May 23, 2014

Big 12 notes: Finnegan looking for magic in return to mound

Early Saturday start not a concern for players.

TCU pitcher Brandon Finnegan will be back on the mound on Saturday, looking to put recent struggles behind him.

It’s the former Southwest High School star’s third start since returning May 9 from missing a week with shoulder soreness. The Horned Frogs (40-15) play Baylor (26-30) at 9 a.m. in the Big 12 tournament semifinals at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.

Since striking out 11 in eight innings in TCU’s 3-0 win at Texas on April 17, Finnegan (8-3) has struggled to regain his command and allowed seven earned runs in 10 innings over his last three starts.

“The reason he’s had such a great season is because he’s matured to the point where if he doesn’t have all three pitches and his very best stuff he’s OK with that,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “He’ll just go win. Well, in his mind, he wants to be immediately back to the way it was against Texas. Even when you’re 100 percent healthy, which he is, it’s not always going to be that. He has some inner frustration that he’s working through.”

Finnegan took the loss in his last start after giving up five earned runs in 3 1/3 innings at Baylor on May 15. His command was better than on May 9, when he allowed two runs on four hits in the first inning against Oklahoma. Finnegan settled down and got the win after going four innings.

Against Baylor, he left a pitch up for the Bears’ Aaron Dodson after an error and a walk put two on and Dodson homered to left with a big assist from the wind.

Finnegan, who went 0-8 a year ago despite pitching well, had learned to better manage his emotions on the mound this season. He’s fourth in the nation with 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings.

“His standards are so high,” Schlossnagle said. “He had gotten better at that and I think he’d forgotten that he’d gotten better at it. It’s more Brandon’s high expectations and he’s got to learn not to get so frustrated when it’s not there.”

Early to rise

TCU hasn’t played a game before noon in a while. In fact, most of the team hasn’t played a game as early as 9 a.m., Saturday’s start time, since high school.

To make sure his team was acclimated, Schlossnagle had his team wake up at 7:30 a.m. on Friday. The team did its typical midweek workout at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic training complex in Oklahoma City.

“In this kind of atmosphere and what we’re playing for I think everybody is awake by the time we get there,” TCU center fielder Cody Jones said. “It’s not something that crosses our minds once we’re at the field.”

Schlossnagle said the team relaxed during its off day on Friday. Some players caught the new X-Men movie.

“I don’t know if it’s a big deal,” Schlossnagle said of the early start. “We’ll find out. It’s definitely something we needed to address. I wasn’t going to let them sleep until noon [Friday] and then get up at 7 [Saturday].”

Baylor stays alive

Logan Brown and Brett Doe each had two RBIs to lead Baylor over West Virginia 9-4 in an elimination game on Friday. The Bears (26-30) Nick Lewis held WVU to two runs in six innings. Doe and Aaron Dodson hit solo homers for the seventh-seeded Bears. The Mountaineers (28-26) went 1-2 at the tournament and diminished their hopes of earning an at-large NCAA postseason bid.

Key stat

40 TCU, which improved to 40-15 with Thursday’s win, has won 40 or more games for the eighth time in Schlossnagle’s 11-year tenure.

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