TCU baseball will begin the 2020 season against Kentucky with plenty of new faces in the purple and white.
The No. 20 Horned Frogs welcome a top-five recruiting class to Fort Worth with 20 newcomers.
Johnny Ray, one of the newcomers, is set to start on the mound for the Frogs.
The right-handed pitcher from Quincy, Illinois was named the sixth-best JUCO pitcher by Perfect Game.
“If he pitches, competes and stays healthy the way he has up to this point, I think TCU fans will be excited to watch him pitch,” head coach Jim Schlossnagle said.
The Frogs will also have LHP Russell Smith back from Tommy John surgery as well as LSU transfer LHP John Kodros, who sat out last season due to eligibility rules.
TCU’s pitching staff is looking to improve from last season, in which they posted an ERA of 4.23 and allowed opponents to bat .266.
Schlossnagle is especially excited about one transfer player in particular–Alabama grad-transfer Gene Wood.
“We are looking forward to having [him] on our team,” Schlossnagle said. “I can’t imagine where we would be without Gene Wood. This guy can literally play every position on the field.”
Wood is the team’s first graduate transfer since right fielder A.J. Balta from two seasons ago.
The Frogs will return six batters who combined to hit .289 last season with 23 home runs and 143 RBIs.
Another player to look out for this season is senior catcher Zach Humphreys. He decided to return to Fort Worth after being selected in the 26th round of the MLB Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers.
“It was a tough call,” Humphreys said. “We decided it was best for me to come back, graduate and take on a leadership role with this team.”
Schlossnagle said having a veteran catcher will help the Frogs find an early rhythm.
“We now have the perfect scenario with super-talented freshman Kurtis Byrne, who is going to sit there and learn a ton from Humphreys,” Schlossnagle said.
Opening night will be an early test for the Frogs, who finished the 2019 season at 34-28.
“Kentucky is a club that I think we are still trying to figure out what the pitching staff is going to look like,” Schlossnagle said.
Jimmy Ramsey is projected to start Friday for Kentucky. He led the Wildcats last season with 68 strikeouts.
Schlossnagle said it’s going to be a challenge for the pitching staff and defense to handle an offensive team that can really run.
Breydon Daniel, a senior for the Wildcats, was their top base-stealer last year with 17.
T.J. Collett, Kentucky’s first baseman and designated hitter, was named a Preseason All-American by Perfect Game. He led the team with 40 RBIs and 10 homers last season.
Junior Coltyn Kessler led the Wildcats last season with a .297 average. Junior Mason Hazelwood is the top returning pitcher, posting a 3.92 ERA in 13 appearances, including nine starts.
First pitch is at 6:30 p.m. Friday night at Lupton Stadium.