Frogs pitching keeps the heat off lackluster offense Saturday

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    Junior Kyle Winkler’s curveball was nasty for 7 1/3 innings. When Winker allowed two runners on with one out in the eighth inning, TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle went to junior closer Erik Miller.

    If Winkler’s curveball was great, Miller’s was better. The final five batters of the game barely made contact with Miller’s pitches, and he stranded runners on second and third to end the eighth.

    Miller pumped his fist and hopped off the mound as TCU held onto its 3-1 lead over No. 12 Cal State Fullerton. For Miller, 2011 has started just the way he would have liked.

    Schlossnagle commented after last Sunday’s game versus Kansas that TCU had found its closer.

    “Miller might have folded in the past in a situation like that,” Schlossnagle said. Miller pitched over four innings in an extra-inning ballgame last weekend and gave the Frogs a chance to win the game several times.

    Miller sported a 4.67 ERA in 2010 as a sophomore. He appears on his way to a much more dominant season this time around. Miller has told the media after every game that he has pitched that he has felt great. His arm feels strong, and it shows as he has struck out 9 batters in his first 8 innings this season.

    Miller was controlling his pitches on this brisk night while routinely hitting between 90-92 miles per hour on the radar gun. His pitches have great movement which allowed him to keep Cal-State Fullerton batters off balance all game.

    When asked about the approach of Fullerton batters after the game, Coach Schlossnagle said, “Their hitters take just what you give them. You know they have guys who play within their game. They don’t over swing. They are gonna put the ball in play, so our pitchers have to work.”

    Compared to Kansas, Cal State Fullerton plays to contact which puts more pressure on TCU pitchers since the Titan hitters are tougher to strikeout.

    TCU sophomore Kyle Von Tungeln also broke out tonight. The DH/Outfielder game into Friday’s game without a hit. Tonight, after drawing a walk in his first at-bat, Von Tungeln then got an infield single and an RBI double to lead the Horned Frog offense. Von Tungeln has tremendous speed, and he spoke after the game about continuing to learn how to play the game and use speed as his advantage.

    Schlossnagle was asked about Von Tungeln’s performance after the game.

    “He’s an explosive player, and we have been on him for a year and a half to use his legs to play,” Schlossnagle said. “When he does that, he is a special player. It is hard to use your legs when the ball is in the air all the time, but he put the ball on the ground today. He got a bunt down, got a big hit late in the game, and we feel like he is an elite player who will be the cornerstone of our program for the next couple of years.”

    It is a scary thought for opponents that TCU’s offense has not come close to its potential yet. Senior first baseman Joe Weik has not swung the bat well so far, and guys like junior Aaron Schultz and Pena have been streaky. As all hitters begin to heat up and the weather warms up as well, the TCU offense will come alive in support of its superior pitching.

    Alex Apple is a freshman political science and journalism double major from Nashville, Tenn.

    Alex Apple also writes for SportDFW.com