Luken Baker’s polish at the plate makes coach Jim Schlossnagle think of former TCU hitter Matt Carpenter.
“Very similar in terms of their approach,” Schlossnagle said.
Carpenter had a feel for the strike zone that Schlossnagle recognizes in Baker, the freshman designated hitter whose three-run home run in the ninth inning Sunday helped send the Horned Frogs to a 5-3 victory against Texas Tech in their College World Series opener.
“His concept of the strike zone is advanced beyond his years,” Schlossnagle said.
Carpenter hit .333 with 23 doubles, six triples and 11 home runs as a senior in 2009, walking 51 times with a .470 on-base percentage and a .662 slugging percentage in 58 games.
As a freshman, Baker is hitting .380 with 15 doubles, no triples, 10 home runs, 44 walks, a .486 on-base percentage and slugging .570 in 64 games.
Schlossnagle said in May that while he loved Baker’s patience, he was encouraging him to be more aggressive in certain situations.
“Matt didn’t hit double-digit homers until his last year or two, and he didn’t hit hardly any home runs in the big leagues until last year,” Schlossnagle said. “That’s a learned skill. You can learn and be more aggressive. But it’s hard to take a guy who has no strike-zone discipline and teach him strike-zone discipline, and he has that as good as anybody that I’ve ever coached.”
TCU closer Durbin Feltman did not have his normal velocity Sunday, but converted the one-inning save because he was throwing strikes, Schlossnagle said.
That’s one of the reasons they liked the freshman from the start.
“We knew he had a chance to be a special pitcher because he was a strike-throwing machine,” Schlossnagle said.
A slider developed out of an overhand breaking ball with the help of pitching coach Kirk Saarloos has also helped, Schlossnagle said.
But mound presence has also mattered for the young right-hander.
“It’s what’s so amazing,” Schlossnagle said. “He had two 3-2 counts in that ninth inning and just kept throwing strikes. His ability to stay in the moment and handle his breathing and stay in his routine is well beyond his years.”
TCU hit the first two home runs of the 2016 College World Series and has homered in 40 games this season. The Frogs are 34-6 when they homer, 11-0 when they hit multiple homers and 10-0 when Baker homers.
TCU has hit 53 home runs, three of the past four coming from second baseman Cam Warner.
The Horned Frogs visited Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha on Monday morning. They did the same in previous trips to the College World Series.