A week ago, TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle shook his head at the baseball gods, feeling a sense of fate after his team’s solid play in a tightly contested sweep at the hands of Ole Miss.
After the Horned Frogs were swept Sunday by No. 20 Cal State Fullerton, Schlossnagle was just shaking his head.
This time TCU was thoroughly outplayed — on the mound and at the plate — as Fullerton finished off the Frogs in convincing fashion, 7-0, in front of 3,727 at Lupton Stadium.
It’s the first time since at least 1966 — as far back as the school’s records go — that the Frogs have started a season 0-6. Schlossnagle said he’s never been part of a team that has struggled so mightily out of the gate, especially during his 10-year head coaching tenure at TCU.
“This weekend, we played poorly and ran into a buzz saw,” Schlossnagle said. “As good as we played [last weekend] that’s as good as Cal State Fullerton played. That doesn’t make it any easier, but I think if their pitching holds up that’s a national championship team. No disrespect to anybody left on our schedule; that’s the best offensive team I’ve seen in college baseball in a long, long time.”
The Titans (8-0) look destined for a deep postseason run, as they outscored TCU 20-4 in the series and nearly played error-free until committing two late ones with Game 3 in command. But TCU pitchers, expected to again be a cornerstone for the Frogs, often struggled with their command. Freshman left-handed pitcher Alex Young, making his first career start, walked two, hit a batter, and allowed five runs on six hits in 3 2/3 innings.
TCU allowed 17 free base runners (10 walks, seven hit batters) combined in the three games. Combine that with seven wild pitches and two passed balls, and it helps explain a slow start that has seen TCU be shut out twice and outscored 31-8 in six games.
“That’s just really bad baseball.” said Schlossnagle, who is most concerned with the control issues. “Going into this season that’s what I challenged our team to do: Throw the most strikes and play the best defense. Last weekend we did that. We’ve seen flashes of it.”
The offense has struggled as much, if not more, than the pitching. TCU’s Nos. 3-6 hitters are, in various iterations, batting .153 (13 for 85) with one RBI in six games. First baseman Kevin Cron, who batted third in the first five games before moving to cleanup Sunday, is 3 for 22 with no RBIs.
“It’s real frustrating. This is the first time I’ve been on a team that’s been in a slump like this,” said Cron, who has struck out six times but made good contact Sunday. “I’ve been striking out a lot more than I should, chasing pitches I shouldn’t be chasing.
“I’m obviously trying a little too hard, doing a little too much. I just need to trust the guy behind me to do it and understand I don’t need to hit the ball out of the ballpark in order for us to win the game.”
Schlossnagle said the most frustrating aspect of the slow start is he has seen no reason to question his team’s toughness or desire.
“I really like the guys on our team,” he said. “And I don’t think they’re soft, at all. I think they’re very competitive. We just need to find a way to win one game.”