The TCU Horned Frogs opened baseball practice Friday as, so far, the consensus No. 1 team in the country.
Fine with them.
“We kind of stole something from the Cubs. We’re going to embrace the target,” pitcher Brian Howard said. “They were picked to win the World Series early on. We’re just going to love that, kind of be, ‘That’s good.’”
TCU is No. 1 in every set of preseason rankings released so far — by Collegiate Baseball, Perfect Game, D1Baseball.com, Baseball America and the USA Today Coaches Poll, with the National College Baseball Writers Association rankings still out.
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That makes them not only the favorite to win the Big 12, but to get to the College World Series and win it, also.
Fine with them.
You’ve got two options when those things come along. You can not talk about it and run away from it, or as the Cubs did this past year, you can embrace it.
TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle, on the team’s No. 1 ranking
“You’ve got two options when those things come along,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “You can not talk about it and run away from it, or as the Cubs did this past year, you can embrace it. I think it’s a great statement on the program.”
The statement is that the Frogs are loaded. After reaching a third consecutive College World Series last season, they return power phenom Luken Baker among eight everyday position players and nine pitchers — including their weekend rotation, left-handed setup arm and closer — to go with a recruiting class led by left-handed pitcher Nick Lodolo, the highest-drafted player not to sign professionally.
“Being No. 1 is not something that should be taken lightly,” junior catcher Evan Skoug said. “But for us, we just want to take it with a grain of salt and make sure that we’re putting in our good work every day and that we don’t just show up and expect to win, because that’s not what it’s about.”
Five TCU players have earned preseason All-America honors: DH Luken Baker, catcher Evan Skoug, pitchers Brian Howard and Durbin Feltman and third baseman Elliott Barzilli.
Baker, who hit 11 home runs as a freshman last season, including seven in postseason and two in the College World Series, acknowledged the heightened expectations the No. 1 ranking brings.
“It’s nice to see it, but it doesn’t really mean anything,” he said. “It’s just a bigger target that we have to embrace and take on. We’re excited to get after it. As long as we stick to the process and stick to the plan, I feel like we’re going to have an even better season than last year.”
Being at the top of the polls surprised none of the players, Howard said, even as the set of rankings would come in, week by week.
“To be honest, no one really knew what to say, so no one really said anything inside the locker room. We ignored, I guess you could say,” he said.
The Frogs just knew they’d have a number in front of their name. They figured it would be No. 1, but it didn’t have to be.
“If we had been ranked outside the Top 25, we would have thought we had the best team in the country,” Howard said. “That’s the way we approach every single day, that we have something to prove every single day. Everyone in this program expects to be the best team in the country. That’s why we came to TCU. So for us, it doesn’t change anything.”