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Coach Jim Schlossnagle has opted to give freshman Andrew Mitchell the ball in TCU’s opening round regional matchup against the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles tonight at 7 p.m.
By giving Mitchell the start, Schlossnagle will count on a freshman with a 5-1 record to take the first game of series while saving the arms of Matt Purke and Kyle Winkler for later.
The game will be the second matchup between the Frogs and Oral Roberts, after the Frogs defeated the Golden Eagles 6-4 at the conclusion of TCU’s regular season. It’s also the beginning of a postseason that has many of the Horned Frog faithful hoping that TCU can experience a return to last year’s form, when a healthy Matt Purke led the Frogs to a College World Series berth, the first in school’s history.
Despite speculation that the Frogs’ definite weekend rotation would consist of Purke, Winkler, and Steven Maxwell, Mitchell was given the call by Schlossnagle. Neither coach nor pitcher is concerned about how Mitchell will fare under the bright lights of postseason play.
“I know there’s going to be a lot more extra stuff going on outside the stadium with a lot of fans and a lot of hype,” said Mitchell, who has a 3.13 ERA in 69 innings this season. “It’s still baseball between the lines. I’m just going to keep it like that.”
Earlier this season, in an elimination game against BYU in the conference tournament, Mitchell was solid in going seven innings and picking up the win.
The last pitcher to start against the Golden Eagles was Kyle Starratt, who pitched six innings to earn his first win of the season. The victory for TCU was the only one the Frogs have enjoyed over a regional opponent this year after being swept by both Oklahoma and Dallas Baptist. Despite his record against the weekend’s competition, OU coach Sunny Golloway said he believed that TCU is the team to beat this weekend.
“Clearly [TCU] would be the odds-on favorite. It’s going to be fun to take the underdog role and play them here,” he said.
However, the Frogs have to be feeling lucky to be in the driver’s seat this weekend after narrowly snagging the hosting gig. OU finished only three places behind TCU in the polls and swept their four game series against New Mexico this year (which beat TCU twice in the Mountain West Tournament). But TCU’s impeccable conference record earned them their third regional nod in three years.
This second go-around has been a challenge for Purke as well as the rest of the staff that has been plagued by injuries after last year’s Cinderella run. Injuries have depleted the bullpen as Purke, Winkler, and Maxwell have all missed significant time due to injury. In addition, center fielder Aaron Schultz has gone down with a hamstring injury.
“Yes, it’s been a struggle, but creating those opportunities for the younger players has moved them along quicker on the performance scale,” catcher Josh Elander said.
Regardless, Coach Schlossnagle has been quick to point out that, “Honestly, the only thing anybody is going to remember is how you play from here on out.”