TCU’s bullpen is almost unchanged from the group that it took into the postseason last year, so its versatility could again be a strength as the regional tournament begins this year.
“It’s more experienced,” coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “It’s really the same pitchers.”
Closer Riley Ferrell is in his third year closing and second postseason. Trey Teakell, Brian Howard, Travis Evans, Brian Trieglaff also pitched last year in the playoffs in relief, as did starter Alex Young.
The new relief arms this year belong to Preston Guillory and Drew Gooch. Guillory did not give up an earned run in 16 appearances. Gooch, a freshman from Argyle, had his redshirt removed to take over for Ryan Burnett, who was lost for the season to an elbow injury.
“Gooch has been giving us a lot lately,” Schlossnagle said.
But Guillory’s emergence was perhaps the most unexpected. The junior college transfer from Baton Rouge had made only three appearances in the first 21 games.
“We tell guys all year long, it’s a long season; sometimes at the beginning of a season, you’re buried, don’t have a role. But things can change so fast because of injury,” Schlossnagle said. “Guillory, I remember the night we were at USC, we dropped his arm down. He wasn’t really fond of it. But we said, ‘Would you rather pitch over the top on the bench and in practice or from the side in games?’ He’s taken it and run with it. He’s been a really big piece for us. He’s taken a load off Teakell, been a strike-thrower and done a good job.”
TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle agrees a week off might make his team look fresh. Unless it doesn’t.
“If it doesn’t work out this weekend, everybody will say you were rusty,” he said with a smile Thursday after practice. “So it’s all about how you play. We’re definitely taking the vantage point that it’s a blessing in disguise.”
Even so, it’s a blessing the Horned Frogs didn’t plan. They got it only because they went winless at the Big 12 tournament.
Schlossnagle smiled remembering a message from Texas coach Augie Gaurido afterward.
“He texted me, ‘Really smart move. Best move for your team,’ “ Schlossnagle said. “Like we did that on purpose.”
Freshman catcher Evan Skoug and freshman designated hitter Connor Wanhanen will play in their first postseason games Friday.
“I’m just excited. If it’s as good as they say it is, I’m really excited,” Skoug said. “I’m really glad that I have all these seniors with me to guide me through it. It’s something completely different for me, a completely different level of baseball, a completely different atmosphere.”
Skoug hit .274 and led the Horned Frogs in home runs with six and runs batted in with 38. Wanhanen, the Big 12 freshman of the year, hit .339 and drove in 31 runs.
The Horned Frogs have a combined 79 games’ worth of postseason experience on the roster – 50 in the hitting lineup, 20 relief appearances from the bullpen and nine starts from the rotation.
Shortstop Keaton Jones and third baseman Derek Odell have played in 16 NCAA playoff games each, and center fielder Cody Jones and Garrett Crain have been in nine each.
Trey Teakell has made seven relief appearances, Alex Young three, and Brian Trieglaff and Brian Howard one each.
Preston Morrison has made nine starts, and Tyler Alexander three.
Cody Jones, the starter in center field for three years for the Horned Frogs, said he’s never played in an outfield like TCU’s this year.
“I haven’t been in an outfield with this much athleticism and speed,” he said. “At first, it was hard to get used to – three guys that can get to anything. You kind of had to get used to it.”
Right fielder Nolan Brown gets credit for being the second-fastest player on the team behind Jones, and he and left fielder Dane Steinhagen have shown the ability to dive and reach for balls. Fourth outfielder Connor Wanhanen is a polished runner as a former high school quarterback.
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407
Fort Worth Regional
at Lupton Stadium
Game 1: N.C. State (34-21) vs. Stony Brook (34-14-1), 2:30 p.m. Friday
Game 2: TCU (43-11) vs. Sacred Heart (23-30-1), 7 p.m. Friday