Baseball adjusts to losing numerous key players from previous seasons

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Baseball’s 2018 squad is the youngest it has been in years.

The Horned Frogs enter the season on the heels of its fourth consecutive trip to the College World Series with lofty expectations.

Although the expectations remain high for the Horned Frogs in 2018, a lot the players who have contributed to Omaha visits in recent years have departed.

The Frogs lost six everyday position players and two starting pitchers from last season.

Elliott Barzilli, Brian Howard, Mitchell Traver, Austen Wade and Cam Warner all signed with an MLB team during the 2017 Draft.

A big loss to TCU’s offense is Evan Skoug, who was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 7th round of the Draft. During his final season with the Frogs, he tallied 20 home runs and 71 RBIs – posting a .272 batting average and winning Co-Big 12 Player of the Year honors. Skoug was also a force behind the plate, throwing out 17 base-stealers.

Sophomore Zach Humphreys has served as Skoug’s successor and has transitioned into the starting role. He started 11 games as catcher last season and 16 as the designated hitter.

Humphreys has big shoes to fill, but head coach Jim Schlossnagle said he deserves the position.

“He’s doing well,” Schlossnagle said. “He brings a lot of good things to the table as an outstanding defensive catcher and he puts together good at-bats. He certainly brings things to the table that Evan didn’t.”

Schlossnagle said he doesn’t think Humphreys feels any pressure replacing Skoug despite the expectations since his experience from last season has helped prepare him for the atmosphere of college baseball. However, for other players on the team, this is completely new.

The Horned Frogs welcomed an influx of 15 newcomers for the 2018 season. Three of these newcomers have started every game so far this season.

First-years Adam Oviedo and Coby Boulware have earned the shortstop and second baseman positions for the Frogs.

A.J. Balta, a senior transfer from Oregon, has played centerfield for TCU.

“I’m just trying to get them as much experience as we can,” Schlossnagle said. “They’ve put the work in all fall and at the end of the season. Now it’s just a matter of them getting repetitions and the only way to do that is to get them out there and play. They’re doing a great job at this point and they’re only going to get better with experience.”

Schlossnagle said that putting together the best possible lineup will be his biggest challenge this season.

“I think we have some experienced players in the middle of the order that have gotten off to a good start,” Schlossnagle said. “Our offense is going to be built around them.”

One familiar face from last season’s run to the College World Series is senior Michael Landestoy. Schlossnagle said because of his experience, Landestoy is one of the team’s leaders this season.

“Knowing how the system works and obviously we have a lot of new guys so having older guys like me around and Connor Wanhanen and Jared Janczak kind of automatically makes us the leaders,” Landestoy said. “So just fulfilling that role and trying to help the new guys a lot.”

Despite new faces in the clubhouse, Landestoy said the team is still close and the new players have been eager to learn.

“That’s all we can ask for, to follow the blueprint that has already been established before you and with that, you’ll be successful,” Landestoy said. “They’ve been very receptive to that, and it’s been easy for us as older guys on this team.”

The Horned Frogs were picked to finish second in the Big 12 conference this season. Baseball America, D1 Baseball and the Perfect Game projected TCU as one of the “Eight for Omaha.”

The Frogs hope to play into late-June for a fifth consecutive season.