TCU baseball gets test in first Big 12 weekend series

Michael Landestoy filled in for Connor Wanhanen and went 5-for-8 with five RBIs against Southern Cal.
Michael Landestoy filled in for Connor Wanhanen and went 5-for-8 with five RBIs against Southern Cal. Special to the Star-Telegram

TCU has made a habit of snatching wins from the jaws of defeat with the late-inning rally. After the Horned Frogs got three runs in the eighth and two more in the ninth to get by Rice 6-4 on Tuesday, the team’s last three wins have come on runs scored in the seventh inning or later.

At 13-3, however, calling into question how wins are produced seems a bit alarmist.

Whether there are holes in TCU’s armor will ultimately be decided in Big 12 Conference play, which starts Friday against West Virginia in the first of a three-game series at Lupton Stadium.

West Virginia is playing like one of the best, if not the best, in our league.

TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle

West Virginia (10-4) has the league’s No. 2 offense with a .299 batting average and has the No. 2 pitching staff with a 2.48 ERA, second to Oklahoma State (2.42). TCU’s ERA took a hit during Sunday’s 16-6 loss to Southern Cal and ballooned to 2.74, third in the conference.

TCU, ranked No. 7 in the USA Today coaches poll, leads the Big 12 with a .326 batting average, and has scored more runs per game (8.25) than anyone in the Big 12.

“West Virginia is playing like one of the best if not the best in our league,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “Their pitching was young last year and took a lot of lumps, but they’re experienced this year, so it’s going to be a dogfight.”

Schlossnagle said last week that he was hopeful first baseman Connor Wanhanen would return during the West Virginia series after the sophomore tweaked a hamstring Friday against Southern Cal. Michael Landestoy went 5 for 8 with five RBIs in his first extended action of the season, replacing Wanhanen at first.

Despite being without Wanhanen, No. 1 starting pitcher Mitchell Traver and center fielder Nolan Brown for portions of this season, Schlossnagle said he is generally comfortable with the level of play.

Brown is coming off wrist surgery, and Schlossnagle considers the elite fielder and base runner week-to-week. Traver has back issues that could keep him out four or five more weeks.

“There are going to be days when you come watch us play and you leave thinking ‘Holy cow, what a team,’ ” Schlossnagle said. “And then there will be days when you’ll look at us and say ‘Do they even practice?’ But we’ve had way more of the former than the latter to this point.”

West Virginia at TCU

6:30 p.m. Friday, 4 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. Sunday

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