TCU

TCU’s big hit of the season: Freshmen in the middle

TCU catcher Evan Skoug offers congratulations to Connor Wanhanen (center) after they scored on Keaton Jones’ triple in a game against Incarnate Word. Skoug and Wanhanen have combined to score 57 runs for the Horned Frogs.
TCU catcher Evan Skoug offers congratulations to Connor Wanhanen (center) after they scored on Keaton Jones’ triple in a game against Incarnate Word. Skoug and Wanhanen have combined to score 57 runs for the Horned Frogs. Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Between them, Connor Wanhanen and Evan Skoug, the two freshman hitters in the TCU lineup, have more than 100 hits.

One hits third, the other hits cleanup.

Together, the freshmen have combined to drive in 62 runs, deliver 22 extra-base hits, plus a .420 slugging percentage.

The two freshmen have scored 57 runs, and they have 11 stolen bases as the Horned Frogs get ready to host to Kansas in a Big 12 series starting at 2 p.m. Friday at Lupton Stadium.

Did we mention they’re freshmen?

“For a top-10 to top-15 team, there’s no doubt about it,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said, asked if it’s rare for freshmen to contribute so much, and from the two most prestigious positions in the batting order. “You can look across the lineups. I don’t think there’s too many freshmen doing that. That’s where we are. That’s how our team is put together. We’re certainly not afraid to do that.”

What’s to fear?

Wanhanen, a designated hitter and outfielder from Flower Mound, leads the Big 12 in hitting at .378.

Skoug, a catcher from Libertyville, Ill., leads TCU in home runs with four.

“They’re just stepping up really big for us,” sophomore first baseman Elliott Barzilli said. “And that’s what we really needed. They’re always going to get on base. That’s awesome.”

Clearly, the two freshmen are making Schlossnagle’s decision easy.

“We just like to be different,” Skoug said with a smile and a shrug. “We like to break molds, Wanhanen and I. We just love hitting. We’re getting to be good friends. It’s fun watching him play. He’s something else. I can’t remember the last time he didn’t have a hit in a game.”

The two young hitters established themselves from different starting points.

Skoug was one of the top catcher recruits in the nation because of his big bat. He said no to professional baseball to come to TCU, where Schlossnagle could assure him he was almost certain to start immediately.

Wanhanen was hardly on the recruiting radar. One service didn’t even list him, perhaps because he was a quarterback in high school. But Schlossnagle wanted that kind of athleticism in the outfield.

Both hit the ground running at TCU. Skoug has been behind the plate or at DH and hitting cleanup from the first game. Wanhanen began the season at the bottom of the order, moved to No. 2 by the end of March and was hitting in the 3-hole — traditionally reserved for a team’s best all-around hitter — by April.

“Knock on wood. We just hope they can keep it going,” Schlossnagle said. “In today’s college baseball, with the draft, you sign guys to play. They have to play. You certainly don’t expect them to do what they’re doing, but they have the ability to do that. We just need to keep them healthy and strong and keep their legs under them, because the season’s about to get a lot longer than what they’ve ever been used to.”

The Frogs have played 46 games. There may be another month and a half of baseball to go.

Can the two freshmen keep it up?

“I think so,” Schlossnagle said. “Kids play a lot more in the summer now. But in terms of just everything else that’s on their plate — the travel, the academics — there are days when you look at them and they’re taking BP and it looks like their bats’ slowing down a little bit. This week, even though they have all the studying and the testing, they’ll have three or four days of being off or really light work. I’m hoping after that, there’ll be a spring in their step that maybe we haven’t seen for the last couple of weeks.”

Two fresher freshmen? The Frogs wouldn’t mind that.

Friday game moved up

TCU moved the Kansas series opener to 2 p.m. Friday because of the threat of inclement weather Friday night. The remainder of the series will be played as scheduled.

Fans unable to make the 2 p.m. start can exchange for another regular-season game based on availability.

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @calexmendez

No. 4 TCU vs. Kansas

Lupton Stadium

2 p.m. Friday: Tyler Alexander (4-2, 3.13) vs. Ben Krauth (7-3, 3.39), FSSW Plus, FCS

4 p.m. Saturday: Preston Morrison (10-1, 2.03) vs. Drew Morovick (4-4, 4.64)

1 p.m. Sunday: Alex Young (9-2, 1.46) vs. TBA, FS2

Records: TCU 37-9, 13-5 Big 12; Kansas 22-28, 7-11

Freshman phenoms

Connor Wanhanen and Evan Skoug are are powering the heart of TCU’s order.

Wanhanen

Skoug

Avg.

.378

.273

Hits

54

50

2B

4

11

RBI

28

34

Slg.

.448

.399

Freshman phenoms

Connor Wanhanen and Evan Skoug are are powering the heart of TCU’s order.

Category

Wanhanen

Skoug

Avg.

.378

.273

Hits

54

50

2B

4

11

RBI

28

34

Slg.

.448

.399

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