TCU hitting coach Bill Mosiello said Connor Wanhanen did not change his swing when he hit his first home run last week in Game 3 of the Super Regional against Texas A&M, but it was a sign that the power is coming for the freshman designated hitter.
“It was the same swing, but the dream swing that I know can be there,” Mosiello said. “He hits in the 3-hole not only because he gives you great at-bats, but one day he’s going to have some power.”
Wanhanen is hitting .320 and slugging .384. He also has four doubles, three triples and 37 RBIs. He has walked 21 times and struck out 38 times.
“Young freshmen, you’re just trying to teach them how to have good at-bats, have a feel for the plate,” Mosiello said. “All the great hitters — the Todd Heltons, the Sean Caseys, the Mike Trouts — they hit the ball the other way great when they’re young. You get older, you get a better feel, you guess a little more, you take educated guesses to what they’re trying to do to you. He’s hit two balls off of walls. That ball off the bat, you knew, that’s a home run.”
Wanhanen said he hit the ball so well, he didn’t even feel it off the bat.
Coach Jim Schlossnagle said Wanhanen had not hit a ball that well even in batting practice.
“Hopefully that will be part of his game one day,” Schlossnagle said.
In postseason, Wanhanen is 7 for 32 (.219) with six RBIs. He has five walks and 12 strikeouts.
Skoug mental game
Freshman catcher Evan Skoug earned the respect of a veteran starting rotation with his knowledge of the game and ability to handle multiple personalities, senior pitcher Preston Morrison said.
“He’s so mentally advanced for a freshman,” Morrison said. “He knows when he needs to go talk to the pitcher. He knows when he needs to come up to a guy after an inning and say, ‘Good job, keep it up,’ and which guy he needs to kind of get into a little bit. He’s not afraid to let them know what he’s thinking.”
Reliever Trey Teakell said, “He’s definitely not afraid to come out and let us know when we’re not doing so well, when we’re making him work too hard or something like that,” Teakell said. “He’s really helped us as much as we’ve helped him.”
Skoug, who leads the team in home runs and RBIs, said it was always his plan to earn respect first.
“Once I kind of established myself and the guys could trust me, I could kind of keep pushing it and see what I could do,” he said. “It’s getting to the point where I’m very comfortable with all those guys out there.”
The Frogs are mainly a left-handed hitting team because they became too easy to pitch to in 2013, when they didn’t make the NCAA tournament, Schlossnagle said.
“I called around to some other coaches and said, ‘Tell me honestly, what did you see in us in 2013?’ Schlossnagle said. “One comment was, ‘You just got too easy to pitch to with all those right-handed hitters, you need more balance in the order.’ Which, we’ve always wanted to be, but it’s just a matter of finding the right ones.”
Schlossnagle credited assistants Mosiello and Kirk Saarloos with finding players such as Nolan Brown and Wanhanen to hit from the left side. With switch hitters Cody Jones and Garrett Crain, the Horned Frogs can use a lineup with seven left-handed hitters.
For the first time in his three trips to the College World Series with TCU, Schlossnagle is coaching a team with Omaha experience. He noticed that the veterans took everything in stride when the team arrived Thursday and visited the stadium.
“The new players were a little more starry-eyed, like you normally are when you bring a team to Omaha,” he said. “But I didn’t see nearly as much of that out of the older players. They were just looking to get something to eat, versus taking as many pictures at the stadium.”
Five position players and nine pitchers were on last season’s College World Series team. Combined, they have 140 games’ worth of postseason experience.
“I don’t want the greatness of Omaha to ever become routine for anybody,” Schlossnagle said. “But I think for those guys, their heartbeat is a little more normal. We’re going to rely on that, hopefully, when we get a chance to practice and play.”
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407