Home opener against 2004 college champions

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    America’s pastime returns to Fort Worth today as the TCU baseball team takes on the Cal State Fullerton Titans for this season’s home opener at Lupton Stadium.

    This marks the fifth series between the two teams and it will be the first time the Titans travel to Fort Worth to take on the Horned Frogs.

    Cal State Fullerton, the 2004 College World Series Champions, is ranked No. 16 by Collegiate Baseball and Rivals.com, No. 15 by the USA Today/ESPN Coaches and No. 14 by the National College Baseball Writers of America but were left off Baseball America’s Preseason Top 25 for the first time in 10 years.

    Last season the Horned Frogs were ranked at times in the top-20 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll, but eventually fell out of the final rankings.

    Practice was delayed for all NCAA teams this year, being held until Feb. 1 with today representing a true opening day for college baseball.

    The Horned Frogs start this season unranked, having lost the core of the pitching staff and the heart of the batting order. The Major League Baseball draft took the bat of catcher Andrew Walker out of the lineup and closer Sam Demel away from the Horned Frogs’ bullpen.

    Although TCU’s team is relatively young, it is still predicted to come out on top of the Mountain West Conference for the third year in a row.

    Three of the Horned Frogs’ players were named preseason All-Conference players: junior first baseman Matt Vern, shortstop Bryan Kervin and center fielder Clint Arnold. Arnold led the team in stolen bases last season and did not commit an error in the outfield. Vern held the hottest bat at home last season hitting .354 with three home runs and 21 RBIs while in the confines of Lupton Stadium.

    Neither team features much power. TCU’s projected starting lineup combined for 24 home runs last season while Fullerton’s projected starters combine for five. Although TCU is sending a relatively young squad to the field, all but two members of the team played together during the 2007 season. Catcher Bryan Holaday is a transfer from North Central Texas and freshman utility man Aaron Shultz comes from Klein Collins High School in Houston. The Titans have only five returning players slated to take the field tonight.

    As far as pitching goes, TCU is projected to start junior right-hander Seth Garrison. Last season his season was cut short after having Tommy John surgery and he was granted a medical redshirt.

    In the 23 innings Garrison did pitch last season, he posted a 1-0 record with a 1.96 ERA and 7.67 strikeout to walk ratio.

    Fullerton is projected to start senior Jeff Kaplan who is coming off an 11-win campaign last season, which included two complete games. Kaplan finished the season 11-3 with a 3.30 ERA and 83 strikeouts.

    During last season’s home opening series, the Horned Frogs swept Oral Roberts University Eagles, a team that had knocked TCU out of the NCAA Regionals in 2004.

    The first pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. at Lupton Stadium while Saturday and Sunday’s games will be at 2 and 1 p.m., respectively.

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