Tablet Sports

TCU baseball opens practice brimming with optimism

The weather cooperated Friday at Lupton Stadium. Instead of miserable cold, TCU baseball welcomed its first full-team practice Friday afternoon under a bright sun the game was meant for.

Anything to help the Horned Frogs forget the misery of the 2013 season, which TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle termed a nightmare.

The 29-28 season, including 12-12 in the Horned Frogs’ first season in the Big 12, is not something Schlossnagle is going to harp on. Especially with 18 new players on the roster, including left-hander Tyler Alexander, from Southlake Carroll, and right-hander Brian Howard, two freshmen who could factor large along with returning aces Brandon Finnegan and Preston Morrison.

Morrison said last year’s struggles are in the past.

“We’ve talked about it as a team and it’s over with,” he said. “The outcome of last year doesn’t determine what we’re going to do this year. We’re more focused on today.”

Position battles at right field, second base and catcher will rage over the next three weeks before the season-opening series against Jacksonville on Feb. 14-16.

“I’m fired up,” said Schlossnagle, who is starting his 11th season at TCU. “We have some good competition at some different places and a lot on the pitching staff.”

Although the players have been working in small groups since the semester began, Friday was the first time the team practiced together.

TCU’s offensive struggles at times last season overwhelmed an excellent pitching staff and steady defense, which, until a nine-error game against West Virginia in the Big 12 tournament, was leading the league in fielding percentage.

For Schlossnagle, the nightmare had more to do with the slow start that seemed to doom the Frogs, not specifically the problems at the plate.

“That certainly was a part of it, but for me it was more about the passed balls and throwing pickoffs away,” he said. “If you don’t do that, you probably win five more games and then you’re in a completely different position.

:I’ve been doing this long enough already, but I’d never been 0-6. That was a slap in the face. It’s not that anybody panicked, but they were so shocked by it that we just never really got on track.”

TCU regrouped and played better down the stretch, finishing the regular season winning nine of 12 games and opening with a win at the Big 12 tournament, which Schlossnagle’s team needed to win to earn an NCAA Tournament berth.

Instead, nine errors against West Virginia ended the season with agonizing similarity to the team’s problems earlier in the year.

“It was just a miserable end to a disappointing season, for sure,” Schlossnagle said.

Season opener

TCU vs. Jacksonville

Feb. 14-16, Lupton Stadium