Even as stable as it looks, the TCU pitching rotation remains open to competition.
“There’s nothing set in stone here in the back half of the season,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said following Tyler Alexander’s seven-inning performance in a 7-1 win at UT Arlington on Tuesday. “We’ll see how the weekend goes, with conference play down the stretch. We’re going to re-evaluate everything to see what happens.”
Alexander may be one reason for the re-evaluation. The sophomore left-hander from Southlake Carroll has been strong in five consecutive starts. He has struck out 33 and walked only three hitters in 352/3 innings in that stretch.
But they have all been mid-week starts. Four of the five have been against UT Pan American, UT Arlington (twice) and Dallas Baptist. He defeated Big 12 opponent Oklahoma in a nonconference game.
As the Horned Frogs (27-8) start positioning themselves for a push at the conference title — they are one game behind co-leaders Oklahoma State and Oklahoma — and playoff seeding, they could be tempted to see what Alexander could do in a weekend game.
“The guys who pitch the best are going to pitch the most,” Schlossnagle said.
Only three mid-week games remain, against Incarnate Word on Tuesday, at Dallas Baptist a week later and against Abilene Christian two weeks after that. After the series against Santa Clara (16-19) that starts Friday, the rest of the games are weekend series against conference opponents Texas, West Virginia, Kansas and Oklahoma.
“Our No. 1 goal is always to try and win as close to 40 games in the regular season as you possibly can. So that means every game is important,” Schlossnagle said. “But I’d be lying if I said competing for a conference championship isn’t important as well. We’ll see. We only have the next two midweek games left, then exams. It gives you a chance to juggle some things toward the end of the season.”
Utility infielder Elliott Barzilli has returned from an elbow injury and delivered four hits and four RBIs in three games since.
He hit a two-run home run Tuesday at UTA, his first of the season for the Horned Frogs. The sophomore transfer hit two last season at Georgia Tech.
“When I was out with my arm, I really looked back and had time to think about what was going on with my swing,” he said. “That’s what I really focused on.”
Barzilli missed 10 games following the injury in the Oklahoma State series.
Tuesday at UTA, he made his first start at second base. He finished the game playing third base. He has made nine starts at first base and two at third base.
Senior shortstop Keaton Jones said the memory of a bad weekend at Kansas State is behind TCU.
“It was a tough weekend. It was hard on all of us,” he said. “We’re definitely better than that. We’re done with that, though. We’re not thinking about it.”
The Horned Frogs lost two of three against the last-place Wildcats. It is the second series the Horned Frogs have lost in conference. They also dropped two of three to Oklahoma State at home last month.
The Horned Frogs had new hitters in the second and third spots in the lineup against UTA.
Jeremie Fagnan hit second for the first time and went 1-for-4, and Connor Wanhanen, the team batting average leader, hit third and hit a two-run double. They and leadoff hitter Cody Jones, who has hit first all year, combined for three hits, three runs scored, two RBIs, three walks and a stolen base.
Fagnan, who had not hit higher than eighth, is hitting .300 and has an eight-game hitting streak. Wanhanen, hitting .386, has a 10-game hitting streak and is tied for second on the team with 20 RBIs.
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407
TCU vs. Santa Clara
6:30 p.m. Friday: RHP Mitchell Traver (5-1, 2.14) vs. RHP Reece Karalus (1-3, 2.96 ERA)
4 p.m. Saturday, FSSW: RHP Preston Morrison (7-1, 1.99) vs. RHP Eric Lex (2-3, 5.04 ERA)
1 p.m. Sunday: LHP Alex Young (6-2, 1.51) vs. LHP Evan Brisentine (2-2, 4.15 ERA)
Records: TCU 27-8; Santa Clara 16-19
Note: All games on KTCU/88.7 FM