TCU returns to Big 12 action with Kansas State in town for a three-game series beginning Friday night.The Wildcats, the league champion a year ago, are in last place but still have a potent offense. Led by Ross Kivett and R.J. Santigate, KSU is batting .292, tied with Texas Tech for the Big 12 lead.The second-place Horned Frogs (31-13, 10-5 Big 12) were scorching in April, going 16-1, thanks mainly to smothering pitching. TCU, however, may be without usual Friday night starter Brandon Finnegan, who has inflammation in his left throwing shoulder. TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said the left-hander from Fort Worth Southwest High School is feeling better since leaving last Friday’s game in the third inning. Finnegan could be available to start Sunday if his bullpen session goes well Friday morning.“I’m not pitching him until he tells me he doesn’t feel anything,” Schlossnagle said. “If that means he has to skip one weekend to get him back on Friday nights then that’s what we’re going to do.”Preston Morrison, the usual Saturday starter, will pitch Friday and Tyler Alexander will move from Sunday to Saturday. Tuesday starter Jordan Kipper is the likely option on Sunday if Finnegan is unavailable.K-State (23-22, 4-11) isn’t the best team to be facing when you’re forced to shuffle your rotation. The Wildcats’ offense is filled with experienced hitters, especially from the left side.“They have a tremendous offense and veteran team,” Schlossnagle said. “They won a regional and played within a game or two of Omaha [last year]. We have no doubt how talented they are. They’re having a good offensive season, and it’s not even as good as it can be. They can run. They don’t panic. It’s a huge test.”TCU finished April with a 15-hit, 14-4 win on Tuesday at Stephen F. Austin. It was TCU’s 19th game with 10 or more hits and the most since April 15. It’s a good sign for the Frogs as they begin their final stretch of 10 regular-season games. TCU trails first-place Oklahoma State (32-13, 13-5) with nine Big 12 games remaining, all against the league’s bottom three teams — K-State, Oklahoma and Baylor.KSU has struggled on the mound and is last in the league with a 4.28 ERA, but its lineup still poses one of the toughest challenges in the league for pitchers.“We’re going to eventually have to win a game with our bats, but hopefully that won’t be anytime soon, because I sure love watching us pitch,” Schlossnagle said after sweeping Cal State Northridge.
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @StevensonFWST