TCU

TCU baseball may get a boost from veteran Odell’s bat

TCU senior Derek Odell knocks helmets with Connor Wanhanen to celebrate a solo home run in the first inning Tuesday night against Abilene Christian. It was the second home run of the year for the senior third baseman.
TCU senior Derek Odell knocks helmets with Connor Wanhanen to celebrate a solo home run in the first inning Tuesday night against Abilene Christian. It was the second home run of the year for the senior third baseman. Special to the Star-Telegram

Derek Odell has had some big moments in May and June for TCU. Maybe there are more in store.

His home run Tuesday night against Abilene Christian was a reminder of the power he showed as a freshman, when he hit four home runs, including two in one day in a regional tournament.

His average this year is up to .274, almost matching the .276 he hit as a freshman, and he is slugging .345, a little above his career average coming into the season (but well below the .420 from his first year).

It gives him optimism that his bat can become a force for the Horned Frogs as the season goes into the final weekend before the Big 12 tournament and playoffs begin.

“I really want it to,” Odell said. “Not only me, but there’s a few guys on the team who want to see their bats get going more than they are right now. But, you know, we’re winning games. It’s hard to complain about what you’re doing personally when you’re winning games.”

Odell hit .247 as a sophomore and .265 as a junior. He continued to drive in runs, and last season he drew 30 walks. But his power numbers dropped, in part because of back troubles.

“He’s a better hitter than what he’s shown really his entire career at TCU,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “There’s enough pull power in there, if he puts a good swing on his pitch, he can hit the ball out of the ballpark.”

Odell, a senior with 204 starts and almost 800 at-bats in a TCU uniform, said he is a more mature hitter now and is naturally stronger this year because he weighs more.

“The power comes with that,” he said. “I’m striking out more, so that’s not good, but I’m also walking a lot more than I used to. So I think I’m getting better pitches to hit. When I do that, more times than not, it turns out better.”

And, of course, nothing is better than winning.

“I could go 0-for-4 and if we win the game, and I’ll be as happy as if I went 4-for-4,” Odell said. “If I was 4-for-4 and we lost, I’m not going to be as happy. It’s really just about winning games.”

Traver shaky

Mitchell Traver won his start against Abilene Christian this week, but he didn’t finish it well.

A hit batter and his error on an infield single were followed by three consecutive walks that forced in a run, ending his night after 5 2/3 innings in the 8-2 TCU victory.

“That’s the thing with every good starting pitcher — when things go a little bit sideways, you’ve got to be able to regroup, and he never did,” Schlossnagle said. “And that’s disapppointing.”

Schlossnagle chalked it up to inactivity. The team was off on Traver’s last scheduled start, so the sophomore hadn’t pitched since a hard-luck loss April 29 at Dallas Baptist. That’s one reason Schlossnagle was glad to avoid another rainout this week.

“He needed to pitch,” Schlossnagle said. “It didn’t need to be in an intrasquad, and it didn’t need to be in a bullpen. It needed to be him pitching in a game. Right now, I’m planning on him starting the first game of the conference tournament, and he didn’t need to go three weeks without pitching.”

Traver has a 1.89 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 62 innings. He leads the staff in walks, but he and Alex Young have the best batting average against, .190, among the starters.

Weekend rotation

Alex Young, whose start last weekend against Kansas was rained out, will pitch Thursday’s opener of the Oklahoma series, followed by Preston Morrison and Tyler Alexander.

For Morrison, it is his usual spot in the rotation. Alexander has started the opener the previous two weekend series.

Young is 10th in the country in earned-run average, at 1.46. TCU began the week leading the nation in ERA with a 2.14 mark.

Home record

TCU won 28 games at Lupton Stadium in 2008, so Tuesday’s victory did not match the record for home victories in a season under Schlossnagle. But the 28 victories that year included conference tournament games, which were considered neutral-site games at the time. So some TCU archives list 24 home wins for 2008.

Still, the Horned Frogs, who improved to 27-2 at home this year, should get a chance at the record. They are in line to host a regional tournament when the playoffs begin.

Briefly

▪ TCU leads the Big 12 in batting average, ERA and fielding percentage. Only Nebraska in 2000 and Oklahoma State in 2008 have finished the season leading the league in all three categories.

▪ The Horned Frogs are the only Big 12 team to sweep more than one conference series this season (Baylor, Texas, West Virginia). There have been only seven sweeps in the league this year.

▪ This is the ninth 40-win season for TCU under Jim Schlossnagle and the fourth 40-win season before conference or postseason games.

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407

Twitter: @calexmendez

No. 4 TCU at Oklahoma

6 p.m. Thursday: Alex Young (9-2, 1.46) vs. Jake Elliott (4-5, 2.81), Fox Sports Southwest

6 p.m. Friday: Preston Morrison (11-1, 1.87) vs. Robert Tasin (8-2, 2.16)

2 p.m. Saturday: Tyler Alexander (4-2, 2.94) vs. Alec Hansen (5-5, 3.89), Fox Sports Southwest Plus

Records: TCU 40-9, 15-5 Big 12; Oklahoma 32-22, 15-8

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