Sports

Sophomore pitchers hope to deliver for TCU

TCU pitcher Andrew Mitchell is a 45-year-old trapped in a 19-year-old body.

According to Horned Frogs coach Jim Schlossnagle and Mitchell's teammates, the right-hander possesses a maturity beyond his years.

Mitchell, a sophomore, will start No. 11 TCU's season opener at 6:30 tonight against No. 22 Ole Miss at Lupton Stadium. He earned the Frogs' ace role after a dynamite freshman season when he proved over 10 starts and other appearances that he was more than up to the challenge.

"He's one of those kids that has the 'it' factor that most kids have to develop over time in college," Schlossnagle said. "He's always had it together. If he hasn't had it all together he's certainly been able to fake it."

That comes from the poise Mitchell, and fellow sophomore and Saturday's starter Stefan Crichton, showed early and often last season.

And the Frogs needed the pair to step up in the worst way after frontline starters Matt Purke, Kyle Winkler and Steven Maxwell all dealt with injuries at various points during the 2011 season.

"After the debacle of the way our season ended on the mound with all the injuries, I cringe to think where we'd have been without them," Schlossnagle said. "By the end of the season Mitchell was by far our most consistent starting pitcher."

The departure of that trio to the pros and graduation left big holes to fill. And the Frogs will again need multiple young pitchers, such as Sunday starter Brandon Finnegan, a freshman from Fort Worth Southwest, to have the kinds of seasons Mitchell and Crichton did in 2011.

Schlossnagle said the left-handed Finnegan earned the No. 3 slot last fall. Finnegan, who was drafted by the Texas Rangers in June, shut down professional hitters during an exhibition in the Dominican Republic in November. And he's continued to progress this winter.

"In an incredibly short time, he has really made some adjustments," Schlossnagle said. "He has been our most consistent starting pitcher since he walked on campus."

Mitchell hopes he and Crichton can help shepherd the less experienced members of the staff, as the veteran trio did them last season.

"When you have three guys who were undefeated until late in the season you really trust that they know what they're talking about," said Mitchell, who was 6-1 with a 2.84 ERA in 76 innings. "We took what they said to heart."

Crichton (6-3, with a 1.98 ERA in 50 innings) acknowledged the added pressure on him and Mitchell as staff leaders.

"We had three older guys putting us under their wing and showing us around," he said. "Granted, now we're much more confident in our abilities."

Mitchell knows he has to earn the Friday starter role each week, but he's not fazed, showing a glimpse of that understated maturity Schlossnagle and pitching coach Randy Mazey covet in players, not just pitchers.

"I'm just playing catch with [catcher] Josh [Elander] back there," he said.

Stefan Stevenson

817-390-7760

Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs

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