Alex Young will start Wednesday against Baylor as part of TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle’s plan to throw his three best starters early in the Big 12 tournament, leaving him the option to use any of them at any point in a regional tournament next weekend.
“At the end of this tournament, I don’t want to be restricted at all next weekend as to who pitches when,” Schlossnagle said Tuesday after the Horned Frogs’ practice at ONEOK Field. “I want to be able to pitch any of the three in the first game of the regional. I want to see who’s in the regional, how we match up, all that kind of stuff.”
Preston Morrison is the likely starter for Thursday, with Tyler Alexander next as needed, either Friday or Saturday.
That leaves Mitchell Traver pitching an elimination game on Saturday, if necessary, or in the championship game on Sunday, if the Horned Frogs go 3-0.
“If we make it to Saturday or Sunday, we need him to pitch in a meaningful game,” Schlossnagle said. “We want to win a championship, and we feel confident in all four of those guys. At the same time, we’ve played well enough to give ourselves the luxury of lining it up for the most important time.”
Young (9-2, 1.82) went six innings against Baylor on March 15 in Fort Worth, allowing a run on three hits.
Jim Schlossnagle was coach of the year, center fielder Cody Jones player of the year and designated hitter Connor Wanhanen the freshman of the year in voting by the Big 12 head coaches announced Tuesday.
Jones led the Big 12 in batting (.364 average), runs scored, on-base percentage and stolen bases. He is the league’s active career leader in runs and stolen bases.
Wanhanen was a unanimous choice on the all-conference team and all-freshman team. He was the only freshman to rank in the top 10 in hits and stolen bases in Big 12 games.
Schlossnagle led the Horned Frogs to their first Big 12 regular season crown. TCU leads the conference in batting average, ERA and fielding percentage.
Short right field
The Big 12 coaches were buzzing Tuesday about the 307-foot right field line and the short wall in right. TCU outfielder Nolan Brown tumbled over it for a fly ball from Schlossnagle in practice.
“It’s short, and the wind’s blowing that way, so we’ll see,” Schlossnagle said. “I’ve been told it flies out in that direction.”
It could mean a temptation for TCU’s largely left-handed lineup, including clean-up hitter Evan Skoug.
“Although we don’t pull the ball that much except for Skoug,” Schlossnagle said. “We’ll see. Baylor’s throwing a left-handed pitcher. So sometimes when you have that situation, a good left-hander can equalize that. But right-handed hitters are hitting it out that way, too.”
Cody Jones said he was “blown away” with surprise by the player of the year award.
“I just wanted to do whatever I could to help my team win,” he said. “I got a taste of that College World Series. All I’ve been focusing on is what I can do to get back there.”
Jones led the league in batting, runs scored, on-base percentage and stolen bases.
“There are so many great players in this conference, it’s incredible,” he said. “The accolades are great, but all I really want is to get back to Omaha. Get these young guys to Omaha. That experience alone is something that we’ll have the rest of our lives.”
Wanhanen not worried
Big 12 freshman of the year Connor Wanhanen said his 0-for-17 slump is part of the game.
“I’m not too, too worried about it,” he said. “It happens. I understand that. Had a break this past weekend. Ready to get back at it.”
Wanhanen, hitting .346, said winning the award was a reflection of the team.
“I had no expectations like that,” he said. “I’m extremely blessed to have the teammates that I do to put me in a situation to succeed like that. Really, I hate to sound cliche, but it’s a team award. Without the other guys, it’s impossible.”
Back in action
First baseman Jeremie Fagnan said that after “a million calf-raises” to rehab his right foot, he feels back to form.
He missed two weeks with the injury, finally returning against Abilene Christian on May 12 and then playing in all three games of the OU series.
“It took me a few at-bats to get my timing back. I think I’ve gotten it back,” he said. “We faced a pretty good arm at Oklahoma. It took a little bit longer than I wanted.”
Fagnan is hitting .303 with three home runs and 18 runs batted in and is 8-for-11 in stolen bases.
TCU swept a three-game series against Baylor in March, but that Baylor team was missing outfielder Adam Toth and bullpen arm Brad Kuntz.
Schlossnagle said he considers Toth the Bears’ best player and Kuntz their best left-handed reliever.
“They’re playing with a lot more confidence,” Schlossnagle said. “They’re going to be ready to go.”
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407