Experienced infielders defensive backbone of team

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    The Horned Frogs baseball team will lean on an experienced infield to lead the team.

    “I think we have a very veteran infield coming back,” junior first baseman Corey Steglich said. “A lot of guys have played their positions and started there before. That should be the anchor of our team this year.”

    All four infielders have started at their respective positions in the past. The team will look to them for stability after losing the entire starting pitching staff, its closer and having the middle of the batting order essentially gutted.

    “With our offense maybe being a different kind of offense and an inexperienced pitching staff, that’s something that needs to be really consistent,” head coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “That needs to be a strong point of our club.”

    The 2007 team set a record for fielding percentage at .975, Schlossnagle said.

    Matt Carpenter, a redshirt junior, will be a staple at third base following the graduation of Steven Trout from last year’s team. Carpenter missed almost the entire 2007 season recovering from elbow surgery, for which he received a medical redshirt.

    As a sophomore, Carpenter started all 62 games and committed only six errors in 256 chances. He was also second on the team in batting average, hitting .349. Schlossnagle said he values the leadership the junior brings to the team.

    “He’s been in this program for a long time,” Schlossnagle said. “He’s evolved as a player, as a leader and as a student. He’s very invested in TCU baseball.”

    Senior Bryan Kervin and junior Ben Carruthers return at shortstop and second base, respectively, to make for an experienced double play combination.

    “Kervin plays a lights out shortstop,” Schlossnagle said. “(And) Carruthers is the best defensive second baseman I’ve ever coached.”

    Behind the plate will be the platoon of sophomore Bryan Holaday and junior Hunt Woodruff. With the changes to the NCAA schedule, the Horned Frogs will sometimes play 5 games in a week, requiring depth at the catcher position.

    “That’s not just going to put stress on your pitching staff,” Schlossnagle said. “It’s going to put stress on your catching. You’re going to need to play more than just one guy back there.”

    Woodruff saw some action during the 2007 season, but Andrew Walker, a fifth-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates, was the everyday catcher.

    Junior Matt Vern is projected to start at first base, Schlossnagle said. Steglich will likely see time there too, as well as at designated hitter.

    Vern put up solid power numbers last season with a .519 slugging percentage and tied for the team lead in triples.

    “We lost a lot of run production,” Schlossnagle said. “We’re really going to depend on guys like Carpenter, (Matt) McGuirk and Matt Vern becoming run producers instead of just support players.”

    “We’re just going to have to step up,” Steglich said. “It’s going to have to be somebody else each and every day. Whether it’s the guy in the nine hole or the guy in the one hole, you never know who’s going to have to make a contribution because we did lose a lot in the middle of the order.”

    Schlossnagle said the team likely won’t be able to equal last season’s power numbers.

    “That’s one thing we’ve been preaching to the players,” Schlossnagle said. “We’re going to have to be a blue collar, dirt bag, base running-type club.”

    Kervin said: “I think we’re going to have to do the small stuff – get our bunts down when we need it, get the hit and runs and those sort of small things.”

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