Senior starting pitcher Steven Maxwell took seven months off after the end of the College World Series last season in Omaha, Neb. He, like fellow sophomore pitcher Matt Purke, did not throw or pitch during that break.
“I took the offseason off, and just concentrated on my strength training so I can be strong at the end of this year like I kind of wasn’t at the end of last,” Maxwell said.
For a team that started off the season in such an up-and-down fashion, a hot streak from their pitchers could not come at a better time. Maxwell went seven strong innings before turning the game over to his bullpen.
“Today was a big day for my fastball; I had that going which was different from last week,” Maxwell said. “I was just trying to make adjustments and the slider was there for me when I needed it. I kept my fastball down and that ended up working for me today.”
The whole weekend was a time for TCU’s pitching staff to shine. Junior Kyle Winkler dominated with 15 strikeouts on Friday, and Matt Purke pitched eight innings of one-run baseball on Saturday.
“I thought our starting pitching was good all weekend,” said head coach Jim Schlossnagle. “I thought all of our relievers were effective. What was most impressive to me was getting 16 hits on a day where it was very hard to get hits. From the time we came out of the locker room today we were committed to staying on top of the ball and trying to keep the ball out of the air. We also executed well.”
TCU has reached a turning point in the season. The mood in the clubhouse is upbeat, and TCU has just completed its second sweep of the season. With five games in the next seven days, the Frogs will look to make up for their sluggish start.
For junior shortstop Taylor Featherston, he can finally feel the team starting to gel after a tough start.
“I feel like we have been on a roller coaster all season long, lots of ups and downs,” Featherston said. “Everybody is starting to have fun and trust each other.
“We have a good feeling right now, one through nine (in the batting order), not trying to do too much. Really we are just trying to keep the ball flat since we play in the biggest park in the country, take each day one at a time and not take anything for granted.”
Featherston is sharing a sentiment that is common throughout the clubhouse: the tough hitting conditions at Lupton Stadium are starting to even out as the Frogs catch some breaks.
Schlossnagle was thrilled with the hitting on a day when the wind was blowing sharply from right to left in the spacious stadium. Now with dominant hitting and dominant pitching to boast, TCU must concentrate on doing all the “little things” and fundamentals that could carry the team all the way back to Omaha.
Junior right fielder Brance Rivera stretched his season-long hitting streak to 27 games, and junior left fielder Jason Coats has started a mini hitting streak of his own that now stands at seven games.
TCU’s next two games will be at Lupton Stadium on Tuesday and Wednesday as UT Pan-American comes to town. Both of those games begin at 6:30 p.m.