Weekend rotation gaining steam as Frogs start 8-1 in Big 12

Don’t look now, but the pitchers in TCU’s weekend rotation are trending upward at the same time.

Jared Janczak, Nick Lodolo and Brian Howard allowed eight hits and two runs in 22 innings combined in the Horned Frogs’ sweep at Kansas State last weekend.

In two of his past three starts, Janczak has taken a perfect game into the seventh inning. Lodolo went a career-high seven innings on Saturday, allowing no runs. Howard hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any of his last three starts.

“It’s not a rotation that’s going to knock the bat out of your hand like some across the country,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “But it’s going to compete at a really high level and show you three different looks on three different days.”

Since TCU returned from a 1-4 swing on the West Coast, Janczak, Lodolo and Howard are a combined 3-0 with a 1.85 earned-run average in their last three turns, covering nine Big 12 games. It’s no coincidence the Frogs (22-5) are in first place with an 8-1 league record.

“Janczak’s coming into his own as an elite Division I Friday night pitcher,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “Lodolo, each time out, is getting a little better, getting a little more confident. Howard’s not there yet; he’s still trying to find himself.”

Janczak (5-0, 2.05) has gone 6.0 innings or more in all but one start. He took a no-hitter into the ninth inning against Kansas on March 24 and a perfect game into the seventh on Friday at K-State. He leads the nation in fewest hits allowed per nine innings (4.1).

Lodolo (2-1, 4.05) wrestled with early-game command over his first four starts. But against Kansas, Oklahoma State and K-State, he’s left with his team tied, ahead or down only a run.

Howard (4-2, 5.25) gave up 15 runs in a stretch of three starts, covering only 10.1 innings, against Arizona State, LSU and UC Irvine. But he was perfect in a one-inning spot start at Long Beach State three weeks ago, and the veteran right-hander has stabilized since.

“Janczak’s really pitching with a lot of confidence right now, throwing three pitches for strikes in any count,” Schlossnagle said. “He’s doing a better job of managing the run game, which is big for him. Nick was really, really aggressive with his fastball at the bottom of the strike zone (against Kansas State) and had a really good breaking ball going – just everything you’d want him to be.”

Schlossnagle said last week that the rotation order is now set up ideally. It was adjusted twice in the first month because of a rehab schedule for Howard, who needed an extra day to start the season.

Schlossnagle also praised the relief corps in the K-State series, which featured Games 1 and 2 going into extra innings with no score. Sean Wymer pitched perfect 10th and 11th innings in the opener on Friday. Ryan Burnett, Haylen Green, Trey Morris, Cal Coughlin, Austin Boyles and Durbin Feltman each pitched a scoreless inning in the series. TCU pitchers struck out 25 and walked five in 30 innings in Manhattan.

“I like the way it’s coming together,” Schlossnagle said. “But the meat of our conference schedule is ahead of us. Once we get past this weekend, we’re going to be playing all the high RPI teams, and we only have two series at home after this weekend. So we’re going to have to be at our best.”

TCU plays four non-conference games this week, Tuesday at UT Arlington and Friday through Sunday at home against Murray State.

Carlos Mendez: 817-390-7760, @calexmendez

No. 3 TCU at UT Arlington

6:30 p.m. Tuesday

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