Frogs open season Friday against Kansas

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    The No. 1 ranked TCU baseball team officially opens its 2011 campaign this weekend with a home series against Kansas.

    A lot of hype surrounds the start to this season for the Frogs, ranked high in the polls and with expectations for a return to Omaha for a second consecutive College World Series appearance.

    Head baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle said there is a lot of excitement from last year’s run, but also some disappointment from not being able to win it all. The players and coaches don’t pay attention to the rankings but rather focus on preparing for each game.

    “[Kansas] is not going to be anything other than ready to go, and we will be too,” Schlossnagle said.

    Junior shortstop Taylor Featherston said the club is calm, collected and confident heading into the opening series. The Frogs love having the target on their backs to start the season.

    “We’re going to get everyone’s best shot,” Featherston said. “And we wouldn’t have it any other way.”

    The team is focused on its own game, and that if it maintains that focus, everything else will take care of itself, he said.

    The Jayhawks finished seventh in the Big 12 conference last season with an overall record of 31-27-1.

    Kansas lost its top two home run threats from 2010 in Tony Thompson and Buck Afenir, as well as its top hitter for average in Brian Heere. All three Jayhawks graduated concluding the 2010 season.

    Despite these losses at the plate, Kansas returns senior T.J. Walz, who will be the starting pitcher in tonight’s game.

    Walz posted an 8-3 season record with a 4.70 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 82 innings pitched.

    Walz will match up with TCU’s ace in Matt Purke, who pitched his way to a 16-0 record in 2010 winning the 2010 Baseball America Freshman of the Year award. Purke tallied 142 total strikeouts in 116 innings without losing a decision last season.

    Purke anchors a rotation that also includes junior Kyle Winkler and senior Steven Maxwell, who were a combined 23-5 last season.

    Winkler expects the Frogs to play with passion this weekend. He said the team has been preparing for this series since they got back to work in the fall.

    Schlossnagle said his job as head coach is to keep the team focused this weekend to get off to a good start.

    “I know we’re going to be competitive, energized and excited,” Schlossnagle said. “A lot of the challenge will be managing all that.”

    Featherston said the team has a lot of confidence playing at home. He said he hopes the stadium will be sold out to create a regional atmosphere this weekend.

    The Frogs had a record of 26-4 at Lupton Stadium in the 2010 campaign. Purke will toss the first pitch of the 2011 season at 6:30 p.m.

    Info Box

    What: No. 1 TCU vs. Kansas

    Game 1:

    When: Friday at 6:30 p.m.

    Where: Lupton Stadium

    TV: The Mtn. (live)

    Radio: 88.7 FM KTCU

    GoFrogs.com: Follow GameTracker or watch live

    Game 2:

    When: Saturday at 2 p.m.

    Where: Lupton Stadium

    TV: The Mtn. (tape delay: will air at 5:30 p.m.)

    Radio: 88.7 KFM KTCU

    GoFrogs.com: Follow GameTracker or watch live

    Game 3:

    When: Sunday at 1 p.m.

    Where: Lupton Stadium

    TV: The Mtn. (live)

    Radio: 88.7 FM (KTCU)

    GoFrogs.com: Follow GameTracker or watch live