Baseball season begins against highly ranked Fullerton

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    Following coach Gary Patterson’s lead from the 2005 football season, head baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle scheduled a national powerhouse to test the Horned Frogs in their first series of the season.

    The baseball team opens its season this weekend with a series at Cal State Fullerton, Baseball America’s 5th best team in the nation. “After the weekend you’re going to find out where you are and what your weaknesses are and what your strengths are,” Schlossnagle said. “It’s been good from a preparation standpoint because you’re not going to ease into the season. Coach Patterson and I talked about this a lot. He felt when they opened up with Oklahoma, their practices leading up to the season where more intense. This time next week we’ll have a better feel for our team.”

    Junior pitcher Tyler Lockwood will get the nod Friday night to kick off the season. Lockwood finished the 2008 season with a 7-2 record and a 2.75 ERA. Lockwood moved from the bullpen March 20 last year and started 11 games in 2008.

    “We just want to throw a lot of strikes and keep the ball down in the zone and not put guys on,” Lockwood said. “We want to just do what we do in practice every day.”

    Saturday’s probable starter is sophomore Sean Hoelscher. Hoelscher had a 7-3 record last season with a 5.02 ERA in 15 starts.

    Sunday could be the first showing of TCU freshman pitcher Kyle Winkler from Kempner High School in Sugar Land, Texas. Winkler was the 19th-ranked high school recruit in Texas by Baseball America and was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 37th round of the 2008 MLB draft.

    Cal State Fullerton returns sophomore pitcher Daniel Renken who could cause some offensive trouble for the Horned Frogs. The 6-foot-4 pitcher went 5-5 last season as a freshman with a 4.11 ERA in 81 innings pitched. He stuck out 80 batters in 2008.

    “From what I remember last year, the first couple games they liked to throw a lot of fastballs outside and challenge you,” said senior infielder Ben Carruthers. “We did a good job the first few games putting good swings on balls.”

    The Horned Frogs will look to break the single season fielding percentage record again this season, returning three of four infielders. Freshman Taylor Featherston will start his first collegiate game playing shortstop.

    “We really can’t even tell they’re new,” Carruthers said about the freshman starters. “I don’t even know they’re freshmen anymore. They’ve impressed me a lot this spring. I’m anxious to see how they will play because I know they will be great.”

    The outfield is the only concern in the field for the Horned Frogs. With the loss of Clint Arnold from last season, the team is left without a true starting center fielder.

    “I think we’ll fall off a little bit on defense in the outfield because we don’t have a true center fielder that has really taken over the position as of yet,” Schlossnagle said. “We’re looking at a lot of people there.”

    Schlossnagle said the keys to winning this weekend are for the team to play aggressively on offense, conservative on defense and force the Titans into mistakes.

    “We’re just happy to get the season started,” Carruthers said. “We’ve been practicing with each other for three weeks now, and it’s good to see a different team and a different uniform.”