The preseason No. 1 Horned Frogs baseball team has an experienced nucleus of infielders going into the 2011 season.
The Frogs could have experienced starters at every position with two seniors, a junior and a redshirt sophomore coming back. Every member of the infield played in last year’s College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
Shortstop Taylor Featherston said the experience was a big advantage. The infield is as confident as ever, and the lineup looks strong for 2011, he said.
Second baseman Jerome Pena commented on how the infield operates as a unit.
“We’re really fast-paced moving,” Pena said. “We’re always backing up plays, we’re everywhere.”
The 2010 Horned Frogs posted a .971 fielding percentage compared to the .953 mark put up by their opponents. Here is a look at how the infield stacks up for the coming season.
The Frogs have two viable options as catcher for 2011. Both senior Jimmie Pharr and sophomore Josh Elander have catching experience.
Elander posted a .356 batting average in 59 games last season with a lot of his action coming in the outfield as a freshman in 2010.
Pharr started 19 games, batting .363 with seven home runs. Featherston said the team had confidence in either player to shoulder the load behind the plate.
The nonstarter at catcher could see at-bats as the designated hitter. Johnny Bench Award-winner Bryan Holaday was the starting catcher last season before being drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the sixth round of the 2010 MLB draft.
Senior Joe Weik will likely be the opening day starter. Weik hit .357 in 40 games last year as a junior transfer from Weatherford Junior College.
The Frogs hope to find a replacement for Matt Curry’s big bat at first base from last season. Curry hit .339 with a team-high 18 home runs before being drafted in the 16th round of the 2010 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“You never know who will get a majority of the innings, but Weik is currently the favorite,” Featherston said.
Weik was named team offensive Most Valuable Player both seasons he played at Weatherford and was named to the Fort Worth All-Regional team for his work in 2010.
Redshirt junior Relly Mercurio also has some experience at first base.
Senior Jerome Pena returns to the middle infield where he made 63 starts in 2010, batting .313 with 11 home runs and 52 RBIs.
Pena was a first team all-Mountain West Conference selection in 2010. Pena said his goals were more oriented toward the team than himself.
“I’m just going to go ahead and stick to the team goals, and that will allow me to reach my own personal goals,” Pena said.
Redshirt sophomore Jantzen Witte returns to third base after making 45 starts in 2010.
Witte batted .374 with 15 doubles in his second year of eligibility out of Martin High School in Arlington.
Witte can make even more of an impact this season if he remains healthy. He missed the first 10 games of the 2010 campaign with a broken wrist.
Junior Taylor Featherston again will be the starting shortstop after a strong season in 2010 in which he received 2010 First-team All-Mountain West Conference honors.
Featherston posted a .338 batting average and 52 RBIs last season, finishing off the year by making the College World Series All-Tournament team.
As a junior, Featherston is considered the most seasoned infielder on the TCU roster. He made 60 starts in 2010 and 58 in 2009 as a freshman.
Redshirt sophomore Davy Wright made 26 appearances in 2010, starting games at both second base and third base.
Aaron Schultz likely will see some action on the infield as a redshirt junior. Schultz started 63 games last year, 27 of them in the infield. Schultz batted .293 and drove in 53 RBI’s as a redshirt sophomore.