With the college baseball season right around the corner, we start previewing every team in the Big 12. Here’s a closer look at the TCU Horned Frogs.
2017 Record: 50-18 (16-8 in Big 12 play), College World Series
Head Coach: Jim Schlossnagle, 15th season
Last NCAA Regional appearance: 2017
Big 12 Coaches Prediction: 2nd (60 points)
In The Box
Gone are some of this team’s best hitters like Austen Wade, who hit .332 with five home runs, 40 RBI and led the Big 12 in walks (Indians, 5th round), plus slugger Evan Skoug, who led the Big 12 with 20 home runs and 59 runs scored and total bases (White Sox, 7th round), while Cam Warner (.284, 5 HR, 49 RBI) graduated, along with Nolan Brown (Big 12 leader in stolen bases), Ryan Merrill and Elliott Barzilli. That’s a lot of veteran talent that has left the locker room in Fort Worth.
But the line up will be led by first baseman Luken Baker, who batted .317 with 8 HR and 41 RBI last season, along with a .528 slugging percentage, which was second on the team to Skoug. Baker was named a preseason All-American and should be one of, if not the best, hitters in the Big 12 conference. Baker actually enters the season carrying a reached base safely streak of 29 games and a nine-game hitting streak. There are several newcomers from the 2017 class that was ranked best in the Big 12 who should make immediate impacts. Shorstop Adam Oviedo was a projected second round pick in the MLB Draft last year before announcing he would honor his commitment to TCU. He was the No. 2 player in the state of Texas.
Then there’s the top outfielder from Illinois, Brad Czerniejewski, who could see time soon. A couple of transfers to keep an eye on are CF Johnny Rizer (Blinn College) and 3B Conner Shepherd (Mt. San Antonio College).
On the Rubber
Just like Luken Baker leads the line up, the staff is clearly led by Jared Janczak, who is a second-team preseason All-American. Janczak went 9-2 last season with a 2.31 ERA. He was third in the Big 12 in innings pitched and first in batting average against (.181). Everything will start with the right arm of the redshirt junior. After Janczak, it’ll be Nick Lodolo who was a 2017 Baseball America second-team Freshman All-American, finishing the season 5-1 with a 4.35 ERA. Following Lodolo is junior Sean Wymer, who was a second-team All-Big 12 Conference player in 2017. Last season he led the team out of the bullpen with 30 appearances, going 6-4 with a 2.10 ERA, but now gets the bump to the rotation. Anchoring the bullpen is junior Durbin Feltman, who set a TCU single-season record and ranked tied for first nationally with 17 saves last season. Newcomers to keep an eye on include RHP Caleb Sloan, who was an All-American in high school, the top player in Colorado and has a 94 MPH fastball, and there’s 6’9” lefty Russell Smith, who was the No. 2 LHP in Texas last year.
As TCU begins a season going for a fifth-straight trip to the College World Series (which has only been done seven times in college baseball history), it’s a really tough non-conference for the Horned Frogs. They open things up this weekend with Grand Canyon, the first time the Horned Frogs have opened on the road since 2013. GCU actually went 20-4 in conference play last season, and also took two of three from Oklahoma State to open the year. Granted, TCU shouldn’t have any problems with the GCU, but from there it’s a weekend series at home with Long Beach State, who reached a Super Regional last year and always has a solid program under Troy Buckley. After that, it’s another weekend series with UC Irvine, which struggled last season at 23-33 under Mike Gillespie, but who is just four years removed from a trip to the College World Series. Then there’s a mid-week west coast swing to face UCLA and USC, plus a game at Dodger Stadium against Vanderbilt, followed by a road game at Rice. Yikes! Coach Schlossnagle’s guys will be tested before Big 12 play begins.