One month into the season, TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle can hardly believe the numbers he sees on the stat sheet.
The .267 batting average, 4.37 earned-run average and .967 fielding percentage are on pace to rank among the five worst in his 14 seasons at TCU.
As Crash Davis’ manager might say, “How’d they ever win 12?”
So Schlossnagle counts his blessings.
“If you had told me after 15 games, you’re going to be 12-3 against the strongest schedule that I ever remember us playing at TCU, with those numbers, I’d have signed that contract for sure,” he said.
TCU played the 22nd-toughest schedule in the country in 2016, the 20th-toughest in 2015 and the 21st-toughest in 2014, according to NCAA statistics.
The Horned Frogs have played the 18th-toughest schedule in the country, teams that are a combined 81-44 (.648 winning percentage) outside of TCU games, going into Tuesday’s game at Long Beach State.
The Frogs have made it harder on themselves by trailing in the first inning nine times. They were behind 8-0, 4-0 and 2-1 after the first innings of a weekend series loss at UC-Irvine that cost them the top spot in the national rankings.
“We just haven’t played consistent baseball yet in terms of quality starting pitching, good at-bats throughout the course of an entire game and consistent defense,” Schlossnagle said. “So that’s good news and bad news. The bad news is, it’s not fun to be playing like that. The good news is, we’ve won games.”
The bad news is, it’s not fun to be playing like that. The good news is, we’ve won games.
TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle
It speaks to the experience of the everyday lineup that TCU has found ways to win games.
The Frogs, who returned eight position players from a College World Series team, are sixth in the country with 97 walks, led by Luken Baker’s 17. They lead the Big 12 in stolen bases with 28 behind eight from Nolan Brown and seven from Austen Wade. And they’ve scored the third-most runs in the league, 118.
They got a late homer from Evan Skoug to win at UT Arlington. They rallied from a 5-1 deficit to beat then-No. 4 LSU. They scored five times in the ninth inning en route to a 15-inning victory against Texas A&M. They won in 10 innings against Dallas Baptist.
But no team can rally every time. And last weekend against UC-Irvine, “it caught up with us,” Schlossnagle said.
Long Beach State (6-8) will be only the third opponent with a losing record on the TCU schedule to date. The Frogs’ remaining schedule (155-92, .628) ranks 21st toughest in the country.
We could have played a much softer schedule. But we wouldn’t know as much about our team as we know today.
TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle
“We could have played a much softer schedule,” Schlossnagle said. “But we wouldn’t know as much about our team as we know today. I think that’ll make us better over time. The Big 12 looks like it’s much, much stronger than last year. So there’s going to be rough patches — there’s no doubt about that. The goal is to try and limit them to one weekend or just a couple of days, versus a couple of weeks.”
TCU returns from its West Coast trip to start the Big 12 schedule at home Friday with the opener of a three-game series against Kansas.
No. 3 TCU at Long Beach State
8 p.m. Tuesday