out of hand in order to stay competitive in these games.
3 Keys for San Antonio
Use the shift- Brazos Valley can hit well, but the majority of the lineup will be pull hitters, so San Antonio making a proper adjustment in the infield to counter that will likely result in the Bombers trying to hit more to the opposite field, and take them out of their comfort zone.
Make the most of the depth- With 13 players batting over .200 (with a min of 19 ABs), San Antonio has all the depth they need in the lineup. In a must-win series, it will be crucial that the right players are put out in the field. Having added depth should make this easier, considering manager Tom Holliday can mix and match his lineup based on who is hitting well, rather than having to put the offense on the shoulders of just a few players.
Eliminate the hits- When it comes to pitching, Marcelo Perez will be San Antonio's ace. All season, he has allowed just one run. The one weak area for him, and the pitching staff in general has been allowing high totals of hits. That can not happen against Brazos Valley. In the three game sweep in Bryan two weeks ago, the Flying Chanclas simply allowed too many hits. If that happens, the bulk of the pressure will be put on the offense, a dangerous thing, especially against a very talented Bombers bullpen.
North Division Championship: Tulsa vs. Amarillo
Game 1: Amarillo Sod Squad vs. Tulsa Drillers - 8/4 7:05 PM CT @ ONEOK Field
Game 2: Tulsa Drillers vs. Amarillo Sod Squad - 8/5 7:05 PM CT @ Hodgetown
*Game 3 (if necessary): Tulsa Drillers vs. Amarillo Sod Squad - 8/6 7:05 PM CT @ Hodgetown
This series is set to be a showdown in the North. The Sod Squad have far and away established themselves as the TCL’s top team, the only team to lose fewer than 10 games and win more than 20. However, Tulsa has been on the verge of being competitive all season, and seen contributions from a variety of players. Winning their lone home game of the series in game one will be crucial to the Drillers’ chances to come up with the big upset.
3 Keys for Tulsa
Eliminating Amarillo’s Power hitters- All season, Amarillo has relied on a high-powered offense to score runs and win high-scoring games. Tulsa can not let that happen in this series, and must rely on stellar pitching to accomplish that. In addition, high pitches in the strike zone have been an achilles heel for the Sod Squad throughout the season, and is exactly where Tulsa’s pitchers will want to be throwing.
Hitting with runners on base- A challenge this season for the Drillers has been hitting with runners on base, as they’ve stranded eight or more runners in four of the last five games.
Smart baserunning- One reason for Tulsa’s lack of scoring (ranked 7th in TCL in runs scored) is the fact that the Drillers also lead the TCL in runners caught stealing. In a must-win series, where every baserunner counts, that style could easily result in scoring two or three less runs, and ultimately losing the ballgame against an Amarillo team that is strong at the plate.
3 Keys for Amarillo
Using hitting to their advantage- On paper, the Sod Squad are much better at the plate than the Drillers. In order to avoid an upset here, Amarillo must hit well under pressure, and build its lineup around the core of Miller-Green and twins Julio and David Marcano, who have proven themselves at the plate and are expected to start every game of this series.
Starting Pitching- Having a good starter on the mound is crucial to the Sod Squad’s game plan; to score early and keep the Drillers at bay, especially for the first five or six innings. There are four main starters who could play this role during this series; Jake Suddreth (West Texas A&M), Tyler Myrick (FIU), Cooper Harris (West Texas A&M), and Kerry Boykins (Grambling State).
Embrace the opposite field hitting- On multiple occasions, Amarillo has shown an exceptional ability to find the gaps in the defense and hit to the opposite field. That is one reason for the .280 team batting average and 160 RBI and high-octane offense.
All-TCL Regular Season Team
As the Texas Collegiate League regular season has come to close, here are our picks for the all-TCL team:
C-Ricardo Leonett, Western Kentucky, Texarkana (.341 Avg)
1B-Ryan Hernandez, Houson, Round Rock (.364 Avg, 6 HRs)
2B-Matthew Garcia, Bethune-Cookman, Amarillo Sod Dogs (.351 Avg)
3B-Enrique Porchas, Bethune-Cookman, Amarillo Sod Dogs (19 RBI)
SS-Kelby Weyler, Lamar, Brazos Valley (.367 Avg)
OF-Isaiah Oretega-Jones, Texas State, Frisco (16 RBI)
OF-Julio Marcano, NJIT, Amarillo Sod Squad (24 Runs scored)
OF-Ediardo Acosta, Lubbock Christian, Amarillo Sod Dogs (25 RBI)
UTIL- Jonathan Tapia, UT-San Antonio, San Antonio (.356 Avg)
SP-Chandler Best, Southern Miss, Acadiana (1.99 ERA)
SP-Garrett Crowley, Fordham, Tulsa (3-0, 28 strikeouts)
SP-Marcelo Perez, TCU, San Antonio (0.44 ERA, 5 starts)
RP-Zach Poe,. Paris Junior College, Brazos Valley (1.22 ERA, 14.2 IP)
RP-Hunter Meche, LSU-Alexandria, Acadiana (10 appearances, 1.09 ERA)
RP-John Cheatwood, Marshall, Brazos Valley (17 strikeouts, 0.00 ERA, 13 IP)