The first time associate head coach Bill Mosiello met with TCU baseball players, he wrote in big letters on a chalk board: “competitiveness.”
It was a non-negotiable tenet of Mosiello’s hitting philosophy, one that had a history of success at the college and pro levels.
Mosiello, who has had a long career as a minor-league manager and college coach, was a well-known hitting instructor with an established record working with young pros such as Mike Trout, Todd Helton and Robinson Cano as they worked their way to the major leagues.
But the resuscitation job necessary for the Horned Frogs to turn around their offense from 2013 seemed like a multiyear process when Mosiello was hired last summer.
But Coach Mo, as he’s called, was convinced from watching a little bit of tape and following the players’ summer league seasons that he was dealing with good hitters who only needed some direction.
His influence on the team’s offense has been striking. The Horned Frogs (42-15), who open the Fort Worth Regional against Siena (26-31) at 7 p.m. Friday at Lupton Stadium, have improved their team batting average by 41 points to .287 from a year ago.
TCU led the Big 12 in league-only games with a .291 average. A year ago, the team finished seventh of nine teams with a .255 average in Big 12 games.
“You hope there’s going to be some miraculous turnaround, but we all know it’s more about the players than the coaches,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “He and [volunteer assistant coach] Zach [Etheredge] have brought a mentality to our offense, which is the No. 1 thing we lacked. That did not come easy. It didn’t even show itself until halfway through the season to be honest with you. They have bought in what they have to be as an offense and who they have to be individually, and Coach Mo has been a part of helping create that and define it.”
Mosiello instilled in the TCU hitters the idea that each batter affects others in the lineup and that being selective and making a pitcher work can pay dividends later in a game. For instance, a hitter fouling off pitches, working a full count and forcing a nine- or 10-pitch at-bat can be a positive when that pitcher is worn down a few innings later.
“A lot of games, we’re not on the board for five innings, but we’re wearing him out. And then one inning, we’re boom, boom, boom — and it’s like we did get to him,” Mosiello said. “It’s happened in a lot of games. That’s something we’re proud of.”
Mosiello’s approach isn’t unlike what Schlossnagle has been using and teaching for 11 years at TCU. But Mosiello’s presence added another stern, no-nonsense voice to the scene.
“For the most part during my time here, I’ve always had to be the bad guy,” Schlossnagle said. “I’ve had assistant coaches who are pretty easygoing, and that’s fine, you definitely need that. You need balance on the staff. But it’s also nice to have somebody on the staff that isn’t afraid to hold somebody accountable at the same level I want them held accountable. So that’s allowed me to sometimes be the guy who can pat somebody on the back or be a little more quiet in practice than being the voice that everybody hears.”
TCU has improved drastically in almost every offensive category from last year with nearly the exact same players in the lineup.
One area the Frogs have excelled in is two-strike hitting, which Baylor coach Steve Smith pointed out last week at the Big 12 tournament.
“It’s the idea of competing. No matter who the pitcher is, he’s not going to get me out,” said third baseman Derek Odell of Mosiello’s philosophy. “I’m going to run the count; I’m going to run the at-bat. I strive to have 10-pitch at-bats just to wear down the pitcher.”
Mosiello insists the players deserve the credit, not him. And the work that Etheredge puts in with the hitters has been invaluable, Mosiello said, echoing Schlossnagle.
“The players have tremendous trust in him, and he throws a million pitches in batting practice,” he said. “He’s an unsung hero for our guys. The players really respect him and love what he does for the team.”
The offense didn’t exactly jump out of the gate, Mosiello noted, and at times he was questioning his methods. But Schlossnagle, who acknowledged it was a slow process this season, reassured Mosiello at the time with statistical proof showing the team’s improvement.
“I looked at that and said, ‘Wow, we are way better,’ ” Mosiello said. “I’m sure glad I wasn’t around last year.”
The players, even the most stubborn ones, eventually completely bought in, and the offense continued to improve as the Frogs won 27 of their last 30 games.
“He is the definition of a competitor,” Odell said. “He’s not wrong, and even if he is, he’s going to convince you that he’s not. And you can’t beat him in anything because he just won’t let you. That’s the kind of mentality that he brings to all of us — you’re never going to give in to a pitcher; never give a pitcher any credit. He’s been around the game with big names for so long. It’s huge. We all want to be who he’s coached, and he’s coached some of the greatest. We believe him because he’s done it.”
The Coach Mo factor
Associate head coach Bill Mosiello was hired last summer to help turn around the offense. How the offense compares to the 2013 team, which finished 29-28 and missed the postseason:
|Category||2013 (57 games)||2014 (57 games)|
|Sacrifice (fly/bunts combined)||73||73|
|Stolen bases-Caught stealing||38-53||78-114|