“Super rare,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said.
The TCU pitchers will be in uniform for their fourth home NCAA regional, an accomplishment that takes the right blend of individual skill, team success and opportunity.
Both pitchers turned down professional baseball a year ago, returning for their senior seasons to help the Horned Frogs in another bid for a national championship. Traver is scheduled to start Saturday night against Central Connecticut State.
“I don’t really know anything different than this,” said Howard, drafted in the 17th round by the Houston Astros last season. “So I’m excited to get it going. I’m still very grateful that I get to spend another weekend here at Lupton, playing baseball in front of these fans and at this stadium.”
Traver has been drafted three times, out of Houston Christian High School in 2012, in the 28th round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2015 and in the 17th round by the Cincinnati Reds last year.
Each year, he opted for college. Each year since his first, when he redshirted because of Tommy John surgery, he has been part of a TCU playoff team.
“He could very well have been in professional baseball right now, deep into professional baseball if he could have stayed healthy,” Schlossnagle said. “Then you throw in how hard it is to host, how hard it is just to make a regional. It’d be interesting to see over the history of college baseball how many teams, how many players, have had a chance to do that.”
Traver did not pitch in the 2014 Fort Worth Regional, but he won regional starts against Sacred Heart in 2015 and Oral Roberts in 2016. In those games, he did not give up a run in 12 innings, walking four and striking out 11.
“The first year we hosted a regional while I was here, I didn’t really have a role on the team, so I just kind of watched Brandon Finnegan and Preston Morrison and Trey Teakell and how those guys went about their business,” he said. “To think about the story and how it unfolded in my time here, it’s really neat. It never really gets old. So for me, I’m thankful to be here. I’m thankful to be able to make a playoff run and to be able to help this team win.”
Howard pitched four relief innings in the 22-inning regional game against Sam Houston State in 2014, won a start in a regional elimination game against Sacred Heart in 2015 and won a regional championship start with eight innings and one run allowed against Arizona State last season.
TCU has not announced when or if Howard will pitch in the 2017 regional. But Schlossnagle knows both pitchers are ready to go, maxing out on regionals.
“I know Mitchell appreciates it. I know Brian appreciates it. I appreciate it,” Schlossnagle said. “I only have so many seasons, too; a few more than these guys, but I won’t do this forever. I’m trying to soak it in as well.”
Rain reigns the day
Friday’s storms postponed the start of the Fort Worth Regional to Saturday. Virginia is scheduled to take on Dallas Baptist at 2 p.m., followed by TCU vs. Central Connecticut State at 7 p.m. Tickets purchased for Friday’s games are valid for Saturday, the school announced.
No. 11 Virginia vs. Dallas Baptist, 2 p.m., ESPN3 (streaming)
No. 7 TCU vs. Central Connecticut State, 7 p.m., ESPN3 (streaming)