There were 48 regular season games left on No. 7 TCU’s schedule when they went to Lubbock Friday evening, so panicking before their three-game series with Texas Tech when they had only played two weeks of a three-month schedule would have been unnecessary and counterproductive for the Frogs.
Head baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle’s team knew that before they departed for West Texas.
“We’re still eight games in, nothing to freak out about,” junior shortstop Taylor Featherston said after Tuesday’s loss to Dallas Baptist. “…Oh yeah, [4-4] surprises me. There’s a lot of baseball to play. With the way we’re pitching and playing defense, you’re only going to hold this offense down for so long. And once we get it all rolling together, it will be fine.”
But the Frogs also might have known that most fans and national pundits would have expected the preseason ranked No. 1 team to lose its fourth game sometime around the first of April, not the first of March.
Naturally, TCU felt they had something to prove against the Red Raiders.
Their point was duly noted after outscoring Tech 23-7 in three-game sweep in Lubbock.
TCU’s bats finally woke up and their pitching, apart from a near breakdown late in Saturday’s game, was as flawless as it has been all season. Junior Kyle Winkler had his third scoreless outing of the season and sophomore Matt Purke made his second start of the year Sunday, throwing six scoreless innings.
Things are looking up for the Frogs as they return to Lupton Stadium tonight to face UT Arlington. But that wasn’t the case the five days ago when TCU was mired, relatively speaking, in a three-game losing streak after dropping the last two games of the Cal State Fullerton series and then losing to Dallas Baptist 4-3 last Tuesday.
Errors were to blame for the Frogs’ loss to DBU, but the losses to Cal State Fullerton and the loss to Kansas on opening weekend were all about their hitting, or lack thereof.
Baseball is a streaky game, and if half your lineup is cold and the other half is average, it is going to be hard to consistently score runs.
After a six-month off-season layoff, some guys start hot and some start cold. Unfortunately for the Frogs, reliable batters like junior outfielder Jason Coats and senior infielder Joe Weik started the season off in the latter.
The players, however, realized what so many fans and pundits have glazed over: Friday night’s game against Tech was going to be only their ninth game.
The team had the weekend and has every weekend until the Mountain West Conference tournament in May to fix, realign, and tinker something that was hardly broken.
They’ve won their season opening series, beaten two ranked opponents 8212; No. 17 Baylor on the road and No. 6 Cal State Fullerton at home and found two extra starting freshman pitchers in freshman Andrew Mitchell and Stefan Crichton.
Both pitchers left their first starts having given up no earned runs. Mitchell, who started against the Bears last week and also against Cal State Fullerton Sunday, has struck out 10 in 11 2/3 scoreless innings.
TCU may have been 4-4 before Friday, but they were the best .500 team in country. They proved that against Texas Tech this weekend. With Purke healthy and pitching well, plus Coats (7-for-12 with six RBIs in the series) hitting equals TCU sweeping the dust off the Red Raiders.
But now comes the hard part for TCU baseball.
Whether it’s been pressure from the big crowds or the fact that Lupton Stadium isn’t a hitters’ ballpark, TCU has struggled to consistently score runs at home.
They should be able to carry-over some of the momentum they gained in Lubbock into Tuesday’s game against UTA as well as this weekend’s series against Houston Baptist. But if they don’t quite put it together before Spring Break, don’t be overly concerned.
There’s a reason this team marched past the Texas Longhorns in the Austin Super Regional and made it to the College World Series for the first time in program history.
They can hit. They can field. They can pitch. And they can do it all when it counts.
Ryan Osborne is a freshman journalism major from Lawton, Okla. and a writer for SportDFW.
Rk. Team W-L Last Week Prev.
1. Florida 10-1 3-1 1
2. Vanderbilt 11-1 4-0 2
3. Oklahoma 14-0 5-0 3
4. South Carolina 8-1 2-1 4
5. Texas 7-4 2-1 6
6. CS Fullerton 8-3 4-0 7
7. TCU 7-4 3-1 8
8. Florida State 10-1 3-1 11
9. Arizona State 9-2 3-1 10
10. Clemson 7-2 2-1 12